In the year 4545
You ain’t gonna need your teeth, won’t need your eyes
You won’t find a thing to chew
Nobody’s gonna look at you
— Lyrics from “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans
The future is now.
Remember the wonderful 1973 sci-fi film “Soylent Green”?
It’s the one set in 2020 in a world suffering from dying oceans, overpopulation depleted resources, poverty and pollution all thanks to the greenhouse effect or what alarmists today call global warming. Charles Heston plays a New York city detective that stumbles onto the truth about the Soylent Corporation that sells food rations that most of the planet depends on to survive.
It seemed the latest product of the rich entrepreneurs — Soylent Green — didn’t waste any part of human corpses.
A few years back techie Rob Rhinehart rolled out a food concoction he dubbed “Soylent” that you can buy in powdered or liquid form.
The latest version called Soylent 2.0 comes in a matte white bottle that holds 400 calories derived from soy protein, algal oil made from algae and a substance called isomaltulose extracted from beets. One bottle costs less than $3 and contains 20 percent of the nutrients and minerals a person needs during the course of a day.
Originally it was aimed at coders and the other hobbits of the techie world who are so wrapped up in their cyber realm chasing dot.com riches that they rarely have time to do things such as take a walk unless, of course, they do so through GoPro footage uploaded to YouTube that they glance at on their Apple Watch while they pound out code for a virtual reality product that lets the user experience real life beyond a cubicle in 3-D.
Now Soylent is hoping to become the greatest thing since WebVan thanks to a $20 million infusion of capital last year from the Andreesseen Horowitz venture capital firm based in Menlo Park.
Is the Los Angeles firm that was founded by Rhinehart with three friends hoping to wipe out Third World hunger? Not exactly. They are hoping to finish off the corner store and take out a few Mom and Pop restaurants by getting American consumers to give up real food.
The hope is for consumers to use Soylent 2.0 for one or two meals a day so they can skip the drudgery of food preparation. Of course, food preparation for most people anymore consists of popping an item in the microwave and nuking it or ripping the top of a bag.
Rinehart has been quoted as saying “grocery shopping is “a multisensory living nightmare” and that he essentially can’t believe he can’t rent an apartment without a kitchen. Fair enough since he feels the same way about shopping for food that I feel about surfing the Internet. He also gets being forced to pay for things you don’t want such as a kitchen in an apartment or — in my case — a smartphone that can order fondue in Swahili and pay for it to be delivered by a drone.
I’m not going to lie. The bottle of Soylent 2.0 I was offered by a friend didn’t taste too bad. But at the same time I politely stopped after a sip. It’s not something I’d chug nor is it something I’d savor.
And given the fact I’m far from a foodie, I rarely sit down to a meal, I eat almost exactly the same thing day in and day out except on Thursdays for lunch and occasionally on Saturdays, and I have a weird schedule I should be a prime target for the Soylent folks.
Good luck with that.
Maybe it is the texture of food or the varied taste. Even eating the same thing day in and day out you can enjoy the subtle nuances of an Ambrosia apple, lettuce or even a veggie patty with quinoa, kale and almond provide a taste that has subtle differences on different days.
While I eschew protein drinks and such, I do like milkshakes but Soylent 2.0 is not a milkshake. It has been aptly describes as having the texture and taste of milk that’s left over from a bowl of Cheerios. Not bad, but it isn’t exactly the aftertaste that I’d want to savor very often.
The bottom line is Soylent — is significantly less “damaging” to the environment for food value produced compared to traditional foods. But at the end of the day it is not much different than the concept behind things such as Muscle Milk and certainly not any more fulfilling. Yes it may fill you up and it may go a long ways towards meeting basic calorie, mineral and nutrient needs but it isn’t food in the sense of something you enjoy and savor.
In a way, Soylent 2.0 represents what is wrong with hardcore Silicon Valley types. They replace the real deal — playing basketball, exploring mountains, food, face-to-face interaction with people and even the tactile and social joys of shopping — with a perfect virtual world where all of our wants and desires can be ours at a tap of the finger, click of a button or with 24-hour delivery and free shipping.
Coders want the world but the world they want isn’t real.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209.249.3519.