Soylent Beige – If you tolerate this, your Happy Meal will be next

Weapon of choice rgaphics 2.003

The Great Global Food Fight part 1 v1.01

This blog post is about a subject close to my heart and I get very emotional about it, so those of you sensitive to cussing, look away now.

Here goes…

I am so over-stimulated by the hoop-la surrounding the first artificially-grown meat burger that I am almost lost for words. There is so much insanity embodied in this event that I feel like I need a lie down already and I’ve only just started typing. I predict a series of posts as lengthy as my diatribe on the Great British Art Debate, only this saga is called the Great Global Food Fight. There will not doubt be revisions but I will put version numbers in the titles.

If you have not seen any coverage, I will not bore you by repeating any of it so check out these links before I begin.
http://www.theguardian.com/science/2012/jun/22/fake-meat-scientific-breakthroughs-research
http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/aug/05/google-sergey-brin-synthetic-beef-hamburger

FYI Sergey Brin is one of the founders of Google and earns more than Bruce Willis on a four-day week. At the time of going to press, Forbes estimates Brin’s net worth to be $22.8 Bn, so he’s worth his weight in gold.
http://www.forbes.com/profile/sergey-brin/

Well, no, he’s actually worth a lot more than that. More even than his weight in colourless, odourless, taste-free burgers. I don’t know his vital statistics but he looks fit and well-nourished, so if I estimate his weight at 11 stones (about 70 kg) with Gold at a price of $1,310 per oz on 8/8/13, by weight he would be worth only $3.2m. His worth in pseudo-burgers (assuming quarter-pounders, uncooked) would be about $12.5 m.

To be fair on Brin, he does not claim any more for this first pseudo-burger than a proof of concept, and I agree wholeheartedly with his arguments about the common perception of livestock rearing, but his explicitly evident commercial imperative undermines the ethical claims. Here is the weird promotional video he’s had made with a few rent-a-gob scientists.
http://www.theguardian.com/science/video/2013/aug/05/google-burger-sergey-brin-lab-grown-hamburger

At this point ask yourself why is he wearing his Google Glass™ spectacles whilst being interviewed? Are they going to give him a heads-up display about any awkward questions? I doubt it, although he might record a cool movie, or find a cool restaurant nearby, or upload some cool pic-shers of his cool neighbours indulging their offspring with their friends at a cool barbecue next to their cool swimming pool.

If you haven’t seen Google Glass™ before, here is their weird promotional video.
http://www.google.com/glass/start/how-it-feels/

Talking to someone wearing Google Glass™ is the equivalent of talking to one of those ignorant motherfuckers who fiddles with their smartphone but insists they are listening to you whilst asking you to repeat everything. Glass™ may be more sympathetically designed but it’s the same as having a mobile phone taped to your forehead, and less useful. Brin must have a brain the size of a planet but he comes across as strangely disconnected. No wonder. If he’s typical of his age and gender demographic, he’ll be watching porn.

So why is he wearing Google Glass™ during an interview where he does not need simultaneous interaction with the rest of the world? Well, because it’s not actually a demonstration of his commitment to animal welfare but a thinly disguised sales pitch to flog you cool shit.

To return to the Google Burger™ video, the most frighteningly misguided and manipulative pitch is from Richard Wrangham, Professor of Snake Oil at Harvard University, who compares traditional cultures that might starve if their hunters returned without a kill, against fat, white, middle-class North Americans barbecuing 16oz rib-eye steaks on their frack-gas-fuelled grills. Wrangham says “We are a species designed to love meat”. Note the wording. Not “need” but “love”. Not “evolved” but “designed”. He is trying to imply we have no choice in the matter and he is making an emotive argument for consumption, disguised as scientific fact. In other words, bullshit. He also claims that the consumption of meat is what makes us “physically and anatomically human”.

This promo video is a deeply invidious shitpile of propaganda. I have already waxed lyrical about some of the dubious TED talks in a previous post and it pays to deconstruct these presentations in order to get at what they are really saying, or should I say, selling. The entire video is shot-through with that aspirational bullshit that sounds good but is actually both meaningless and dangerous. In the past, inventors innovated and left the analysis to historians, but in our current dystopian present, these hipster-anarchists are promising the realised, life-improving potential of cool shit before it is even proved to be useful or viable. It’s a bubble just waiting to burst, and not just financially.

And who is he talking to? Well, guided by the Google Glass™ trailer, it’s the same homogenously-attractive aspirational nonces that always appear in all the Apple adverts too. It’s such an irony that Apple and Google don’t get on (or maybe that’s just an Illuminati pantomime) since their target market is demographically identical. Those middle-class, self-obsessed hipsters who think that life is a non-stop round of buying cool shit and talking about it to other vacuous wannabes as if any of it is in the least important. They’re all about the same age, spend their time indulging in expensive adventure sports or going to children’s parties, and do not have any of the critical or ethical faculties to question whether they actually need any of this shit or whether the act of demonstrably owning cool shit is enough of a justification. It is a telling critique of these technologies to look at the imagined applications for them. They are, almost without exception, activities of consumption perpetrated by white, middle-class nuclear families with the odd ethnic minority and old fart thrown in for diversi’y.

