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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.


In OneZero. More on Medium.

America consumes the equivalent of 96 pounds of chicken per person every year. In order to make plant-based alternatives competitive, writes Andrew Zaleski on Future Human, they need to be…

$40 Burger King and other realities of the gig economy

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

In late 2018, as part of a photo series on the future of work, I became a driver for Doordash.

The experience gave me a unique glimpse into America’s foodways and the realities of the gig economy. It was simultaneously illuminating, concerning — and at times surprisingly fulfilling. With Covid-19 highlighting gig workers’ crucial role in today’s world — and their willingness to put their lives on the line to keep people fed — it’s more important than ever to understand what it’s really like to work these jobs.

Doordash originally launched in 2013 as a graduate of Silicon Valley’s…

For Chinese and other Asian restaurants facing racism during the pandemic, Chowbus, an app focused on Asian cuisine, has made a difference

Photo treatment of chowbus logo overlaid on orange-filtered photos of Chinese cuisine.
Photo treatment of chowbus logo overlaid on orange-filtered photos of Chinese cuisine.
Photo illustration; Image source: Suttipong Sutiratanachai/LauriPatterson/Getty Images

In mid-February, Stacy Jamieson, the general manager of Tian Fu restaurant in Seattle’s Northgate neighborhood, surveyed his 4,000-square-foot dining room at what was usually the dinner rush time. Every table was empty. Where the popular Szechuan restaurant had been enjoying 45-minute waits on weekends, now it was lucky to serve 10 tables in a whole day.

At the time, Covid-19 was still something many Americans had only heard about: It had killed thousands across Asia, but the U.S. was relatively unscathed. But anti-Asian sentiment, a racist backlash to the developing pandemic, was already bubbling across the country. …

To drum up delivery businesses, big restaurant chains are rebranding themselves in apps like Grubhub. That could mean more competition for local joints.

Photo: Phillip Faraone/Getty Images

It’s my opinion that Chuck E. Cheese pizza should be scarfed down near a ball pit while an anthropomorphic mouse sings “Happy Birthday” to a screaming child somewhere. For many of a certain age, these are precious memories. But regardless of your sentiments, the doughy, suspiciously lopsided pies of Chuck E. Cheese can hardly be associated with good pizza, or even pizza that’s passable enough to satisfy a craving for delivery.

So it was a surprise to learn that Chuck E. Cheese pizza can be consumed in the comfort of your own home, delivered via on-demand apps such as Grubhub…

Reengineering Life

Scientists are using gene editing to make healthy food more appealing

Photo illustration, source: ansonmiao/Getty Images

Reengineering Life is a series from OneZero about the astonishing ways genetic technology is changing humanity and the world around us.

You probably know that kale is packed with antioxidants and other nutrients and that you should be eating more of it. But it’s also bitter and fibrous, which might make you reach for less healthy greens at the grocery store instead.

A food tech startup called Pairwise Plants wants to change that. The company, based in Durham, North Carolina, and backed by a $125 million investment from agricultural giant Monsanto (now part of Bayer), is using the gene-editing tool…

Illustrations: Amanda Berglund

Social distancing is pushing restaurants toward delivery-only models powered by tech platforms

Bua Vanitsthian says she’s always been passionate about food. In 2019, Vanitsthian, a forensic economist and professional bikini athlete, opened Chicken as Cluck, a fried chicken restaurant on the edge of San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood.

It’s not a restaurant in any conventional sense, however. As a “ghost kitchen,” the Nashville-style eatery lacks a physical dining location. Instead, cooks prepare dishes from a commissary space on Cesar Chavez Street alongside other virtual restaurants such as MAC’D, a popular mac and cheese spot, and Holy Cluck, a West Coast wings chain. …

Bad Ideas

Drinking sludge to get through the tough days

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.

Inearly 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…

Historically, meat consumption has driven violence, colonialism, and war. Will the stuff cultivated in a lab be any different?

Photo: Spencer Weiner/Getty Images

In Plato’s Republic, Socrates tells his fellow Athenian philosopher Glaucon that in order to feed the Greeks’ nascent appetite for meat — a luxury good in 375 B.C. — they would need ever more territory to graze farmed animals. Glaucon is quick to point out that would “certainly” require going to war to obtain land for this purpose. New research has proven him correct.

Rosa E. Ficek and Joshua Specht, historians at the University of Puerto Rico and Notre Dame, respectively, have shown that cattle ranching is indeed connected to colonial expansion: During European conquest of the Americas, cattle would…

And no, you can’t eat it

Digital food is here, so you may as well get used to it. The recent boom in online food-based media has changed how we look at food online and seek out new restaurants, reviews, and recipes. We want to add new flavors and try new foods. Digital food is one way to make this even easier.

There’s no consensus about what the term “digital food” really means. To some, it’s the sharing of images of food on social media to represent culture, calories, presentation, preparation, and taste. A plethora of food bloggers show status by filling our social feeds with…

First it was burgers. Now plant-based startups are coming for the nugget — but chicken is a much tougher challenge.

Photo: Glenn Lacey

Christie Lagally used to see a lot of chicken trucks when she drove 35 miles each morning from Seattle to her job in Everett, Washington. “Every single morning up I-5 at about 5:45 in the morning, they’d transport the chickens to slaughter,” she says. “What calls us to action can come from a lot of different directions.” A mechanical engineer at Boeing, Lagally also volunteered for Humane Society, working to pass animal rights legislation in states like California and Washington. …


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