Monday, September 13, 2010

Library Journal: If Librarians Ran the Supermarket

My essay on food replicators for Library Journal, published back in 2010, is posted.
With all the business models in my salad, I started to think about how dinner would be different if vegetables were somehow digital products. All the hours of my youth wasted on Star Trek reruns began to flash before my eyes. What business models might evolve to make the food replicators of the future work? My brain gears started turning...
I learned about purslane from a radio segment on WNYC. Apparently it's really high in omega-3 fatty acids (the good kind) and vitamins. After years of pulling it out of the lawn I thought it would be fun to put it in a salad, and it turned out to be quite good.

For the salad shown, I paired it with mango, carrots, cabbage and a bit of the red amaranth which has aggressively self-seeded from last year's crop, making itself into another sort of weed. Red amaranth leaves work well in recipes designed for spinach, and it's really quite delicious. You can eat the young leaves raw. Last year I harvested the amaranth seed, which can add a poppy-seed like texture to cookies or pound cake.

A couple of weeks ago, I told a friend about purslane. She's well known locally for her organic garden, which supplies her with all her family's vegetables year round, and she periodically gives tours of her garden as a form of evangelism. She was aghast at the idea of eating purslane, though; even organic gardeners hate weeds!

Real Trekkies will be aware that the "replicators" aboard 24th century starships such as the one captained by Jean-Luc Picard weren't restricted to replicating food; they were more like 3-d copying machines. It's not clear if this would make the intellectual property rights to the food any different. If it were possible to copy an avocado, would it be possible to copyright it? If you can copyright a 2-d photo, why would a 3-d photo be any different?

The "food synthesizers" of Jim Kirk's 23rd century worked more on the lines of the food replicators in my essay. Unlike replicators, which understood voice commands ("tea, Earl Grey, hot") food synthesizers used program tapes or cards inserted into a slot. Clearly the food patterns used more petabytes than could be transmitted over the giga-ultra-wifi in use at that time.

In 2010, food recipes can't be copyrighted. Fortunately, clothing designs are also not subject to copyright; making them so would kill off fashion as we know it.
Enhanced by Zemanta


Contribute a Comment