Soylent: from sex to food and beyond

How Soylent is another step in the ongoing decoupling of pleasure and utility and what's next
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How Soylent is another step in the ongoing decoupling of pleasure and utility and what's next

Earlier this year Soylent raised $US20 million from top venture capital firms betting on it doing to food what GoPro did to cameras. Soylent offers a powder mixture that acts as a replacement for food: full of all the bits you need, minus the obsolete vessel in which it is normally consumed. Just add water.

The venture towards replacing food with nutritious, cheap and quick liquid meals is a noble and exciting one. We eat for two reasons: utility and pleasure. Finally, with the arrival of Soylent we are able to decouple these reasons.

The death of food

Eating is grotesquely inefficient. Why does my digestive system need to struggle through the coarse foliage of nature’s offering? Carrots or bread or steak: coarse, heavy husks for nutrients buried deep within. My poor teeth, my overworked tongue, my exasperated oesophagus, all cajoling these masticated chunks of flesh and harvest down to where they are eventually broken down and their nutrients extracted.

The indecision. What to eat? Day in day out, meal in meal out. Mark Zuckerberg wears the same grey tee every day. There are enough moving parts in our lives as it is: let’s freeze nutritional intake in its tracks. Let’s free our minds for more important decisions. Soylent frees us from a key First World Problem: the tyranny of culinary choice.

The hassle. When you do decide, you pour the milk over cereal one moment, toss your salad the next, then roast your carcass before bed. What is this madness? Have we not episodes of Game of Thrones to catch up on? (That was a test: obviously not, we’re all up to date). Why are we relying on an energy consumption process that hasn’t fundamentally changed since Eve bit into the Apple? We have a new Apple now! We live in a post digestive world. Let our stomachs go.

First came sex, then came food

Soylent is The Pill of the culinary world. The Pill decoupled the pleasure of sex from its reproductive purpose. When you eat to live, there is no quicker, cheaper or healthier option than Soylent. When you want to eat for pleasure, that’s another story. Go to your local Chinese place, your Italian bistro, and participate in whatever orgies of culinary delight you please, I certainly won’t judge. If you stop by the swinger’s club on the way home, who am I to cast a stone? Soylent will herald a new era of culinary fornication where Food will serve only one master: Pleasure.

The Final Frontier

I know what you are wondering, what fear is curling its cold tendrils around your soul as you watch the food revolution plunge towards its inexorable fate of perfect efficiency: that you shall no longer need to shit. For that is the ideal towards we are marching, a zero waste world where nutrients are consumed and absorbed perfectly. But I don’t want to live in a world where I don’t shit, I hear you say. The numbness in my leg upon rising is one of the only daily events that reminds me I’m alive. The pleasure in a post-coffee epic dump is what allows me to get through my work day without banging my head through the computer screen at work.

But there is nothing to fear. Just as The Pill freed Man and Woman to fornicate for pleasure and for reproduction at will, and as Soylent allows us to indulge purely in selective gluttonous delight decoupled from its anachronistic utility, so scientists are today working on the Defecation Simulator: what perfect combination of consumables generate the most significant and prolonged pleasures? How might that combination be encapsulated in a New Pill? Today’s scientists dream of a time when defecation too is decoupled from its utility. When it too can be exclusively a masturbatory exercise in pleasure. Finally, you will have a second tool in your kit of infinitely replenishing private pleasures. Because remember: if it feels good on the way out, it’s not gay.

The imagined Defecation Simulator drug is of course not without its risks. “The stool high is relatively safe, but can become an addiction for some,” warns Princeton gastroenterologist Dr. Anish Sheth, the co-author of the book ‘What’s Your Poo Telling You?’

I don’t know about you, but that’s a risk I’m willing to take.