I want to convince you that we should remove our next generation’s ability to taste.
Let’s do an experiment. Suppose there are two races of people, A and B. People in race A don’t have tastes of any kind; they do retain the ability to feel full and hungry. If A is presented with two food choices of the same nutrition value, they don’t go for the tasty option because they can’t tell the difference. And race B has very good taste bud, and is able to distinguish the smallest difference between two foods.
Which race should our next generation be? I mean the whole of them. I think we should opt for race A. Why? Because A can save time and resources from preparing tasty food and spend them on things more important.
Let’s do another experiment. Suppose two races, B and C. B is the same as above, and C is the same as B, that they like tasty food, except that the kind of tastiness-of-food feeling of C can only be achieved through stimulating the nerve on the tongue. And C has the same feeling as group B’s feeling of tasting tasty food. This is just like some hearing-impaired person. They can’t hear using their ear. They hear through an earplug which enables them to hear just like those hear through real ears. To recap, B and C have the same level of enjoyment from tastiness whereas C’s realization of the feeling is more cost-effective because one electric stimulation of their tongue is cheaper than a portion of tasty food.
Between these two races, which race should our society be? I think we would choose C because C allows us to enjoy food’s tastiness while costs less time and resource (I will call this TR hereafter).
Now let’s compare A and C. Remember A has no taste and C has taste that can be fulfilled by electric shock. Which one should our society be? I think race A. Why? Let me explain. We have different things to do and some have higher priority and some have lower. If we eliminate the luxury good, cosmetic industry, we will be fine; because these goods only benefit the few and is not public good. But if we stop medical and scientific research, we can’t cure our diseases and make progress to understand our world. And this is a pubic good good for the public, i.e., everybody betters off with it. So, if we have limited TR, then we should prioritize the MS (medicine and science) over LC (luxury and cosmetics). And we do have limited TR. Hence, we should prefer A over C. Race A can save more time and resources to develop medicine and science, rather than spending time on preparing food to stimulate their tongue bud.
What is clearly a better place to invest our TR than tasty food? MS can be one. Tourism, education, and so on. Clearly, taste is dominated by other priorities. And we should make our next generation race A. How do we go about it? The best and most radical solution is to modify people’s DNA or inject some medicine once they are born to deactivate their taste bud. If we don’t have the technology now, we should develop it; in the meanwhile, we should get close to race A by banning non-vegetarian food. This is because meat normally is tasty yet also costly both for the environment and consumers.
We still need nutrition intake to keep our body running. We will need food. But since we don’t care about the taste of food now, we can make nutrition liquid. Imagine that we no longer need an hour or two for lunch and dinner; imagine that only need to drink some tasteless liquid to refill our body. That would save not only us, the eater, a lot of time, but also save resources and animal lives.
This idea also has many other benefits. Firstly, people will not over-eat. Tasty food, these sweet and spicy, aren’t good for our body. So many people are fat because of eating bad quality and tasty food. Look at the Sausages, they are salty and easy to preserve. Yet they aren’t refresh and good for our health. Many body builders know how bad-taste those fitness food are; yet undeniably, they are good for the body and it is good if they could eat them nevertheless. Or if you look at those kids who are picky of food. They prioritize taste over nutrition because they were born with taste.
Secondly, nutrition liquid is cheaper to make, easy to transport, preserve, and can ensure balanced nutrition-intake. To extract nutrition, we won’t need to grow plants as good-looking as we are growing them now. This reduces cost. For example, when it comes to orange, those oranges that look ugly are usually sold to juice-maker. The cost of warehousing orange and transporting good-looking orange from one place to another is also costly. If we only care about the nutrition value, more orange will be consumed and human society will have to pay less. For individuals, we no longer need a huge fridge and typically have a lot of food get rot and wasted. We don’t need to worry that we need to eat those food as soon as possible. We don’t need a big kitchen either and don’t need to carry a big box to store our lunch. In addition, nutrition liquid contains a wealth of nutrition that are essential for human-being. You don’t need to worry about excessive intake, because 1) you don’t have the incentive because you don’t taste; 2) we can calculate how much liquid a person need by understanding his weight and daily activity. Compared with deciding how much food we should eat, it is much easier to know whether we are overly taking nutrition liquid. As a result, we will have less health issues and save a lot on healthcare. Moreover, nutrition liquid can be so cheap that the poor will be able to afford it.
Some arguments against this idea and my response
I don’t think we should have that much trust in the people who provide our food. Furthermore, we can focus on more important things (rather than excessive consumption of delicious food) even without removing the taste buds. Maybe you could tone it down a bit and argue for a luxury tax on expensive food.
If I understand correctly, this comment raised the question of trust of food provider and in our case, the nutrition liquid provider. The underlying assumption is that in some cases, we can use our taste-ability to figure out what food is poisonous. But honestly, how often do we use our taste to do that? Very rarely, if at all. We already trust our food provider because of the strict food safety laws and regulations. In today’s market, speicalization requires trust. We need to trust that our doctors are acting in our best interest by regulation, not by learning medicine ourselves. In addition, the world of no taste has a different paradigm. We can easily tell if a nutrition liquid has expired whereas hard to do this for real food. Nutrition liquid doesn’t get spoiled as easy as real food does. Those cases of food poison will happen less often. We have so many restaurants across the world, their hygine and level of food safety standard are hard to control and monitor. Yet the nutrition liquid business can be easily monitored.
