I love food. I enjoy buying it, cooking it, growing it, and, best of all, eating it. So when I first heard of Soylent, a food replacement product, I imagined living a life in which dinner meant combining a white powder with water. A dystopia for me is an apparent utopia for the 6,000-plus people who gave nearly $800,000 to successfully fund Soylent's crowdfunding campaign.
The idea of living without food isn't just now becoming popular (though I've been seeing plenty of news stories on the subject recently). Forty years ago the science fiction movie Soylent Green, from which the product is undoubtedly named, explored a world in which everyone lives on highly processed wafers. (As far as we can tell Soylent is not people.)
The fact that one product that claims to give you all the nutrition you could ever need is becoming a reality is disturbing to me, but Soylent gives some convincing reasons why it could be a good thing. Their main argument is that it takes less time and effort to get the nutrition you need. For those of you who don't have a work-life balance, this could come in handy. Plus, the creators argue, you could save money on food costs. And then they make the environmental case: it doesn't go bad for years, and would help cut down food waste and reduce food transportation costs. Here are the inventors making their case:
And here's what's in it "loosely based off the recommendations of the FDA."
So what's it like to live exclusively on Soylent? The Register tried it for a week. Here's their take:
Though our week with Soylent has lessened our initial crushing cynicism, we'll wait for the results of sustained academic study before we pass judgement on it as an actual meal replacement. On the other hand, we've just spent a week on it and didn't lose weight, didn't go crackers, and haven't felt hungry (though we did lust after typical food).
Soylent is definitely on to something here. A big part of the food industry is aimed at getting people to eat food more efficiently with highly processed on-the-go items that aren't all that good or good for us. So it helps me to think of Soylent not as a food replacement but a supplement, and replacement for those fast food items. And for people forced on to a liquid diet for medical reasons or otherwise, this could be extremely useful. Maybe there is a place for Soylent in our food future, alongside the 3D printed pizza, but not instead of it.