Imagining the future has been a trap, opportunity, game and business for as long as humans have existed, right? Imagining our individual futures (sometimes called religion) and imagining our social futrue (apocalypse now and then, trend spotting, etc.). And sometimes that imagined future involved and involves food. Will we all die from the overabundance of people and underabundance (is that a word, let alone a concept?) of food? (Did Malthus ever die?) Will we all live happily ever after with the opportunity to eat any food we can imagine -- using a matter organizer a la Star Trek? (Tea, earl grey, says Captain Picard and voila -- there it is, warm, in a cup, out of apparently nowhere but the words. No clue what I mean? Click here for a seconds long video clip.) What will the future of food be? And no, I do not mean the film of that name despite it's obvious relevance.
Rather, I have been reading Future Files: A Brief History of the Next Fifty Years authored by Richard Watson. (This is Watson's site.) And yes, he discusses food. If you want to know what he thinks about food formatted as a map, click here. His maps look like a cross between the london underground and. . . well, a complex interwoven futures forecasting. (And he at least acknowledges that futures are, in many ways, simply imagining with the present and the past. But hey, the book drags here and there but is also entertaining and interesting. And Watson also knows that the future, like past and present, will be filled with contradictory trends. We will want both A and not-A -- whoever we are. Sometimes some of us will want A and some will want not-A and in the futrue we'll both be able to have it. Maybe. Or, maybe we'll be a society where some of us must have A and some are not allowed to or cannot afford A so are stuck with not-A. We may become more tribal in all this -- or more global but probably it will be both. That's his kind of argument. A might happen. Or B. But probably A and B. Not to mention C.)
Back to food. Here are the five trends he identifies (in chapter 7, his chapter on food, summarized on pages 178-179):
*convenience portability and speed (we'll want those.) Here he predicts "Nobody will peel potatoes in the future." (p. 178)
*seasonal, regional and slow (yep, we want those too) Of course, the slow contradicts and augments the fast of the prior trend. . . .
*health versus indulgence (yep, we want these too) Here he says "food will be similarly polarized between low cost and luxury." And a variety of other polar opposites. (p. 179)
*nostalgia (and this is how we'll deal with the stress, depression and anxiety of the future)
*food science and technology (hmmmm. merging food with pharmaceuticals worries me. "from apples that cure headaches to water that suppresses appetite. . . " p. 179).
We have seen the future and it is us? Pogo lives. And I have to stop worrying about the future and return to my present and. . . . stop procrastinating,