Humans are funny: despite cautionary tales and warnings about things going wrong, we seem hellbent on blazing ahead into the high-tech future.
From 20th to 21st Century
The dystopic literary classics of the 20th century that have been required reading in public schools – Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World, 1984 – have all come true in the early 21st century.
AI, automation, and robotics are poised on the brink of a brave new tomorrow, and the food industry is one of the targets. In the US alone, the food industry is a 1.5 trillion dollar industry, and the US has already experienced its first fully-automated McDonald’s in Fort Worth, Texas, based on the automated restaurant chain in Japan.
The interesting film Upgrade, about the tensions between doing things manually and automation, has a funny scene in which a wife (automation-embracing) says to her husband (who works on his car and listens to analog records) “I printed us a pizza for dinner.” Convenience is one of the prime motivators of humans, but one has to stop and consider what the trade-off is.
3D printing emerged out of Computer-Assisted Drafting, in which small-scale models of proposed buildings were made out of cheap plastic. It is a wonderful tool, but to “print” food the ingredients themselves have to be liquified, preserved, and made compatible with the hardware and software. It raises a philosophic question: could an automaton/AI make a more delicious meal than a seasoned, talented human chef?
Bex customer Dave, of Califon, 81, remembers fondly the days of the Automat: “It was very exciting going to the Automat in New York City in the 1950s: we kids were given a handful of nickels, and it was great fun buying food and pies and beverages.” While the Automat is an early progenitor of automated food, keep in mind that the food itself was made by actual human beings.
Chef Becky’s Take
A savvy businesswoman, Chef Becky knows that restaurants have to adapt or perish, but she worries about the chemicals, preservatives, and GMOs that would be compatible with 3D-printed food. “Bex is all about whole, minimally-processed, high-quality, nutritious ingredients,” she says, “and we make things from scratch without cutting the tempting corners other eateries have resorted to. It’s just strange for a robot, who isn’t human, to know what is most healthy and tasty for humans.”