Rob on NPR's "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook


#1

Last night’s episode of NPR’s (actually, WBUR’s) “On Point with Tom Ashbrook” featured our own Rob Rhinehart discussing Soylent along with Lee Hutchinson (editor at Ars Technica), Martha Stipanuk (professor of nutrition at Cornell), and John Lanchester (contributor at the New Yorker).

From the blurb: “Soylent is a grey smoothie the consistency of pancake batter that claims it can replace all your food. On a crowded planet, is this the future of food?”

This was some interesting coverage that managed to capture some of the finer points of Soylent along with a dose of the absolute hysteria a lot of people seem to experience regarding the death of food (and all of the accompanying arguments that mostly went unaddressed). I think Rob stuck a little too much to his Soylent ideology on some points where people might have been more assuaged by a less utilitarian response, but he did a good job overall and it’s nice to see some coverage that goes a little deeper than the brief stuff on Colbert (or those awful Gawker articles).

Did anyone catch this? What do you think?

Sorry if someone already posted this, couldn’t find it anywhere haha.

EDIT: Just a warning, the episode’s 47 minutes long (though the latter part is about the Antares rocket)


#2

Wow. Reading those comments is a lesson in what Soylent is up against.


#3

Yeah it’s pretty depressing, especially since most of them are just the same fears repeated ad nauseam which have been addressed countless times. People like their bogiemen, who are we to deprive them?

Rob glossed over some really important points and completely neglected some other really great points that are made all the time on this very forum, and the nutrition professor seemed a little alarmingly off point, so it’s a little frustrating to listen to if you’re one of the many who have had their relationship with food improved by this stuff.

Mostly I’m just sick of the bizarre notion that Soylent is bad because we need a balanced nutritious diet complete with social interactions and all of the pleasures of food. Maybe I’m not living the same fabulous life as the rest of us, but without Soylent my breakfast and lunch choices are largely last-minute decisions resulting in poor food choices that don’t even taste particularly good if I’m being honest with myself. I’m not sacrificing anything by keeping a pitcher of Soylent in the fridge.


#4

I have seen people describe this as “Transhumanist garbage”. When I first learned about Soylent, my first thought wasn’t anywhere near transhumanism. My first thought was basically “finally”. I’ve thought of drinkable nutrition for a long time and have experimented with various smoothie recipes to give myself the nutrition that I find difficult to gain.

Many that are afraid of Soylent are afraid that food as a social and pleasurable experience will vanish. They don’t seem to understand that for many eating is a constant battle. It’s great to be social and to enjoy BBQ chicken and whatnot but many just want the nutrition and be on their way. For many, we have to remind ourselves to eat. Soylent just gives those like ourselves a choice that we really never had before. Sure, we had Ensure and the like but they aren’t designed to be complete nutrition only as a supplement.

And it’s like Rob said in the Motherboard documentary, we eat when we want to and not because we have to. Cooking chicken breast, sweet potato and rice takes time and it takes time to eat. I often find myself shoveling food into my face as though it’s some sort of marathon or drill in boot camp. Eating really can be a chore at times.

Nothing stops anyone from just going to a Japanese restaurant and having a chef cook in front of you and your friends. Nothing stops anyone from learning how to cook lasagna or culinary style cooking. If you like this, good, power to you. However, everyone has different likes and dislikes. Not everyone has to have the same sort of love for food as everyone and no ones taking that love from them.


#5

I thought rob did a good job. Thank god the interviewer was open-minded. My favorite was the lady who’s response was "first food, what next, sex?"
No, ma’am, we already have a Soylent for sex, its called masturbation.


#6

Ha! :laughing:

We also have Demolition Man :smiley:


#7

It sounded like (and Rob) mentioned the moderator was reading from a list of DIY or one of Robs old blogs for the ingredients. The comment from the nutritionist regarding the salt would also suggest she did not have the latest info. Really how hard is it to visit the company web site for the most up to date info?


#8

While I totally agree with everything you’ve said here, I must admit that as someone who views the human body as something to be shed as soon as possible, the transhumanist aspect of this is a big draw. I also know that’s not its intention, but cmon, drinking beige sludge gets us one step closer.

“Never get sick, never grow old, never die.”


#9

Well, now I know that people think artificial sweetners are the new MSG.


#10

Yeah, I really got the impression she wasn’t on the top of her game from that interview. Also I don’t really recall any version of the recipe that had too much salt; the only reason Soylent would be considered a “high sodium” food is if you look at the amount per serving and completely neglect to take in that a serving is 1/3 of the day’s calories.

Right now Soylent provides a little less sodium than I was consuming when I was on a very tight, low-sodium, calorie-restricted diet, and I remember during that phase how hard it was to find anything that wasn’t sweet which wouldn’t send me skyrocketing over my sodium goal.


