May 30, 2015

Drinking the Future

One after­noon in Feb­ru­ary 2013, Rob Rhine­hart pub­lished a blog post about how he stopped eating food. Unbe­knownst to him, he started a rev­o­lu­tion and his life, along with many oth­ers, would never be the same again:

“I hypoth­e­sized that the body does­n’t need food itself, merely the chem­i­cals and ele­ments it con­tains. So, I resolved to embark on an exper­i­ment. What if I con­sumed only the raw ingre­di­ents the body uses for energy?”

His blog exploded in pop­u­lar­i­ty. As it turned out, many peo­ple were intrigued by the idea of not eat­ing food. Almost as many wanted to try it out. So Rhine­hart came up with the first pro­to­type of what he called “Soy­lent” and enlisted many enthu­si­asts in his the trials.

Although many have aspired to cre­ate a meal-re­place­ment drink for decades, none have been this well-ex­e­cuted and well-thought-out. To take Soy­lent to its next step, Rhine­hart started a crowd­fund­ing cam­paign. In the end, Soy­lent raked in over one mil­lion dol­lars, expo­nen­tially exceed­ing its tar­get goal of 100 thousand.

As a species, we have done a great job — we col­o­nized the earth and we eter­nally estab­lished ourselves on the very top of the food chain. How­ev­er, as the most intel­li­gent inhab­i­tants of this plan­et, we have failed mis­er­ably. We have trashed the Earth and our way of life is not only unsustain­able, it is grossly waste­ful. Meat is espe­cially inefficient — one kilo­gram of beef requires 30 kilo­grams of grain to make, not to men­tion the unspeak­able atroc­i­ties we have to sub­ject our ani­mals to just to feed our­selves. Accord­ing to pro­jec­tions, we will need to dou­ble our food produc­tion to feed our­selves in 40 years. Dou­bling our pro­duc­tion would mean much more cru­lty and waste.

In Interstellar, when asked about the sur­vival of the human species, Cooper (Matthew McConaugh­ey) says, “We’ll find a way, we always have.” Soy­lent is incred­i­bly effi­cient, humane, and easy to store and trans­port. Maybe this is it. Maybe Soy­lent is going to solve our food crisis.

notion image

I have always been fas­ci­nated by tech­nol­ogy and how it will impact our future. When I heard about Soy­lent, I knew I had to try it out.

Soy­lent is a liv­ing pro­duct, it is con­stantly being updated and even comes with a changel­og. Current­ly, it is at ver­sion 1.4, which is the ver­sion I tried.

Mak­ing Soy­lent is easy, espe­cially if you want to make one bag at a time, which is what I did. All I had to do was dump the whole bag into a pitcher, fill it water, and shake for a minute. Oth­ers blend it to achieve per­fect con­sis­ten­cy, but I find that leav­ing it overnight in the fridge works just as well. A bag is good for 3–4 meals.

The first glass is always the hard­est. It was very strange to replace a whole meal with just a glass of light brown liq­uid which tasted for­eign. Oth­ers have com­pared the taste to pan­cake bat­ter, to me, it tasted like a nut­tier ver­sion of almond milk. The con­sen­sus is that Soy­lent gets much bet­ter after the first glass, so I sug­gest you ease your way in by mix­ing in some vanilla extract, which makes Soy­lent quite delicious.

I drink Soy­lent 2–3 times a day, usu­ally replac­ing my break­fast and lunch. Unlike real food, Soylent fills me up instant­ly. I assume this is related to its aque­ous nature. The great­est strength of Soy­lent how­ev­er, is that it saves large amounts of time. I can fin­ish a whole meal within 3 minutes and I can mul­ti­task while doing so. I can­not stress the impor­tance of this. There are days when I spend hours in the com­puter lab. Instead of hav­ing to waste upwards of 30 minutes on food, I can just drink, focus on my work, and never have to leave the room.

The other ben­e­fit is that every meal has just the right amount of nutri­tion and ener­gy. Liv­ing on cam­pus food has been dis­as­trous in this regard. I can either get over­priced salad and know they I’ll be hun­gry by 4 PM, or get some processed pro­tein sub­merged in gravy that ensures that I’m tired and sleepy for the rest of the day. As you can see, the meals are woe­fully unbal­anced and I’m fac­ing unde­sir­able con­se­quences either way. With Soy­lent how­ev­er, my energy level is just right. I’m never hun­gry or full, but rather, I’m in this in-­be­tween state that is per­fect for getting things done.

notion image

Of course, there are some draw­backs to Soy­lent. The first that every­one always men­tions is that food is not just sus­te­nance, it is also a social activ­i­ty. That is true, but the real­ity is, a lot of the time peo­ple eat their meals alone, in which case, Soy­lent would be great. I don’t com­pletely dismiss real food. Cook­ing is an art form and there many expe­ri­ences exclu­sive to din­ing. This is where I think Soy­lent mar­ket­ing has it wrong — they should pro­mote replac­ing quick and soli­tary meals with Soy­lent, not pro­mote going full-time Soylent.

There are some small annoy­ances with con­sum­ing a mostly liq­uid diet. Some peo­ple have experienced some prob­lems with their jaw because they don’t chew enough, but this has not been an issue with myself or oth­ers I’ve talked to. Also, drink­ing Soy­lent psy­cho­log­i­cally decreases the urge to drink water, which can become prob­lem­atic in the sum­mer. I have definitely expe­ri­enced dehy­dra­tion. The last annoy­ance I can come up with is that Soy­lent contains a lot of grains, which makes me quite gassy. I fart more than usual.

notion image

As a whole, Soy­lent is not bad at all. After drink­ing it for sev­eral weeks, I found myself crav­ing it over a reg­u­lar meal. Liv­ing near cam­pus, I’m sur­rounded by unhealthy fac­to­ry-pre­pared food that don’t even taste good. With that in mind, going Soy­lent is a no-brainer deci­sion. It’s sign­f­i­cantly health­ier and I never feel bloated.

Ulti­mate­ly, no one really knows whether a drink will replace food for future gen­er­a­tions. But as long as insects are the alter­na­tive, I’ll be per­fectly happy with Soylent.

The Iconic iPhone
The Future is in Redmond