Photo courtesy of Sara Schmitt

There exist a set of people who believe that the act of eating is a waste of time. To these people, it seems as though the once commonly held belief that we work to put food on the table has transformed into thinking that we must consume food in order to be able to do work.

This is especially true of the hacker and startup community, where consecutive all-nighters are worn proudly like badges of honor. This situation is truly ironic, because automation and technology were originally developed to reduce the amount of day-to-day work. Yet we find ourselves working now more than ever. A 2014 Gallup poll indicated that 40 percent of full-time workers work upwards of 50 hours each week. The standard workday has turned into a 10-hour ordeal.

This emphasis on not wanting to waste time on repetitive actions like eating has led to developments in food supplements like Soylent. In fact, this vile powdered meal replacement was developed by Tech alumnus, Rob Rhinehart.

The story of his development of Soylent is one all too familiar for a college student. The fact that food is expensive and takes a long time to prepare becomes an inconvenience when days become busy. Meals end up becoming unhealthy concoctions of ingredients. In such a situation, eating’s sole purpose is sustenance.

That is not how things should be. Eating is an entire experience, and the food is just one part of it. Meals are often eaten together. They are activities that bring people of all backgrounds together. On top of that, they bridge all divides, whether racial, gender or otherwise: everyone has to eat.

Because people are selective in what they choose to eat, many experts argue that food and meals played a large part in the shaping of cultures. Indian cuisine is known not to include beef because Hinduism reveres the cow. In Europe, despite plentiful dogs and horses, people travelled far to bring back worldly delicacies.

Saying that eating is a waste of time disregards the magnitude to which food has shaped the world and our everyday lives. Yes, meal replacements are an affordable alternative to actual food, but why is it that technology cannot be used to bring down the cost of real food and food production instead?

Rhinehart has specified that Soylent is not meant to end the ancient ritual of enjoying food. He still believes that food serves a function and should be consumed when necessary rather than eating at three scheduled times. But even if we should engage in purposeful eating, why serve a means to an end and forgo flavor and texture for liquid blandness?

Wars were fought to make spices available around the world, and agricultural revolutions took place in an effort to be able to help sustain the growing population. It does not seem worth it to throw all of that away just to squeeze a little more time out of each day.

  • Tim Felbinger

    Have you ever actually tried soylent? It’s really not that bad. I usually drink/ eat it for breakfast before my 9am and lunch between classes. It’s way healthier than the other snacks it has replaced, and I can honestly say that I feel noticeably healthier now than before.

    And as far as the social aspect goes, I wouldn’t have gone to a dining hall and eaten with other people during that time anyway, so that’s not really changing anything.

    I do still make an effort to go eat dinner with other people at a dining hall, but doing so for every meal takes up way too much of my day.

    It’s not for everyone, but it works for some. You should try it.