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Food: Going Digital

This article was published in collaboration with our tech blog Desk Stem.

What if food went digital? How will we eat it?

No, Kris! Don't give them any ideas!

Movies, music, pictures, video, documents, video games, human communication...nearly everything we do and can do has gone digital and there's no signs of slowing down at all. Why? It's a necessity ingrained into our very lives. Cool, so what if our source for survival, like food, goes digital? Looks like we better talk about this before mainstream media does, if they haven't already, because this on-going food shortage, global famine, and hyperinflation leave more than enough to be talked about. Would digital food alleviate that? Grab your favorite PHYSICAL snack(s), beverage(s), have a seat and put on your thinking cap.

Food going digital? Yes, and we're not talking about ordering your favorite meals via an app as a result of the pandemic. No, we'll be discussing the possible/impossible scenario of consuming food digitally—imprinting delicious meals onto, say, a specialized image created for the nerves in our brain to absorb neurologically through, perhaps, a headband, thus "eating" it without actually eating. (This isn't a joke, as we'd like to have a serious talk about it.)

No need to dive deep into the history of food as we all know that we need it to live and survive. Even if you're not a self-proclaimed "foodie," you still need to eat on a frequent basis. With high prices and a global shortage that's barely being discussed, would you ever eat food that's...digital? Why even bother talking about something like this?

I believe in the early days of Apple® and their release of the iPhone, there existed a video demonstrating the drinking of beer through...the phone, via iBeer. Hold your phone as if it were a cup, place it in front of your mouth and pretend you're drinking from your phone.

However, video clips featuring apps like those were additional marketing for the phone knowing that you not only can download apps, but ones that make you believe you're drinking liquid from your device realistically (does anyone keep those apps anyway?). Outside the box, you're not actually drinking, but for those who have downloaded such apps may think so. In terms of the body's internal functions, you ingested nothing despite fooling your mind doing so. Good or bad? I'd say bad because tricking your mind into thinking you're hydrated doesn't mean your body has taken in liquid to compensate for the high temperature. I understand we need to punch in as much hours as we can to earn money in our jobs, but if you're feeling dehydrated, notify your manager/boss immediately as it could be a health issue that could potentially be life-threatening. Either that or the company you work for is doing a terrible job taking care of their workers', but we digress. DO NOT take pills or anything that'll trick your mind in a way where your body feels hydrated when you never drank a glass of water—physical water, that is.

Alright, so how will this translate over to food? During my college days, I've had friends and knew people who were proud of not being able to cook (as if being a failure is good—it's not). Now food will be coming short, prices of groceries are unreasonably high and concerns about proper food handling is a continuous, albeit moderate, issue when dining out. To those who can't cook and are proud of it: How will you survive? Do you know how to grow food? Not sure why we asked since you wouldn't be able to follow a recipe. With that said, if some corporate entity decides to launch a company that wants to cash in on those who can't cook and unable to grow their own food an opportunity to consume food digitally, how will they be able to do so? How many repeat customers will such business have?

Wow, Kris, we can consume food in other ways. It's called "pills" / "injections."

Nice try because that's still ingestion done physically. No really, nice try.

The main problem with digital food

In December 2021, it was reported that a Japanese professor developed a "lickable" TV screen that brings out flavors of the food it displays (you think we're joking, but we're not)[1]. I know it's strange but why drive to the ice cream parlor when you can display an image of one on this TV screen and lick it? Saves you time, money and the unlikely spike in your blood sugar. The problem is that the organs in your body sensed nothing being eaten and digested, even if you "hacked" your mind believing otherwise. Does that mean you're satisfied? Hard to say since people will respond with different answers. The big problem is the more we witness this being done in routine may cause the body to act in such way that may not be normal; We're talking about possible bodily ailments that go far beyond stomach ulcers. Sudden drops/increase in blood pressure, heart rate, sodium levels, sugar intakes and more could wreck unusual kinds of havoc that many people aren't ready for. Again, it's not an easy say given that we've always believed that every body is different, but we just feel that this won't benefit very many people, health-wise.

Just because you purchased this theoretical headband we mentioned earlier, that can be controlled with an app on your phone massaging your head in such way where it emits a signal through your temples and into the brain believing you "ate" a triple bacon cheeseburger and feeling full doesn't mean it's a viable way to calm your hunger. Does this sound like a dangerous idea? It should, but I also wouldn't be surprised if this was pushed into the forefront above everything else that's going on in the world. Granted, Meta isn't doing so well financially with a net loss of about $300 billion[2], thus if this idea were to launch as a "spin off" of what Meta was trying to accomplish, the folks givng this idea a try ought to do so with caution. Most people would rather get their hands and fingers dirty digging onto some hot and spicy chicken tenders with fries than licking a TV screen, or wearing a headband, to fool their minds into feel full when they're not. Then again, since everyone's bodily functions are different, perhaps there may be a possibility with digital food after all, is there?

