The Silicon Valley techbros—the ones who killed the music industry, put the independent bookstore on the endagered species list, relegated our (anti)social lives to a smartphone screen, and are working to turn higher education into a large-scale Google Hangout—are coming for your food. After hundreds (if not thousands) of years without an OS update, the technology of diet and eating is the latest target for the hacker-entrepeneurs of the tech community. And the aim is to, as always, "disrupt."
San Francisco and the greater Bay Area is one of the most culinarily creative regions in the country, and arguably where the modern American restaurant was born, with the opening of Chez Pannise in 1971. But nostalgia and deference to history won’t stop the “creative disruption” of the city’s tech culture.
Rob Rhinehart’s solution is to do away with the myriad ingredients, the cooking, the ceremony. Instead, the 25-year-old’s solution to the “problem” of eating is Soylent, a meal replacement beverage comprised of oat flour, tapioca maltrodextrin, rice protein, oils, vitamins, nutrients, minerals and other additives. The idea is that this “biohack,” which has an open-source recipe and just received a round of venture capital funding to the tune of $1.5 million, provides the human body with everything it needs.
In a new story for New York, Gawker’s Adrian Chen writes that “the first drinkable meme” will begin shipping in December.
“I remember when I was very young, eating lettuce and thinking it was very weird to be eating leaves, sitting in this nice house with all of these electronics around us,” Rhinehart tells Chen about the roots of his vision for post-food future, one that’s divorced from the both the Paleolithic hunter-gather and the Neolithic famers and its decedents.
Soylent has its critics, but it’s far easier to guess at what those dissenting voices may have to say about a meal replacement that aims to break with 1000s of years of nutrition and diet and culinary tradition than to know what the off-white beverage tastes like.
And so here’s Chen’s review:
Based on Rhinehart’s pitch, I expected drinking Soylent to be effortless and futuristically cool, like licking an iPhone 5. In reality, Soylent resembles watered-down oatmeal. Unflavored, it tastes sour and wheaty, with a wan viscosity that gives off the impression of having already passed through someone else’s body.
In other words, its probably not time to get all excited about an IPO just yet.