Interdum stultus opportuna loquitur...

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

NonRant: Cheese is a Kind Of Meat...

Note - from June 24th 2009, this blog has migrated from Blogger to a self-hosted version. Click here to go straight there.

The title is from a song which was sung in an episode of da Boosh, which is a show almost as innovative as The Goodies or Kenny Everett (back in the days of Sid Snot and Kremmen of the Star Corps).

Besides, that's not why I'm here (again).

I'm here (again) just to mention the fact that - as I have long surmised - we humans are about to 'transcend' the raising of livestock for meat production.

Since reading K Eric Drexler's "Engines of Creation" and Richard Feynman's brilliant, insightful 1959 lecture "There's PLENTY of Room at the Bottom" I have been convinced that eventually humanity would find a way around one of the core problems of economics - choice under scarcity - by overcoming scarcity via a massive technological change (achievable without violating physical laws - that's why it's likely to happen).

One of my favourite examples has always been the conversion of grass to steak: a cow is a big machine that takes grass, water and sunlight as its inputs, and outputs meat (or milk, or both)... but it is extremely inefficient - it produces a load of byproducts that are wasted: shit, piss, bone, skin, hooves, teeth, eyes, brain (and thoughts - do not fool yourself otherwise)... stuff that we could do without in an efficient grass-to-beef machine where the aim was to maximise output (of steak) given quantities of inputs.

Leave aside the moral qualms about slaughtering a gentle animal to eat it, when we live in a world of  massive caloric and nutritional alternatives... concentrate on efficiency for a minute.

Well. The first step has already been taken: the result thus far is relatively primitive (and it's not 'molecular manufacturing" in the sense postulated by Drexler - YET), but science appears to be on the cusp of efficient (and morally 'right') meat production. 

Check out this article, and thin of where it leads (in 25 yers or so)... sure, there will be potential ethics problems when some whackball American decides to grow human tissue for human consumption (and why not, if nobody dies?). At present the output is apparently fairly rudimentary, but that's a refinement issue, not a creative issue.

The article: When Meat is Not Murder...