Soylential: A movie about super humans

In light of Lizzie Widdicombe’s article “The End of Food” about the nutritious and time efficient meal-drink Soylent, I began to ponder the many directions mass consumption of Soylent could go in and in what ways it could transform or impact humanity, how we perceive food, and we experience different things. The combination of my thoughts on Soylent and my love for sci-fi, conceived “Soylential”, a (potential) movie about a breed of near perfect superhumans.

The setting is in a postmodern world in the very mid 22nd century, where humans have suffered a slew of serious consequences such as global warming, overharvesting, deforestation, industrialization that runs into natural habitats, pollution, etc. At the zenith of what was viewed as a near apocalyptic event from the lack of sustainability and depletion of resources on Earth, a panel of cutting edge scientists and engineers are selected to find a quick solution to ensure the continuity of humanity. Rhinehart emerges with a solution – Soylent. By figuring out the basic chemicals, combinations, and building blocks of food – minerals, vitamins, macro nutrients, and micro nutrients – he is able to construct a drink capable of sustaining the human population using minimal resources. Frenzied and pressed for time, the drink is administered to the masses and proves to be wildly effective.

Fast forward to the year 2158, and an entirely different breed of human beings exist. Due to the highly nutritious nature of the drink, humans have become a hyper version of themselves. Whereas the commonly processed foods sold during the early 21st century lacked in nutrtional value, the consumption of Soylential has filled in these holes. Humans are better looking than ever before with clearer skin, stronger muscles, less illnesses, longer hair, clearer vision, and are more vibrantly colored. They can run faster and longer and think quicker than ever before. Their brains function at a higher capacity, and in just about every way their abilities have been heightened. These individuals are known as Soylentials.

However, a flaw exists within the Soylentials. Although they are pratically bionic beings, they lack sensation, especially taste. Drinking Soylent has dulled their sense of taste and overtime their desire for experience and ability to find beauty in flaw and error and emote. Soylent has created a brand of logistical humans who, as time goes, are becoming more and more void of feeling and sensation despite their outward perfection.

As America has replenished itself quicker than the other countries and is abundant in resources, its government is refusing to return back to eating real food, opting instead for the breed of superhumans to become a strong (and beautiful) militia to place it as the world power once and for all and control the other countries.

This gives rise to the Anti-Soylentials, a  large and growing coalition of normal humans who have been living sustainably on the countries resources secretly. They have discovered a chemical, Sensodine, only found in real food overlooked by Rhinehart that is responsible for creating taste and thus feelings of sensation within human beings. by disguising themselves among the Soylentials, they conspire to infiltrate the government and spike the main supply of Soylent with Sensodine, injecting emotion within the Soylentials to stir revolution. However this will be difficult, as government officials have been consuming a hyper nutritional version of Soylent that makes them much, much more powerful than the Soylentials. Who will win? Power? Or Passion?

Much Ado About Connoisseur

What do Sherlock Holmes, Carlo Ginzburg and Rob Rhinehart (of Soylent’ Fame) have in common? All the mentioned individuals are connoisseur in their fields. While Holmes is the archetypal Scientist. He carefully solves all cases one after another by his systematic, unemotional approach to solving mysteries. He has ability to separate fact from theory. “I make a point of never having any Prejudice”, he tells Inspector Forrester (The Adventure of the Reigate Squires’). Holmes relies on intuition and mysterious flashes of insight. “See the value of imagination”, he tells Watson in Silver Blaze. Holmes definitely is a connoisseur of his field. His scientific mastery and individual intuition or training has made him one of the most famous fictional character in the world. Calling Holmes a connoisseur of scientific mastery, individual intuition, intelligence, would be an understatement. Similarly Carlo Ginzburg and Rob Rhinehart too is connoisseur of their respective fields. Such individuals make us examine ourselves to attain perfection.

