Bad Ideas

I Lived Off Homemade Soylent for a Week During a Global Crisis

Drinking sludge to get through the tough days

Steve Rousseau
Published in
8 min readApr 3, 2020


Illustration: Mushbuh

Welcome to Bad Ideas, a column in which we examine the practical limits of technology by considering the things you could do and then investigating exactly why you shouldn’t. Because you can still learn from mistakes you’ll never make.

IInearly 2013, software engineer Rob Rhinehart wrote a blog post about how he had stopped eating food. Instead, he was consuming a meal replacement powder of his own design. He called it soylent.

Within a few months, Rhinehart launched a very successful crowdfunding campaign and, over the course of four years, took on over $75 million in venture capitalist (VC) funding to turn lowercase “s” soylent into uppercase “S” Soylent, marketing it to the masses. The drink was made of a mix of oat flour, maltodextrin, brown rice protein, canola oil, fish oil, soluble fiber, and 27 vitamins and minerals, and it was hyped as the tech industry’s attempt to disrupt food. After it failed to change the world — mostly because of the limited appeal of bland, nutrient-rich oat water and partially because it made people sick — Soylent pivoted to conventional food. The future of eating became a thing of the past.