Eating For Sociopaths

If I were a single parent making 10 dollars an hour, living in a one bedroom, and had my folks around to take care of my kid while I was at work, I might get about $290/month in food stamps, now euphemistically referred to as SNAP. Euphemistically because it’s likely not a SNAP to feed yourself and a kid on less than ten dollars a day. Yet many people, who are no doubt hard-working American boot-strappers, feel that this is over-generous of the government. These tireless slaves of the tax-man spend every spare minute they can wrangle from their punishing schedules to awaken the sheeple of the internet to the insatiable cruelty of their welfare-addicted overlords, via the comments section.

Let’s pretend we’re lawmakers whose constituents want us to put a stop to the largesse for the freeloading class. We need to strike a balance between keeping the stomachs of the impoverished satisfied, so they don’t start shooting, and convincing both our funders and voters that we are tough on their bloodsucking fellow citizens, so they keep funding and voting. And we see the price of food isn’t going down.

Food is as cheap as we can get it or, at least, it’s as efficient as we can get it. There is precious little profit margin to trim, even by large manufacturers, retailers and preparers. Food is inherently inefficient. Acerage, seeds, water, fuel, tires, asphalt, brake pads, styrofoam trays, plastic wrap, plates, sanitizer, linens — this shit costs money. We need a new way to deliver nutrients. I hear you screeching, vegans—just read on….

And then along comes Silicon Valley and their new buddy, Rob Rhinehart. Rob was doing some software development stuff and he was working a whole lot. He really wanted to get people the best software he could build. Problematically, Rob had to eat, which takes time and money, both of which are short supply when you’re coding as fast as you can. So he set his hacker brain to the human frame, and came up with— you’re never going to believe this — a beverage called Soylent.

Many people worry that Soylent can’t possibly be healthy, that their nutritional needs are different and more special than those of a pig or a potato. Many people hospitalized with long-term or terminal illnesses already live on liquid food though, and they’re, you know, really sick. The cat eats the same engineered food day in and day out and climbs trees and bounces into the air to kill birds. When was the last time you leapt into the air and brought down a bird with your teeth? Thriving.

Shit Senator, I just had me a damn brilliant idea! How cheap do you think we could get this Soylent shit if we just reallocated some of this agricultural subsidy? Rhinehart’s starting price is $255 per person, per month, so almost twice what we’re giving out now, but I bet we could get that down by a lot

Why, it says so right here on his website: “If you’re short on time you can fuel your body in seconds. If you’re trying to save money Soylent is hands down your cheapest option in terms of nutrition per dollar, and will only get cheaper.” He claims feeding the world as a goal of his and stresses his devotion to bringing down the cost of Soylent in a reddit “Ask me Anything” session. I think he’d be amenable to a government contract. He could keep his branding, we’d just call it Government Aided Instant Nutrition Supplement, or GAINS for marketing. Who wouldn’t love this shit? If it’s good enough for Silicon Valley workaholics, who are these loafers to demand solid food?

Let’s say we’re regional managers of a national chain of upscale casual restaurants, and we work with razor sharp margins and high volume. We’re slaves to food commodities prices and the slimming American wallet. We have only one thing left we can control, labor. Small restaurants just make their employees work without a break, but we get calls from the labor relations board, OSHA, the Department of Agriculture and so on. Is it really necessary for people to spend a half-hour eating? No. But we can’t have them picking at olives and berries and croutons throughout the shift either, that’s illegal, unseemly, and hurts profits. Perhaps the National Restaurant Association (the other NRA) could do a little lobbying for us. A ten-minute Soylent break should be plenty.

Why it says right here, “Soylent, Free your body,” to get the fuck back to work!

Seriously, everything I read by the people involved with Soylent unnerves me. Although I find even the quality of Rhinehart’s sentences suggestive of a quiet sociopathy, I fear I’m just too lazy to embrace the future. It’s also possible that this whole thing is just a big elaborate hoax, an explanation that the top post on his blog seems to favor. Motherfucker is clever.

When I was a wee line cook in a decaying municipality along a dirty midwestern river, I said that someday robots would be doing my job. Others thought that was a tad dystopian. Well, the future is now the past. You can resist technology, but it will win as surely as time passes.


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