Connoisseur comes from Middle-French ‘connaitre’ meaning “to be acquainted with” or “to know somebody or something”. A connoisseur is a person who has a great deal of knowledge about the find arts, cuisines, or an expert judge in matters of taste.

On the basis of empirical evidence, refinement of perception about technique and form, and a disciplined method of analysis, the responsibility of the connoisseur is to attribute authorship, validate authenticity and appraise quality. Connoisseur is also used in the context of gastronomy, i.e. in connection with fine food, beer, wine, tea and many other products whose consumption can be pleasing to the senses.

A ‘Gastronome’ is a food and wine expert.

An ‘Oenologist’ is a wine expert.

An ‘epicurean’ appreciates good food and wine.

In her article ‘The End of Food’ (May 12,2014) Lizzie Widdcombe wrote about Rob Rhinehart, a Tech entrepreneur who comes up with a product (soylent) to replace our meal! Sounds interesting as well as eerie. Rob who is living in a claustrophobic apartment in San Francisco, is forced by his financial circumstances to come up with something innovative. To mitigate grocery bills and stave off scury. He went straight to the raw components that make our food. He compiled 35 nutrients required for survival and came up with slurry of chemicals that looked like gooey Lemonade. He called his potion ‘soylent’. According to him, ‘soylent’ has many benefits. First it saves time and money. Second, it improves health (Dandruff gone!). Third, it reduces green house gas emission, saves water and agriculture land. So does this makes Rob a Connoisseur or Gastronome? You bet! He has deep knowledge about food, and is an expert judge in matter of taste (even though soylent tastes like grandpa’s Metamucil). He has appraised food quality. However, press has heralded soylent as “The end of food” as many cyptic critics, orthodox people cannot fathom the fact that Soylent would bring an end to traditional agriculture; (Rob describes it as dirty job for underclass) Kitchen cooking; vegetable and other food shopping! Even though critics are doubtful of soylent, Rob is confident about its future. “I think the best technology is the one that disappears,” he said.

In ‘A Brief History of Scent’, writer Beau Friedlander discusses an entertaining variety of off-Label uses for the smell of cadavers, including “Stench Soup”. She looks at the way in which we and what makes for a truly awful stink. She adds that the smell of a place at a particular moment follows the same rules as any perfume, but with a for greater degree of complexity. She meticulously observes that the smell in her block (in Brooklyn) is in fact mixture of various heart notes of gasoline, fallen leaves, car exhaust and others.

Fried Lander definitely makes us pensive about power of smell on our mood, food, culture; belief systems smell can evoke different time and era too. As it is said ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison.’  A smell associated with a particular culture may smell offensive to others but there are smells that are universally accepted by all, and only a Connoisseur of cuisines, taste and smell can identify how certain cuisines and taste have universal appeal.

Who are we to judge Connoisseur of various fields! These great individuals in their respective fields only guide us to have more mastery in our own field and be in tune to our intuitions to reach Zenith of perfection.

Film of the Year

Have you ever read The New Yorker’s Lizzie Widdicombe’s article “The End of Food?” If you haven’t, I suggest you do because I think the premise of the article could be the next big hit in the film industry. The basic plot of the film would follow the story of how four young men developed Soylent as liquid nutrition substitute that can serve as the single source of nutrition that an individual requires. Soylent is simply composed of powdered forms of the major macromolecules and vitamins and minerals of the diet in addition to oil and water. With Soylent, there is no need to actually consume solid sources of food, such as beef or bread. In fact, Soylent is ideal for individuals with active or busy lifestyles because one need not stop to eat or prepare food but can instead continue working. Not only that, but Soylent also fills individuals up quicker and for longer periods of time. At the time the article was written, Soylent had been highly supported by individual consumers, and the military and NASA were looking to incorporate Soylent into their programs for the future. Thus, Soylent was on its way to becoming main stream.