#11

“We have tried to correct that in subsequent versions by first adding an enzyme blend which helps to break down some of those fibers that are known to cause some of those issues. In future versions we’ve reformulated the carbohydrate and fiber blends to eliminate the issue completely.”

He sounded pretty confident when he said that. The fart issue eliminated completely in future versions?

As far as the rest of it, I agree a little less utilitarian response would have gone over better with the audience. For example when asked what it’s made of, most people probably would be more comfortable with the oats, rice, corn type of answer. I understand that may not always be the case, some future version might use algae or whatever, but right now it is and it’s a more comfortable answer when people are trying to understand what is it. But I understand why he’d go with the other answer since that’s basically more on the company philosophy of where it’s going.

Rob did tend to ramble a bit on his answers. For example at 32 minutes in when talking about why anyone would give up the pleasure of food for Soylent.

Overall I’d say it was good advertising for Soylent.


#12

A moment that put a smile on my face was hearing the truck driver and how excited he seemed about the idea, like this could be actually as life changing as its meant to be. It made other people’s stupidity totally worth it, and I’m not even part of the company. I bet you that must of felt great for Rob.


#13

I was a bit surprised how little they had Rob speak. They had lots of different speakers. The one caller went on and on, raising objection after objection, and after the call the host just went in a separate direction and didn’t have Rob address the callers points at all.

Rob is good at appealing to certain kinds of people and he’s the founder too so that makes appealing for the media but he’s also busy actually running things so Soylent ought to have another PR person whose purpose to think about how these issues are presented to the public and to rebut a lot of the nonsense out there. IMO the potential positive consequences of Soylent are much broader than Rob emphasizes.

The one that really gets me is how people say that Soylent takes away the social experience of food. The implication is that the social aspect of food is due to food instead of due to people, which is patently ridiculous and yet the current food eating paradigm is so entrenched people literally can’t imagine what it would be like without it. Sitting around the table and eating dinner is sacred to people but for some reason they don’t get that the sacred part is the people sitting around the table together, not the eating.

Some of the Soylent marketing talks about how you can use food time for other things like reading or programming, etc, and that makes the public think it’s just for loner geeks or something but the reality is you can also use that extra time to do social things.


#14

More importantly, yngh, is the fact that the majority of meals for at least everyone I know are NOT lovely social experiences.

I love social eating, social drinking, social ____. I love “real” food, and delicious flavors, and cooking, and experimenting. But I HATE that I don’t have the willpower to prepare and portion nutritious meals in advance, and that I have a difficult time mitigating food waste when I attempt to shop for a varied diet for one person, and that I end up skipping breakfast or picking up exceedingly unhealthy fast food before work in the mornings and end up eating out for lunch every day because my tiny office has no kitchenette to prepare something on the spot.

Just because I Soylent doesn’t mean I don’t want The Good Life. I extoll the virtues of The Good Life, I make pasta from scratch and own a countertop meat grinder and argue in favor of sit-down dinners and making staple foods from the most basic ingredients because I believe there is value in performing the process. But I also want to have the choice to do other things without being shackled by something as basic as food.

/rant


#15

I’ve actually had more “family dinners” since I’ve been on DIY soylent. I’ve always had an odd diet that made me want to eat more privately mostly because I was ashamed of my diet. Now I’m almost proud of my diet. That didn’t really change the family dinner since it was my family and they all know what I was eating. I think it was the extra time I had that allowed me to just sit down and be with my family. I would drink a little DIY, but for the most part it was just being a family. So oddly enough, soylent has done kind of what you where talking about. My “family dinners” got better when it didn’t have anything to do with food. :smile:


#16

Most of those replies were just sad. The ones that aren’t ignorant, are just plain misguided…some were both. I couldn’t bring myself to click on the “Load more comments” button. Wow…just, wow. That’s all I have to say about that.


#17

Don’t worry. I see the community growing for the next 2-3 years even without huge promotions.
Rosa Labs is super busy with orders at least till Spring 2015, even not counting overseas orders, that they already purchased in 2013.

Maybe till summer next year we will see couple of ads in specialized sites for IT people or students. Soylent can easily chop 2-5% of that specific segment and only then might try to explain to general population the idea.

I think as of now, it’s better not to promote a lot, because even with very limited demand, company is struggling to put waiting time below 20 weeks. General public will never understand so long waiting line.
It will take time, don’t worry. In some years we will see Rob with a glass of @Soylent on front page of Time magazine.


#18

This is exciting. But since the carb enzymes didn’t entirely solve the problem in 1.1, it’s possible that just reformulating the carb ingredients won’t do the job. Or maybe it will…


#19

Ahhh, but changing the fiber might…