The benefits of digital food

There's a reason we don't have a Health and Medicine section on our network website because we're not specifically fully knowledgeable about the subject (if we were, we'd open one). We did state the fact that everybody is different, as well as every body being different. We understand that there are people with disabilities that ruined their ability to eat, so perhaps consuming food digtally may...help? First of all, our hearts and sympathy go out to those who are unable to eat, be it disability, sickness or poverty. Secondly, this alternative to food consumption may give the body a sense of calm without the worry of constant 'rumbling' the stomach does when its hungry. In other words, it's enough to relax the body despite the low, infrequent ingestion of physical food. Nevermind the kinds of food being eaten, be it carnivorous or vegan, it's the actual eating of the food itself. Maybe this headband idea could be the ticket to making the body flutter with optimism. Okay, so now I think there's a huge possibility in making this happen, but only so toward patients with a debilitating issue that detracts them from being able to eat.

Licking the video screen: Our way of 'eating' digital food?

My problem is, again, this idea could be pushed into oblivion to the point where it could be the only way to eat; I'm also scared that such thing could be mandated as a means of "saving the food." Here in California, it wouldn't surprise me if the governor tells its citizens to take showers in "digital water" in order to ease off the frequent water shortage. What about electricity: Can you digitize that? Yeah, anyway...

The point of this article is to start a discussion that could be the nearest thing to happening in an instant. I'd laugh at first if this came true, but fear for the future and where we're headed if actualized. I don't think many people are ready nor are they aware of the food shortage, let alone prepping to grow their own, so where will a "digital food revolution" take us? Will it save us? We mentioned the possible benefits of digital food as much as we criticize the possibility, though it could be beneficial to some. Take plastic surgery for example: Its practice was done to fix and/or remove facial and bodily imperfections from people who were either born with them or developed a physical ailment over the years. Nowadays, plastic surgery is used to "look more beautiful" than previously were, such as bigger boobs, fuller eyes, and so forth. We believe digital food will be marketed and promoted in the same vein as plastic surgery: No shame is getting it but not necessary (depending what you need it for). There you go; We said it. This bad feeling I have may involve big tech companies hopping on this idea, partnering with other big corporate businesses and spending billions, and possibly trillions, to make this a thing...globally. Meaning you don't need to purchase a plane ticket to Italy to taste and consume real, authentic pasta, compared to a store-bought one. Too much work trying to craft and cook your own hamburger? No problem, eat it digitally without cooking! Saves your electric/gas bill!

Business and economic outlook if this were to happen

If this idea actually happens, and if you're new to this website, welcome, as we've been a quiet haven for ideas that somehow come into fruition, the first thing that comes to mind is the food industry. It'll collapse in a heartbeat because there won't be very many jobs available, let alone any food to prep, cook and/or serve. Imagine going to a venue, or casino, and wanting to eat but can only do so digitally. Many people won't be happy, but is it something that's possible to adapt to? I'd like to hear diet experts and neurologists chime in on this. Secondly, yeah, it'll save the food from a global shortage but it may not be enough. While businesses try to jump the bandwagon, along with restaurant owners, the struggle to adapt will be real. All in all, it won't be the easiest transition humanity will ever face. How about children, and how will they go about doing this? Will their consumption of digital food be enough to have them fully develop as they grow?

You're weird, Kris. Where'd you get this idea?

I'll never forget back in 2017, I had a realistic dream in my sleep that I was eating a bowl of pasta in salisbury sauce. The dream felt so real I didn't think it was a dream, thus I woke up that morning feeling full. Obviously, it's impossible to eat while you're asleep, but the fact that an unusual dream I had made me wake up feeling like I had a hearty meal was strange to me. Having looked up that dream, it meant that I was low on energy and that I needed to frequent my meal consumption that time (during those days, I held a job that used A LOT of my energy, physically, on a day to day basis). That, and the article from Insider reporting on the lickable TV was what led me to think up, write and publish this article.

Why don't I be the one to start and launch this business idea? I would...but I don't want to. Some larger entity will come on in and bank in on the idea and go from there. My life is fine where it is and I'm okay living humbly; I don't need the high-end fame and to compete against the likes of Amazon and other big companies. Plus, if I do so, who will write and publish for this website? Anyway, it's cool and I won't take legal action if someone, or a business group, steals this idea. My point of talking about it is to realize its possibility, the good and bad, and what it may hold if it actually happens. I've personally never asked anyone in my circle what they think so this is being posted on the fly. Good idea or bad? You tell me.

We know: We take all responsibility in discussing such idea into a moderately-visited website like this (I believe emails sent to us in response to this article will start with the phrase, "dammit, see what you did, Kris?!"). I understand that we've not only created a monster, but a monster that has matured enough to create its own spawns that are smart enough to explain topos theory at birth. Does that sound like a scary monster? Definitely, as I'm scared as well (in complete honesty, I was shaking a little prior to proofreading and publishing this article). Let's be honest here: No one wants to consume 3D-printed food, will digital food be any better? I know you folks don't want to eat insects and bugs, so basically, then...

What do you think? Would you, or would you not, want to see food going digital? What benefits hold for such idea? Or are there no benefits, both long and short term? Let's talk about it in the comments below!


1. A Japanese professor has created a lickable TV screen that can imitate the flavors of the food it displays

2. Meta lost $2.8 billion on its virtual reality ambitions during Q2


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