Monday, January 13, 2014

Growing meat on the walls

Ray Kurzweil has a lot to say about the future.  Up until now, however, I had not heard him speak about meat.

First off, I'm a failed vegetarian.  I truly do not want an animal to have to die just so that I can live.  I do not want to eat anything that has a mother.
But I do it.  My love for steak, cheeseburgers, and chicken wings has derailed each and every one of my attempts at going vegetarian.  I blame football.  No, not really.
I do, however, blame taste.  I have never been a big fan of eating my vegetables.  I do it...sort of...but only because I have to.  The times I have stuck to a veggie diet, I have felt weak.  Only after consuming a meat product did I feel better.  I know, I know, you're saying it's all psychological and you're probably right.  Regardless, the situation remains.

That is unless Ray Kurzweil's prediction comes to pass.  Google's director of engineering and grand-daddy of the Singularity has more than a few ideas about how the world will change, but one concept that really stood out to me was how biotech will change the food we eat.

“There will be a new vertical agriculture revolution, because right now we use up a third of the usable land of the world to produce food, which is very inefficient," Kurzweil says.

Imagine it is the year 2030.  Instead of food grown in fields, it is produced in highrise buildings.  Artificial intelligence computers monitor the whole process of growing fruit and vegetables in hydroponics, recycling all nutrients and leaving next to no environmental after effects.  Meat would be grown in vitro as cloned tissue.

That's right.  You could grow meat on a wall.

Why not?  The eating of cloned animals has already been approved by the FDA.  It's not that far of a leap at all.  What's more, we're not after the whole animal now are we?  We just want the muscle, the meat.  So just clone that tissue and don't waste a life.  Tastes the same.  You can even modify the meat to be healthier by removing the saturated fat and replacing it with Omega 3 fatty acids, the healthy stuff we get from fish.  The "bad" qualities of beef could be brought down to an infinitesimal level.  Neat, huh?

Of course, the safety of this kind of process depends on who is doing it.  I've said before that I certainly don't object to GMO food, but I currently have no trust in the corporations carrying it out.  There's a seeming lack of transparency the mega-corps who produce our food and that's not a good thing.

But the concept of "grown" meat is good a one, I think, and like any other innovation it's going to need oversight.  Would it make me a "vegetarian?" I suppose not technically as it would still be animal tissue.  The definite upside would be that no animal had to die to let me eat what I enjoy.  I'll take whatever technicality I can get to do an end run around my shortcomings.

After all, us failures need all the help we can get.

Follow me on Twitter: @Jntweets

1 comment:

  1. And a related note from today's news: