A current Kickstarter project may become the next technologically based diet product blockbuster. It’s already blown away its funding target several times over ($638,000 raised as of the time of writing this article, with a target of a more modest $100,000 as the original goal) and it still has a few days to go. The product promises to provide you with exactly the vitamins, minerals, and other dietary requirements your body needs in order to function at optimal health, save you money on groceries, time otherwise spent buying and preparing food, and is reported to have a not unpleasant taste. The only downside: they named the stuff Soylent.
“Soylent Green,” for the uninitiated, was the name of a 1973 American science fiction film starring Chalton Heston. In the film, a New York Police Department detective investigates the murder of a wealthy businessman in a dystopian future suffering from pollution, overpopulation, depleted resources, poverty, dying oceans, and a hot climate due to the greenhouse effect (hmm, not sounding so far fetched anymore, is it?). Much of the population in the film survives on processed food rations, including, most importantly, a product called “Soylent Green.” Not to ruin the movie (let’s face it, if you haven’t had a chance to squeeze it in over the last 40 years, you probably aren’t going to be too heart broken), but the famous twist at the end of the movie is that Soylent Green is made out of people. Ever since, Soylent Green has been a joke reference for those in the know regarding food we find repulsive for some reason (usually not because it was made out of people).
Soylent, on the other hand, is neither a food wafer nor a repurposed sentient life form. Rather, it is the brainchild of Soylent CEO Rob Rhinehart, who says his motivation for experimenting with Soylent was lack of time and money. He wondered what would happen if someone ate exactly what science tells us we need to eat on a daily basis in as pure and unadulterated a manner as possible. He blogged about the experience and began a small phenomenon that has led to the founding of Soylent (the company), which is going to produce Soylent (the product). As the company’s Kickstarter page says:
“For many people…food is a hassle, especially when trying to eat well. Suppose we had a default meal that was the nutritional equivalent of water: cheap, healthy, convenient and ubiquitous…For anyone who struggles with allergies, heartburn, acid reflux or digestion, has trouble controlling weight or cholesterol, or simply doesn’t have the means to eat well, soylent is for you. Soylent frees you from the time and money spent shopping, cooking and cleaning, puts you in excellent health, and vastly reduces your environmental impact by eliminating much of the waste and harm coming from agriculture, livestock, and food-related trash…By taking years to spoil, dramatically reducing cost, and easing transportation and storage, soylent could have a dramatic effect on hunger and malnutrition.”
A pretty compelling argument. But what do people who have actually tried the stuff think? According to reviews on the Kickstarter site, as well as Rhinehart’s own observations, using Soylent can lead to significant weight loss, improved cognitive abilities, clearer skin, whiter teeth, better sleep, and more energy, among other benefits. The product eliminates the feeling of hunger without leaving one feeling bloated or full, reportedly has a reasonable taste, takes only a minute to prepare, no grocery shopping required, and it is (most likely) not made out of people. The only real complaints seem to be that it may require more frequent trips to the bathroom, that it can be hard to socialize without eating regular food, and the funny name.
Hopefully OTN will be able to get our hands on a sample sometime soon and give you a first person report on the effects of this product (that’s what interns are for, isn’t it?). Until then, if you feel like experimenting with your own health and feelings about cannibalism, then head on over to Soylent’s Kickstarter campaign page, contribute, and get on the list for your own supply and leave some comments below telling us what you think.