5 Disturbing Ways Food Will Be Different in the Future
If there's anything that connects every person on this planet regardless of race and creed, it's food. We all enjoy it, we all need it and we all waste away should we be deprived of it. That's why each new food industry innovation profoundly influences the way our lives will be led -- just think of the microwave oven and how it affected the 20th century.
So expect the future to take a turn for the weird when they implement these babies in our everyday lives.
Your Food Will Come from a Printer
Imagine future you trudging through a long day of work where your superiors have been giving you seven kinds of hell and your "urgent" pile just keeps getting higher.
"Oh good, I caught you before you left for vacation. I need this gigantic project done. See ya!"
When you finally hit home, chances are you're hungry as hell. Sadly, chances are also that you just don't have the energy left to walk up to the kitchen, or even pick up the phone for a pizza.
That leaves you with two options: Either you give up and let your stomach digest your lower intestines in desperation ... or you reach out to your computer, fire up your trusty old FoodMaker 3000 program and print your dinner.
"PC Load Ground Beef -- what the fuck does that mean?"
The Cornucopia is MIT's proof that there is some goodness in this world after all. It's basically a 3-D food printer that, shockingly, prints food.
The premise is simple and very similar to your trusty inkjet printer. Instead of ink cartridges, the machine uses special food canisters filled with different raw ingredients. Then, you punch in the sort of food you want the printer to make from them, and it squirts them into desired layers and either cooks or cools the end result to perfection. The process is fully customizable: You can stuff the canisters with virtually any combination of ingredients you want and mix them in any way you like, down to customizing the temperature, calorie count and carbohydrate content. With preprogrammed recipes, the machine can fix you, say, lasagna for dinner and an ice cream cake for dessert. In mere minutes. With no more effort on your part than a push of the button.
And that's just one version of the printer MIT is dabbling with. See, the Cornucopia project isn't the name of a food printer. It's the name of a line of food printers, such as the Digital Chocolatier:
Didn't Bugs Bunny trap Rocky and Mugsy in one of these?
And the big-ass, sped-up version of the basic printer called the Virtuoso Mixer:
The robots are coming for you, Alton Brown.
Now, here's the bad news: Although several restaurants already have access to versions of the food printer, MIT doesn't have any plans yet to put this in your home.
However, Cornell University has created its own version of the Cornucopia called Fab@Home (terrible name!), with the full intent of bringing it to a store near you. The current version is actually already available online, for a measly sum of $3,300.
If you think your ink cartridges are expensive now ...
They expect the first brand name food printers to be commercially available in a few years and cost around $1,000. Rest assured that we are waiting eagerly for that day -- then, all we need is someone to invent the iToilet and we'll never have to leave the computer again.
Edible Plastic Packaging
Our planet is covered in horrible, horrible plastic waste, most of which starts out by covering our delicious, delicious food. The U.S. alone throws 30 million tons of plastic away every single year, and a good chunk of it is food packaging.
But although we'd like to get rid of all that food plastic, it's just not a viable scenario. Food needs containers, and plastic is our best bet for that. And it's not like we can just, haha, eat the wrappers after we're done with the actual food.
Just when you thought all-you-can-eat buffets couldn't get any more undignified.
Scientists at Harvard argued, "You want something to eat? Why not eat some fucking science?" (They later clarified that what they really meant was a plastic you can eat.) They call it WikiCells, thus reminding the world that Harvard doesn't offer a major in original names.
"I don't know, Wiki-something? This is the dumbest part of science."
Luckily, WikiCells are less "actual plastic they expect us to choke down" and more "a completely new material with certain plastic properties." They're made entirely of natural food membrane, not unlike the skin of a grape. These constructs are able to hold food and keep it fresh to the same extent as ordinary plastic containers.
"Edible plastic-like substance" may not sound like a taste explosion, but WikiCells are actually pretty damn pleasing to your taste buds: They can mimic the taste of whatever is inside, so you can maximize your beer experience by munching up the beer-tasting beer bottle. What's more, the substance itself can also be artificially flavored, so that your candy bar wrapper could actually play a part in the taste experience by adding a completely different taste of its own. You could have a Pop-Tart that is itself inside a Pop-Tart-flavored bag. (Forgive our excitement, we've just been waiting for this Pop-Tart/Inception moment for a long time.)
Right up there with the Teddy-Tesla Avengers reboot and a houseplant that grows bacon.
The inventors of WikiCells are developing the process so that the technology can be used not only by giant food companies, but also at home with a special WikiCell machine that makes all the Tupperware you can eat.
So once they get this thing going, you'll no longer have to pretend to look for a trashcan while you secretly drop your empty bottle on the floor ... because after you finish your drink, you can have that bottle for dessert.
Just like that crazy candyman in the purple top hat predicted!
Taking Agriculture to the Skies
As the world's population increases, food production meets more and more challenges. The United Nations has announced that farms need to magic up a freaking 70 percent increase in their food production by 2050 or else everyone's going to just flat out starve. The problem: Nothing short of science fiction insanity can provide enough crops for our needs.
Luckily, scientists are entirely at home with both science fiction and insanity. Thus, their solution to the pressing "need more farmland" dilemma is vertical farming.
This looks suspiciously like every crappy SimCity spinoff rolled into one.
The problems with modern agriculture are twofold: There's not enough farmland to answer the call of increasing demands, and the logistics of bringing crops to consumers -- the majority of whom are city dwellers -- are mind-boggling.
