Soylent Beige – First prize: a week’s supply. Second prize: two week’s supply.


The Great Global Food Fight part 2 – v1.01

You might have seen a recent viral video of a now famous behavioural experiment with Capuchin monkeys, where reproducible and spookily human behaviour is provoked in primates by treating them unequally.

And all the hipsters laugh at the tormented animals.

What does this tell us? Well, it tells us that a sip of water is better than nothing but don’t show off your wine cellar without expecting trouble. It’s the reinforcement of a revolutionary socialist message from the pre-human brain of a monkey. (That conclusion should give any right-wing Darwinists an embolism.)

To move on from my thoughts on artificially grown meat, I would like to introduce something that I discovered whilst “researching” (aka googling) that blog post, Soylent. No, really, a guy called Rob Rhinehart has developed a balanced nutritional emulsion of what he claims is everything that the human body needs to sustain it. Rhinehart and a small band of geeks have raised over $1m via crowd-funding in order to perfect and commercialise the product.

Please take 2 minutes 55 seconds of your time to watch their promotional video, it’s quite entertaining. They say some very weird shit. [Update: the references below are to the original Kickstarter pitch video which has been replaced by a new promo video. I will no doubt revisit this in a later post EE 7/5/14] [Update 9/5/14 – Everyone can relax, I found the original video on YouTube.]

Their arguments are just as specious as in Sergey Brin’s Google Burger™ pitch although they seem to belong to a different evolutionary diversion of the human genome.

“My existing options for food were limited.” What the fuck does that mean? I wonder what sort of world Rhinehart was living in that would leave him with so little imagination that a rather insipid “shake” would somehow enhance his “options”.

“I wanted more freedom with my time and money.” The F-word. This is the kind of freedom or “choice” that we were introduced to by Margaret Thatcher’s spin-centric style of government, and it’s not the freedom to say two plus two equals four, it’s the freedom to say two plus two equals four minus my administration fee.

It gets better. If you think this is barking then have a look at Rhinehart’s own blog entitled “How I stopped eating food”.

“Food is the fossil fuel of human energy. It is an enormous market full of waste, regulation, and biased allocation with serious geo-political implications. And we’re deeply dependent on it.” 

The middle sentence is spot on, but it’s bookended by invidious doublespeak. Whilst half the world does not have enough to eat, Soylent has been conceived to fulfill a manufactured need that does not exist.


I kid you not, above is an actual publicity shot from the Soylent website. I had already thought of the title for this blog post before I even discovered this puritanical, anti-food slurry, and voila! there is my imagined satirical take on the blandest of brands actually realised in pastel and white.

Back to the video, David says “I love food, I just don’t need twenty-one nice meals a week.”

Neither do I, fuckface, I need more.

To be fair on Rob and David, at least they’re not fucking hipsters, they are not dressed self-consciously enough. But they are fucking geeks, which is better, but still not good. At least they’re primarily motivated by achieving something more than just mountains of money.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re still desperately misguided, but their product does have a foreseeable and practical application. Not in my mouth but in the mouths of malnourished refugees all over the world. The ones rendered homeless, spouseless or parentless by US-funded wars. It’s a very neat circular symmetry.

Neither of them look particularly comfortable in front of the camera. Maybe if each of them had a Google Glass™ headset they could be made more comfortable with re-runs of Buffy the Vampire Slayer streamed to their peripheral vision. Like many promotional videos, it’s full of misleading imagery, particularly the old bird roasting corn-on-the-cob with some sort of a hand-operated turbine fan. They show a couple of hipsters, one running on a treadmill and one pumping iron in a deserted indoor gym, but I guess the irony is lost on Americans.

David says “Soylent is perfectly tailored to your body and lifestyle.” Not my lifestyle, dog-brain, but then again they’re appealing to their own demographic. I guess they don’t go out much.