Now, why do I think this story would be a hit? The answer is simple. If Soylent became mainstream, would it really mean the end to all food? I believe that this film would really get individuals thinking about themselves and their role in the world. On the one hand, after watching the film, individuals may be quick to take up the cause for standalone liquid nutrition substitutes like Soylent. On the other hand, some individuals may view Soylent as an unnecessary evil.

Those who accept Soylent as an acceptable form of nutrition most likely are thinking of the health benefits it will confer to themselves and the potential implications for protecting the environment. In regards, all four men who developed Soylent are still robust even after subsisting primarily on Soylent for one year. Being able to maintain or improve health through a balanced diet is one of the main goals for most indviduals. Therefore, Soylent could serve to mediate accomplishing this goal. In consideration of the environment, Soylent reduces the need for farms since most nutrients are plant based and in powdered form. Consequently, pollution from farm chemicals and animal wastes is reduced.

In contrast, those opposed to Soylent may be so for social, health, and economical reasons. Since there is no need to stop what you are doing to eat a meal, one can just keep on working and eat right at their desk or wherever they are. The sociability aspect of eating may be lost if individuals don’t feel the need to take a pause in their life or to congregate with others by eating at a common place. Furthermore, some individuals may view supplemental nutrition as “unnatural” because nutrients are not consumed directly in the form of plants and animals. Lastly, by reducing the need for farms, Soylent has the potential to put many individuals out of work.

Conclusively, “The End to Food” could be a move that turns America on its head and encourages individuals to deeply consider the future and the implications of such innovations which are only to increase as time wears on and technology and knowledge increase.

Robotic Connoisseur

Fuller’s article gives us a description of a robot as a connoisseur, in a sense, since the machine can definitively and “scientifically” calculate the “authenticity” of Thai food. Robots seem to perfectly fit the definition of a connoisseur, since no person could ever know more, quantitatively speaking, than a robot. But for a subject as wide and creative as food, a device that tries to standardize the near infinite amount of combinations, mixes, and cultures that occur in food is doomed to fail. Taste and smell, both separate and especially in conjunction, are still not fully understood by us, and therefore cannot yet be effectively implemented into a machine. In this way, the robot’s analysis of food is arguably less knowledgeable than a Kindergartener. It can only compare and rate one reference for a dish that may change from city to city, all of which taste just as good as another to a human, but rate drastically different to the robot. It’s not like the entirety of a Thai dish can be put into specific terms; the dish depends on countless other things from freshness of ingredients to style of cooking. Science has not yet mastered food, and people in Thailand appear to hold the same position as I do, saying that “the government should consider using a human to gauge authenticity”, since all that really matters is that the food tastes good. Of course, this is subjective as well, just as the robot’s “tastes” are subjective in relation to a standard set by scientists. What one person (or thing) perceives as tasty depends on their upbringing, what kinds of food they have in the environment, and genetics, so it’s essentially useless to push a standard of “good tasting food” onto others, since everybody’s different. This is applicable to any snobbish connoisseur of food, since just because they can describe and dissect the food further than the layman, it doesn’t make them right. That said, if the government of Thailand wants the world to adhere to the single standard and grade set by the robotic taste tester, then they are free to “maintain tradition” while labeling differing evolutions of food as tainted or impure replications. It doesn’t matter what they label the food as, since it’s the individual consumer that ultimately decides whether or not they like the dish; if they don’t, then they can just not eat it again.

Crowdpilot: A Social Media App

One of the many social media network apps out there is Crowdpilot. Crowdpilot is an app developed by Lauren McCarthy that allows individuals publish their conversations online for anonymous users and or a select group of people, such as Facebook friends, to comment on and provide advice. Those who offer suggestions as to what could be said are the “crowdpilots.” This app could prove very useful in awkward situations or when one is at a loss as to what to say. Out of all the three main social media apps I use, I think Crowdpilot most relates to Facebook Messenger and Yik-Yak, although Crowdpilot’s purpose and implications for social interaction are different.