I am one of the most ardent subscribers to the search engine that Brin co-founded, but no doubt he already knows this. I use Google searches A LOT, and I edit everything on Apple computers so, if Edward Snowden is to be believed, the NSA will know pretty much everything about me already. It’s a fair cop.

Anyway, the image below is what I get for when I do a Google image search for “Sergey Brin” (but he probably already knows that).

Sergey Brin google image search

What does actually annoy me about him is that you can hardly find a photo of him where he is not wearing those stupid fucking Fisher-Price secret agent spectacles. Almost, but not quite. If you want to shift some overpriced cool shit to overpaid suckers, surely a co-founder of Google could have reinforced the message even more effectively by making sure that absolutely EVERY photo of him has them in. In the meantime I have photoshopped the offending ones just for completeness. Click on the image for a full-size screen grab.

Anyway, back to the Google Burger™. Here is the weird promotional video of some paid-for food critic tasting the patty o’ pooh.
http://www.theguardian.com/science/video/2013/aug/05/synthetic-beef-hamburger-tastes-meat-video

All the mainstream media seemed to have missed the biggest elephant in the room and that is the garnish. Call me picky, but what the flying fuck is any self-respecting North American doing serving an eye-wateringly expensive burger without some decent accompaniments? Well, Brin is Russian so I’ll let him off his failure to understand the purity of the hamburger, but stay with me.

The 'Google burger' … it looks like beef, tastes like beef …

I realise this might sound like a rather laboured subtlety but, bearing in mind the obvious lengths to which they have gone to produce the thing, but the presentation of the first Google Burger™ says something fundamental about the mindset of the perpetrators. These over-funded geeks will spend a quarter of a million pounds on a burger that tastes of jack-shit but don’t have the sense to add a slice of melted cheese, pickled gherkins and tomato relish. Even McDonalds can manage that and they’re not exactly holding the high ground when it comes to gourmet excess. What’s more, the bread looks like it’s been scraped off the floor of a veal pen. Image ©The Guardian.

The point being that it is actually irrelevant that this is food, it’s just more Google Product™.

It is said that you eat with your eyes. In which case, ask yourself how the augmented reality of Google Glass™ could enhance this particularly disappointing plate? Well, for me it would have to substitute it with something to eat, but I think that’s a little out of the jurisdiction of an iPhone on a spectacle mount.

It’s not true to say that we do not have enough of, well actually, anything, we just have too much demand for it. What does that mean? Well, it means there are too many people in the world demanding too much fucking stuff. There is a very simple solution to the too many people part, and that is to get rid of some of them. I’m not suggesting genocide of course. At least not yet, but everything could be taken care of with natural wastage and birth control. With an increasing demand for meat and a growing but aging population, why don’t we kill two birds with one stone and introduce compulsory euthanasia and protein recycling?

My solution is inspired by the film “Soylent Green” (1973 dir Richard Fleischer). As regular readers will be aware, I am somewhat obsessed with dystopian movies and fiction and this is a story of how, in an over-populated world, the assisted-suicide human dead are recycled as a foodstuff for the remaining undernourished  population. “In Children of Men” (2006, dir Alfonso Cuarón) there is a commercially available euthanasia solution called “Quietus”.

I’m sure Google will want to get in on that act too. On every act. At least every act that can turn a few billion dollars. They’ll probably go for for one of those one-word aspirational brands and I’d like to suggest Google After™ or Google Release™ or maybe even the optimistic Google Valhalla™. I might be over-thinking this, so maybe just Google Death™.

Here is the voice-command I would use with the strap-on Google Death™ humane-killer as its enhanced virtual reality tried to make my final meal of a Google Burger™ (without cheese or relish) look palatable:

“Okay, Death™. Take me now.”

The problem here is the problem. It is not the right of human beings to eat an unlimited amount of meat, or for that matter consume anything without limit. The same thing applies to energy, but I’ll come back to that in a later post. What is fundamentally misguided about Brin is his attempt to meet a demand with a technological solution when the correct solution is a practical / ethical one. There are too many people consuming too much stuff that requires too many resources. In terms of survival of the species, the human race has been remarkably successful already for at least 100,000 years before the iPad, 10,000 years before cheese-in-a-can, and 1,000 years before fucking hipsters. There is no ethical or practical justification for artificial meat if you do not accept the assumed given that further population growth is inevitable.

There is no human right to unlimited consumption. There is no human right to unlimited procreation. There is no human right to the consumption of meat.

The promo video ends with the phrase “Be part of the solution” and we all know what Sergey Brin’s solution is: selling you even more cool shit so he can make another kajillion dollars. However he’s missing a much more obvious way of being part of the solution and if you’re wondering, a quarter-pounder BrinBurger™ would set you back about $37m.

There is a lot more to come on this topic, so please stay with me…

EEx

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