I love the idea that these numbskulls believe that it’s a good thing to free your body from eating. What’s next? Free your body from sex? That suggestion would certainly get me out of the bedroom and onto the barricades.

And suddenly, that’s a cue to talk about “THX1138” (1971 dir George Lucas). Yes, THAT George Lucas, famous for the torture that is the Star Wars saga after episode 6.

THX1138 is stylish, depressing but strangely optimistic at the very end. It is a truly excellent film and belies the era that is was made in. Don’t worry, if you haven’t seen it I won’t spoil the end for you, but skip the rest of this paragraph if you want to remain completely unsullied. I forget if I have used any analogies from that movie before, but there are some prescient parallels with many of the grotesqueries that make up our modern world. Wall-sized screens to watch other people being beaten and humiliated, desperate rushing from one unidentified urgency to another, empty reassurances from recorded messages, food in the form of pills and regulated sex. Anything sound familiar?

And now Soylent. The dystopian references stack up faster than you can say “God damn you all to hell!”

I know it’s a cliché about Americans not understanding irony, but do they really not get the negative connotations with “Soylent Green” (1973 dir Robert Fleischer)? I guess Rob & David are not that media-savvy, which seems like a good thing but evidently not.

Free your body? I have no fucking intention of freeing my body from the pleasure of eating. The only thing I’d like to free my body from is shit pushed by geeks, hipsters and snake oil salesmen.

In an interview with Techcrunch (sounds like a breakfast cereal for nerds) Rob says:

“Most of the customers are young men, but there have also been a few Doomsday predictors and people preparing for a societal apocalypse that have tried to order lifetime supplies of Soylent, Rhinehart said.”

I hope those dimwit survivalists do live forever, they deserve every joyless minute of it. I’d rather die, and I will. The thought of living in a post-apocalyptic world, no matter how well-nourished, with a load of rednecks constantly reminding us “told yer so, boy” is not a freedom I would wish to choose.

Rob claims he has been living on Soylent for three months and I can’t help wondering how much action his toilet bowl has seen. I’m sure they have included some roughage in their recipe but, by now, he can probably crap through the eye of a needle. “We need your help to create the future of food. We can’t do it without your help.” No shit. No, really, no shit. They’re also trying to deny you another of the most basic of rewarding human experiences, the near-orgasmic pleasure of a huge dump.

I don’t usually crowd-source anything, but here is my own appeal to all my readers. Please stop contributing to these stupid crowd-funded projects, you’ll just encourage them. They should be beaten to death with cucumbers or drowned in grape juice. Please, please, please let this be a fake, otherwise we’re all fucked.

To finish off, here is a thought experiment for you. Imagine the world we live in is an experimental cage rather like the one in the monkey video, and some sort of supernatural, sentient being is performing an experiment on us. Instead of an inequity provoked by the choice of cucumber or grapes, we are being offered Google Burgers™ or Soylent. I wouldn’t know whether to throw either of them back at the hand that feeds me, consume it and risk the boredom of living forever or just lie down and pray for a swift death. That is the potential future we have been shown with these two new food “solutions”.

I feel sorry for J. G. Ballard. The real world is far more fucked up than even he could imagine. I tried reading “Kingdom Come” (2006) but its thinly veiled horrors seemed unsatisfyingly bland compared with the real life experience of Sheffield’s Meadowhall or London’s Westfield. Politicians, corporations and those fucking hipsters are progressively making the writers of dystopian futures redundant by developing a world far more corrupt, cynical and dangerous than could possibly be imagined, even by my namesake Harlan Ellison.

However, I must reserve a special place in hell for the geeks. Their ambition might be more honest than the hipsters, but their conceived future is going to be so fucking boring I would rather not see it. Unlike the Capuchin monkey driven to frustration, tantalised by the denial of a genuinely preferable food, neither of these pseudo-foods would move me to distraction. Although, if I were allowed to make a choice between a Google Burger™ or Soylent, I’d rather have cool shit than no shit at all.


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