The food safety issue would be more pronounced in the no-taste world in another way. Suppose that in order to monitor the nutrition liquid production, our government only allowed a few company to produce or even nationalizes this industry. This level of concentration will aggravate any potential food safety failure. One contaminated production chain will lead to many people drinking poisoned nutrition liquid and cause many death. Yet the same dilemma also confronts a taste world. And I believe, the overall benefit of moving from food to nutrition liquid is higher than the potential cost we have to pay.
The second point of this comment is that we don’t need to remove taste bud in order to achieve all the benefits I am offering. It is really hard for people to eat less sugar, sweet and unhealthy food. It is also hard for people to care only about the nutrition of food. It requires too much willpower. We have limited willpower. We should use it to make us more disciplined, stick to our plan and be kind to our friends and families, instead of controlling the desire to eat tasty food.
What’s the use of longer life (medical advancement) if one lose the ability to enjoy life? the attractiveness of more medical advancement lies on the goods of life, not the other way round. By removing taste bud, the attractiveness of more advancement is removed as well.
This, I would say, is a rather a radical and emotional response to my idea. It takes my idea too far. Firstly, removing taste is not equivalent to removing one’s ability to enjoy life. With more time and resources to spare, and less risk of getting health complications deriving from unhealthy food habit, we can enjoy a better life. We can spend time with friends, sharing our ideas; we can read; we can go to the nature to see the woods; we can travel; we can listen to music, watch movies; and so on. We derive as much pleasure from these activities as we do from eating food. These activities tend to be cheaper, more environment-friendly. What’s more, they are higher level of enjoyment as they will make our brain potentially stronger and better.
Another friend mentioned about music. Music is a kind of pure enjoyment. It doesn’t really contribute to public good. My stand is that music is not as resource-demanding and time-consuming as food. Music can be mass produced using technology.
Some argue that cooking, alone or with friends, and eating with friends and family, are important and valuable activities. Food and cooking are part of almost every culture.
Culture is a moving subject. Culture is constantly shaped and reshaped to cater to the need of our society or the need of the rulers (as in the past). There is nothing inherently indispensable of our culture. When we don’t have taste, we will form other kind of culture that centers around, let’s say, books, language, games or others. We have food culture because we needed food. When there is no food needed, we don’t need the culture either.
As for the pleasure of eating together with people important to us, we can do other things with them together. Playing a game together, going to hiking together, playing sports together, reading a book together are all good options.
Some people are worried about the food industry and associated jobs. This is a familiar argument and is applicable to almost every change. My response is that we will have more job in these nutrition liquid production industry. People lost job can find in jobs in the new industry. Besides, if an industry aren’t meant to be there, we shouldn’t feel any pity for that. The best example is perhaps the tobacco industry.
Some may argue that, if taste, one important source of pleasure is removed, what else can’t we remove? What would be your next target to remove? I think this argument doesn’t really stand strong. And it is a classical case of slippery slope fallacy. Besides, I understand that this is a radical idea; that is why I am going for the lower bound, not the upper bound, i.e., I am only looking to remove those dominated things that we could all agree on. To use an example: when talking about reading, hiking and playing video-games. I don’t know whether reading is better than hiking or vice versa. But most of us, perhaps all of us, would agree that playing video-game is the least desirable option. The bottom line is that we can all agree on what is not necessary and unimportant. By removing those easily agree-upon options, we have a higher chance of getting other more important things right, let’s say, better medicine and science.
This comment might be relevant to another one that we have discussed. But this version is worthwhile to talk about here.
I enjoy cooking. I think the process of growing vegetables and preparing food from the beginning to end is an enjoyable process. It is fun and an important source of happiness.
From an individual point of view, it is true. But it isn’t true from the view of whole economy. First, we take away jobs from chef and restaurants. Second, we could have done something more meaningful. For example, we can use our expertise to help those in need. A banker can use his expertise to help the poor on investment. A programmer can help a local business develop a website. In this way, we helped others; we are happy, and because we are using our skills, we are more efficient and productive, whereas cooking for ourselves can be slow.
Let’s embrace this change
Still, you might be reluctant to forgo your ability to enjoy tasty food. But I think you are biased. Let me convince you. I will use the technique developed by John Rawls called the "Veil of Ignorance". This will help us make decisions as unbiased as possible. Suppose you are just born into the hospital. You haven’t tasted anything and you are asked to choose whether to become race A or race B. What would you choose? The kid (you) should choose race A. Why activate your desire for some intrinsically unimportant thing? The kid (you) can have more TR to spend on other important things like study, making friends and playing.
How did we develop our need for tasty food? If our food desire were a result of revolution and environment, it is then not intrinsically needed. For example, marriage was designed for inheritance and surviving of the parent’s DNA and the big family, in other words, to preserve the particular gene change. As we no longer face survival issues, marriage plays an increasingly small role in our life. In the same way, as our environment and the factors that gave rise to our taste desire change, our need for tasty food should change as well. Taste could be a result of our need to distinguish those are edible from those are not. Those bitter are probably rot and poisonous; and those sweet and tasty good for health. But how much do we still use our taste for this purpose? Very rarely. So, it is not intrinsically needed and important.
Are you ready to vote for "yes" if we find a way to change DNA to remove our next generation ‘s ability to taste? They will live in a better society with more TR in more important fields by just not care about whether food is tasty or not. Let me know by commenting below.
Some other ideas that might also make sense:
- make people unable to feel the pleasure of smoking