The primary feature Facebook Messenger, Yik-Yak, and Crowdpilot share is the generation of a two-way conversation. For example, Facebook Messenger acts much like texting in that it allows Facebook friends to have a conversation together by messaging back and forth. Yik-Yak initiates a more indirect two-way conversation by enabling individuals to post their thoughts or circumstances and have other individuals up or down vote the comments to show their either their agreement or disagreement. How does Crowdpilot relate to these two social media apps? Crowdpilot permits individuals to directly seek one another out like Facebook Messenger and also allows crowdpilots to comment on the situation like Yik—Yak.

Overall, I would say Crowdpilot is most similar to Yik-Yak, although I think the purpose of each app is different. Whereas Yik-Yak is geared to college students and can be used more for amusement and informative purposes, Crowdpilot can ultimately be used by anyone is and employed when seeking help. To characterize these differences, an example of comments found on Emory University’s YiK-Yak include jokes about the squirrels or events on campus. In contrast, comments on Crowdpilot first state a context, such as a family dinner, and are then followed by suggestions for what to say, such as “ask how so and so’s team is doing.”

While apps like Crowdpilot can be very useful, I think so apps also discourage face-to-face interaction. That is, individuals no longer need to seek out friends or other mentors to ask for advice or to receive affirmation, they can just get these things on the web. Additionally, rather than making an effort to meet new people and interact with friends, individuals can rely upon strangers or anonymous users to be there. Thus, I think certain social media apps, including Crowdpilot, give individuals a sense that virtual relationships are the same or just as good as physical relationships when individuals on the other end could really be someone entirely different than who they say they are. Likewise, I think this encouragement of lack of face-to-face social interaction causes laziness and can also lead to feelings of depression or loneliness once an individual realizes a virtual relationship or virtual communication is not as substantial as physical relationships and actual conversation. Conclusively, I am not against social media apps, but I think individuals should use them with caution and be aware of their limitations.

An Eye Opener

It is quite disheartening and sad that activities meant to simulate the experience of disability are so often lauded, eye-opening experiences. With just a few hours in a wheelchair, wearing earplugs or wearing a blindfold, people supposedly gain a deeper understanding of what life with a disability truly entails.

In this article “Disability Awareness Draws Scrutiny” by Carls Straumsheim (March 7,2013). Mr. Straumshein believes that such event meant to raise awareness actually reinforces stereotypes and pity toward people with disability. He is supported by Miss Jillian Weise (who walks with a prosthetic leg). According to the latter, “It (simulation event) assumes that a non disabled participant can understand disabilities totally and completely by wearing goggles or by wearing headphones” I have to agree to both of the above views. Even in the 21st century for many of us , disability is an identity and a culture, as are race , religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation etc. Now, imagine if school and organizations began to hold widespread Black Awareness events, during which white people would put on black face and go around in public for a few hours to gain an understanding of the experiences of black people. I think it’s an understatement to say that would rightfully result in a nationwide angry uproar for several reasons.

First of all, the term “awareness” makes minority groups sound like a problem. Second, a brief activity can never replace a lifetime of experiences. If being black, disabled or other are identities, why are disability awareness averts the only one of its kind deemed to be acceptable, while awareness averts for other identities would undoubtedly be deemed offensive? To me, it feels like the opposite of acceptance to their entire identity as person with a physical disability reduced to an isolated simulation experience. The article on the other hand, does supports disability simulation. Miss Arlene Stewart (Director of student disability services) said that the goal of the event was” to put students with disabilities in contact with influential policy makers on campus. “Her views are supported by Dan Hofman who believes that such events ‘gives new perspective on how to make the campus more accessible to people with disabilities” I agree with both. Colleges and schools are the correct platform to raise any issues like ‘disability simulation’s both students -who are future nation builder and professors -whose sagacious and genuine understanding of any issue can bring about positivity by not offending the physical challenged people as media and movies generally do.

