When AI serves you your next meal, it may prepare the portions based on your body weight. Or your height, or girth, or age, or gender. Or some combination of these. The nutritional balance will be perfect, if perfectly based on the variables identified by current science as “essential daily allowances.” AI may even “learn” your tastes, as you gag on some offering, smile and coo through others. Eventually, it will cater to the basest of your tastes – salty, sweet, fat; or it will correct for these obvious deficiencies in your preferences through some algorithm or other.
AI will start by giving you “smoosh,” the ingredients mashed up together for maximum digestion with the least effort. But AI will learn that you don’t like smoosh – or maybe that you do. Your textural preferences, like your taste preferences, will soon become part of AI’s algorithm, perhaps to be tried out on someone else. In any case, AI will give you what you want. And, marvelously from the standpoint of saving the planet, AI will learn never to waste food, in the restricted sense that it will always give you just what you want, and no more than what you are able to pay for.
But AI will never serve you a meal with love or panache; never bring a plate to table with remorse or humility. It will not make you food to make love to you, nor will it share your joy in the perfectly prepared morsel. It does not, in fact, know what perfectly prepared means, has no idea of quality food or marvelous cooking, because it does not know quality except as quantity, some digital register staged by rules or provoked by reactions.
When it comes to food – as to everything else – AI is not, after all, intelligent in any really human sense. It is assuredly one hundred percent artificial, the product of human programmers with all their biases and knowledge gaps. Even in “learning” it does not make itself, but only steps down the paths permitted by its programmers.
If the food system created by AI sounds eerily familiar, a high-tech image of the food system created by the market, that should come as no surprise. Both pursue the same limited rationality. Both display the same indifference to human well-being and human happiness, while ostensibly finely tuned to serve both.
AI may serve you, it will not save you — or us.