Giant skyscraper farms aim to solve the shit out of both problems in the same way regular skyscrapers solve population issues in large cities. A vertical farm not only can provide massive crops from a tiny slot of land, but also can be built right in the middle of the city it's meant to feed. Each floor of a farming skyscraper has a separate farm on it, and each of these farms is specifically designed so that every single plant receives the same amount of sunlight.
And yet they still bicker over who gets the corner office.
These farm skyscrapers -- versions of which are already in the planning stage in farmland-lacking places such as Abu Dhabi and Las Vegas -- employ many different farming styles in a way that not only makes them feasible, but makes them complement each other: Water-based hydroponic farming methods, for instance, tend to be a hassle due to the constant need of dumping nourishment (ie., shit) into the water. The skyscraper handily solves this by farming fish in the same water, making the fish poop fertilize the plants.
And if that's ingenious, wait until you see the freaking 360-degree "crop circle" farm floor that's tended by robots:
All too soon we'll be incubating our children this way.
But surely, a construction of those proportions would consume, like, all the electricity? Actually, no -- that whole monstrosity runs on wind power and sewage.
"You're not hearing me, I'm saying use poop. For all of it. For everything. Forever!"
Your Drinks Will Be Made of Your Own Pee
Despite the number of people who try to convince us that pee is perfectly fine and even healthy to drink, most of us can't get past the fact that, frankly, it's freaking disgusting. We've seen where it comes from. We know its secrets.
But hey, we're not scientists.
The Nobel Prize committee has been very clear on that point.
The good people at NASA aren't just completely at ease with the ickiest of bodily liquids; they're actually hell-bent on putting it to good use. In an effort to distance themselves even further from the average human being, NASA scientists have spent a good $250 million to inspect piss and turn it back into water. Decades of research and a dickload of pissy prototypes later, NASA scientists have indeed managed to develop a machine that filters piss and adds it to other liquids derived from, no kidding, human sweat and evaporated laundry water -- seemingly for no other reason than to create yet another horrible obstacle for astronauts to overcome.
The funny thing is, that unholy concoction is far cleaner than U.S. tap water.
Share and enjoy!
And don't think that these studies have been done to provide astronauts with clean liquids in space; NASA doesn't give a shit about what its astronauts drink.
Several U.S. communities have developed a boner for the system and have in fact already implemented it. One of the largest piss-to-water plants is currently in Orange County, California, doing its part to provide slightly used water for a respectable 500,000 people.
And the urinals have never been cleaner.
For that small, strange segment of our readers who find the idea of introducing ex-pee to your daily life intriguing, NASA has also developed a version of the system you can use at home. The product has the refreshingly honest name of Pee-Recycling Bag, and it uses a process called forward osmosis to convert your piss into a healthy, drinkable, sugary fluid.
And now we all know how energy drinks are made.
"It helps aerate the ginseng!"
Your Jell-O Will Be Made Out of Humans
As much as we like to riff on scientists, there are obviously boundaries we know they would never cross. Sure, they may be building robots that are just waiting to rise against us and performing profoundly disturbing psychological experiments, but that's just par for the science course. It's not as if they're actually plotting to feed us Soylent Green or anything. (Boy, this paragraph sure has gotten pretty foreshadowy.)
It's almost like Bruce Willis is dead himself ...
Like so many interesting things in life, it all starts with a bucket of Jell-O. Thinking of how that delicious gloop is made, it's easy to just conjure an image of a laboratory with Flubber creatures bouncing all over while wacky scientists chase them around.
However, that's just our brain's feeble attempt to distract us from the real truth: The most important ingredient in gelatin is collagen, which is derived from the bones and skin of animals -- mostly pigs and cows.
The side effect of this production method is the ever-present risk that the gelatin you eat might screw over your immune system or give you infectious diseases. This is further enforced by the fact that gelatin quality control is a right bastard, as it's an animal extract and therefore pretty inconsistent by nature.
This used to be a Shetland pony.
Scientists have been trying to figure out how to make safer gelatin for a while now. One day, one of them realized that there is in fact one animal whose remains work just fine with human immunology and genetic structure.
That animal? Humans.
It's probably a good thing that their slogan isn't "It's alive!" anymore.
Yes, they've developed a technique to make gelatin by injecting human genes into yeast strains, and if "specific, controlled ways" (as illustrated on page 237 of the Necronomicon, presumably) are followed, it's actually said to be healthier than ye olde pig jelly. They have also already figured out ways to make the process commercially viable, so we may well be seeing human gelatin in supermarkets pretty soon, hiding behind a bullshit E-codename.
Naturally, the biggest concern here -- besides the obvious ohgodwhyaaaargh! -- is whether human Jell-O counts as cannibalism. Granted, nobody's actually chewing an arm off a dude, but there's still an ick factor in the knowledge that it's human extract we're eating ...
... wait a second. We already eat trace amounts of hair and dead skin in pretty much all of our meals, don't we? Holy shit, does that count as cannibalism, too?
Let's, uh, let's not play this game anymore.
When XJ is not protecting the world from devastation or uniting all peoples within the nation, he writes fantasy and talks about it at xjselman.wordpress.com. Sadly, all this work doesn't leave much time for blogging, but he'd still appreciate your views. You can also follow him here.
For more disturbing things the future holds for us, check out 6 Insane Laws We'll Need in the Future and 5 Visions of the Future From Experts (Who Should Be Fired).
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out 10 Minutes After the End of 'The Matrix' Trilogy.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover why an MLP uprising is soon upon us.
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