Food Production

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright September 2017


How we gather and prepare food is an activity that predates mankind. This means there is a lot of instinctive thinking involved. It is also an activity which has changed dramatically and constantly through the historical centuries -- mankind has been able to successfully apply a lot of analytic thinking to this activity, and he will be able to apply even more in the upcoming decades.

This means there is a complex mix of thinking and activities going on here, and there is lots of change coming in both the thinking and the activities as we evolve into the 2050's.


In the Stone Age humans picked out their food from the plants and animals that lived and died naturally around them. Getting food this way is a dicey business filled with lots of uncertainties. This is why the instinct to pay attention to food gathering, quality and preparation is such a strong one in humans of today. Dicey... but on the whole it worked, and humans thrived.

The revolution of the Agriculture Age was to first have the people of a community do some picking and choosing of which plants and animals would live around them, then get deeply into modifying their surroundings so that what they wanted to live thrived mightily -- as in, farming. This increased the quantity and quality of what could be harvested and reduced the uncertainty, a bit, but uncertainty still loomed large in the food acquiring activity. This is why a lot of early religion centered on rituals to make the upcoming harvest a bountiful one.

As the Agricultural Age evolved humans got steadily better at farming, an activity which covers many aspects of making the right foods thrive in ways that create a bountiful harvest for people.

The Industrial Revolution added lots of tools and knowledge to the food acquiring process. This made food producing and preparing faster, cheaper and a whole lot more reliable. This lowering of cost and increasing in variety and certainty is what we are experiencing in the 2010's. For almost everyone in developed communities a regular food supply is a given, and it is a community horror when this isn't true.

So... what's coming next? What will food producing be like in the 2050's -- in the Age of Cyber?

What's coming

Traditional farming techniques, such as growing plants on big fields, are going to get even more effective and efficient. Lots of new technologies are going to help with this, two high profile examples being pervasive surveillance and genetic engineering.

These traditional forms will be supplemented by lots of new technologies and techniques. Some will produce food even faster, better and cheaper, and some will cater to human dilettante tastes in this activity. It is not new for many people to want to get up close and personal with their food producing -- suburban gardens are an example of this.

An example of a new way of catering to dilettante tastes will be neighborhood greenhouses. These will be places where people can get up close and personal with the plants that are creating their foods. These people will lavish attention on their food darlings (think pets) so the greenhouses will be filled with technology and loving attention as well as plants.

More exotic food producing techniques will be things such as vat-grown and 3D printed foods. What will be growing in the vats are single celled organisms such as yeast and bacteria which have been genetically modified to grow into forms which can be transformed into food-resembling materials that seem familiar to the food consumers -- vat-grown hamburgers.

Some will object that this is GMO food, but to my surprise the vat-grown meats have some vegan supporters. They cheer this technology on because it means fewer animals are slaughtered.

What will people care about?

Because food is subject to The Curse of Being Important some of these technologies generate lots of strong opinions. What matters and what doesn't has a lot of capriciousness in it. In the above examples people don't care much if crops are being watched, but they care a lot if they are being genetically altered.

Consistency and reliability will no longer be issues -- these will be taken for granted. But because of the strong instincts surrounding food other issues will become important in their place. A 2010's example of this is people being concerned about how their food was grown, as in, free-range chicken. These kinds of issues will remain important in the 2050's, but the particular topics of concern will be faddish and keep changing -- there will be lots of urban legend mixed in.


The food production and processing revolutions are far from finished. Food production is going to get even faster, cheaper and more reliable, and the technologies used are going to become even more exotic.

Mixed in with this technology revolution is going to be lots of instinctive thinking -- worry about finding good food predates even the human species.

The result is going to be a the mixing in of a lot of dilettante interest with all the high technology. Food producing and preparing is going to remain a complex art and one which people are going to stay very much interested in.



--The End--