Similarly, Miss Sarah Gibbson in her article ‘Simulating Autism’ focuses on autism and its merits as well as demerits to physically challenged people. She points that in Autism challenges cannot be lessened through manipulating external controls. Moreover, there are no clear objectives that need to be achieved despite the environmental difficulty. It lacks a cohesive narrative structure and distinct player objectives and isn’t enjoyable to play. She further highlights that autism induces fear to capture the experiences of autistic people. Sherly Burgstahler and Tanis Doe support her. They argue that if disability simulation are to be used it must be designed not to capture the daily experience with attention to disability as a social and political experience. They also caution that trying on disability by using wheelchair does not provide insight into the strategies that individual develop overtime to manage their environment. The panic that a player might experience of disability and may reinforce the assumption that being able-bodied or neurotype is objectively preferable to being disabled. I vehemently agree with their views. A normal being pushing a wheelchair around in no way gives them a genuine understanding of what it feels like for a disabled person to wheel around and be stopped in his or her tracks by a high curb everyday. In each case the simulation isn’t natural or accurate. An able bodied person by using external devices cannot emote the deep internal experiences of some one not been gifted.

Finally, we can be aware of disabled people. We can attempt to roll a mile in their wheelchair. We can analyze and discuss and dissect the experience from a million different angels. But we must move away from equating empathy with acceptance .We must embrace differences as a fact of human existence without first needing to imitate them. For these kinds of activities are not effectively contributing to long-term advancement in the disability right movement.

I would take the liberty to end this essay by dedicating it to one of my old friend who is physically challenged and has been on wheel chair since the age of 10yrs.I called him up and asked him about disability simulation and he answered “You abled guys now’ve found a new platform to mock us and make us feel more pity and guilty of our differences” I was speechless. Then asked aren’t there any benefits? To that he said “only one benefit I can see, it will generate awareness amongst you guys. Thank you.” I was silent and started with my essay.

Improvement of Social Apps

Social media is prominent in my life and the culture that I live in.  I use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which I think are the three most popular social apps.  I walk around Emory and see myself along with other people viewing these apps on either our laptaps or phones in almost any setting: in class, in the library, walking outside, in the lunchroom, or even on the toilet. Truthfully, as almost anyone can imagine, these social apps are a waste of time, and I, myself, feel ashamed sometimes that I am viewing social media on my phone at the lunch table when I could be having a live conversation with the person across the table.  In my opinion, they are a waste of time and effort because I use them to view other people’s statuses on Facebook, tweets on Twitter, and pictures on Instagram.  These posts come from over a thousand different people, most of whom are insignificant in my life, therefore making most of the posts insignificant.  I am viewing meaningless, yet entertaining content when I use these apps.  It is also a waste of time and effort to write my own posts on these sites because I am sharing information with a bunch of “friends” and “followers” on a superficial level.  The few friends and followers who do matter may not even see my post, and I could have easily just communicate with them directly if I wanted them to know something.  I believe these social apps provide an insufficient amount of attention to the people who feel the need to use them.  However, these people use social apps more and more in hope to receive the attention they need, neglecting to put themselves out there in the real world and meet some new people.  Again, social media relationships are superficial, but when one has a conversation in the real world with another, a genuine, meaningful relationship could develop.

For this reason, I commend Lauren McCarthy for designing Crowdpilot and Inneract, as these social apps promote real life interaction with other people.  With Crowdpilot, a user asks anonymous people what he/she should do or talk about in a real life scenario. I imagine that many people use this, but I don’t imagine them relying on the app to control their personality and actions.  I think Crowdpilot gives users confidence to do something they simply did not have the guts to do before.  With Inneract, users post a status to a correspondent location on a map, hoping for someone else to read it and possibly come interact with them.  Now, I don’t see anyone using this at all, as it would be hard to actually find the person who posted the status in a populated area, and I doubt anyone in their right mind would seek out a stranger who is alone in the middle of nowhere.  Nonetheless, the goals of these apps are to assist users to interact face to face with other people, so I deem Crowdpilot and Inneract better than the apps I currently use: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.