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IEET > Life > Innovation > Implants > Health > Vision > Bioculture > Futurism > Contributors > Dick Pelletier

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Future Technology Could Eliminate the Need to Eat Food


Dick Pelletier
Dick Pelletier
Ethical Technology

Posted: Jan 7, 2013

By early 2030s, experts predict nanobots will be developed to improve the human digestive system, and by 2040 or before, as radical as this sounds, we could eliminate our need for food and eating.

This is the vision of futurist Ray Kurzweil and nutritionist Terry Grossman, M.D., in their popular book, Fantastic Voyage: Live Long Enough to Live Forever. In the coming decades, the authors claim, “We will be able to reengineer the way we provide nutrients to our trillions of cells.”

Current method of extracting nutrients from food is not working very well. Nearly two thirds of Americans are overweight and it has become extremely difficult for most people to achieve proper nutrition as we trek through our 21st century maze of confusing health options.

However, by mid-2030s, nutritional needs tailored exclusively to meet each person’s requirements will be more clearly understood. The exact required nutrients could then be provided inexpensively by a nano-replicator and delivered directly into each cell by nanobots; thus eliminating the need to eat food.

Americans love to improve their bodies. We take drugs and vitamins to enhance performance; replace joints, teeth, skin, arteries, and veins as needed. We dream of new hearts, livers, pancreas, and brains, expected from new biotech advances. Now we can add a revolutionary new digestive system to the mix.

To implement this futuristic technology, we would wear a special “nutrient belt” loaded with billions of nutrient-bearing nanobots, which would enter and leave the body through our skin.

However, this concept may not be accepted easily. Many will want to hang on to their food-eating pleasures, so scientists propose an innovative solution; create a special digestive tract to receive real food, but bar those nutrients from entering the blood stream. Nanobots would convert this food into molecules and route it back to the “nutrient belt,” which would be replaced periodically with a fresh one.

Will humanity ever shed its dependency on food? Though this concept sounds extreme, it boasts many advantages. It would slash food budgets by producing inexpensive nutrients with nano-replicators; end concerns over starving populations; improve the ecosphere by reducing agricultural activities; and most important, every human being would live in a forever-healthy non-obese body. Comments welcome.


Dick Pelletier is a weekly columnist who writes about future science and technologies for numerous publications. He's also appeared on various TV shows, and he blogs at Immortaltech.
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COMMENTS


So in the future…everyone has their own flying car, entire meals come in pill form, and the Earth is run by DAMN DIRTY APES!!!





The bodies ability to extract resources from food seems to already work exceptionally well. As transhumanists there is no reason to not try and improve on it, but the concept of this post is far reaching, at least because the premise for why its even necessary - obesity - is an almost uniquely American problem and the result of over-tweaking food chemistry. There is no “21st century maze of confusing health options.” The solution to obesity is simple - get off the trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, over-refined bread and similar 20th century invented foodstuffs and stop companies making them in the first place.





Besides, even if future humans don’t need to eat it doesn’t mean that they won’t “want” to eat.  I mean come on, eating good food and drinking good drink is one of the things that make life enjoyable and if obesity is your concern, ditto to what Guy says.





Of course, many futuristic technologies may seem strange to 2013 humans.

How many can accept the concepts of artificial wombs, the space elevator; or one day replacing all our body parts with nonbiological materials?

Some new technologies are mind-boggling to think of them in terms of today’s life; but as the future unfolds and breakthroughs continue to arrive, a new world will surface.

I think Kurzweil and Grossman make a good point that tomorrow’s molecular nanotechnology will provide this benefit for healthier living. They mention creating a special digestive tract for food lovers.

And I doubt that everyone will jump into this new technology overnight. It may take several decades before humanity accepts this revolutionary way of replacing food by delivering nutrients direct to cells.

Think positive; this future may not be so bad.

Comments welcome.





“Comments welcome.”

Okay, Dick, isn’t the following line from Chris something of a tautology?:
“I mean come on, eating good food and drinking good drink is one of the things that make life enjoyable”

Here’s taking it farther, to a reductio ad absurdum:
getting drunk and silly adds a certain oomph to the weekend.

The above is making a virtue of foolishness.

 





@ Dick Pelleteir

But what about tastes.  As far as I know, you can’t taste anything that’s in your cells.  Also, I’m pretty sure you’re unlikely to find very many people who think that not eating at all is a positive thing, even if you don’t need to eat to survive.

@ Intomorrow

Sometimes I think you intentionally find ways to insulting people.  To clarify for you, when I say good drink I include all forms of edible liquids (water, juice, soda, etc) and not just alcohol.  Also, There’s a big distinction between drinking alcohol for the sake of pleasure (not M rated pleasure mind you) and drinking alcohol for the sake of getting drunk.  So please don’t put words in my mouth.





“To clarify for you, when I say good drink I include all forms of edible liquids (water, juice, soda, etc) and not just alcohol.  Also, There’s a big distinction between drinking alcohol for the sake of pleasure (not M rated pleasure mind you) and drinking alcohol for the sake of getting drunk.”


Right, but to get to the heart of it, one eats because one has the desire to eat; if there were to be no need to eat and drink in say the year 2050, why would one necessarily want to eat/drink?





“I’m pretty sure you’re unlikely to find very many people who think that not eating at all is a positive thing, even if you don’t need to eat to survive.”

Popular opinion is not crucial, esp. when we are looking into the future. Perhaps by 2040 or 2050, popular opinion will move away from thinking food and drink are desirable.





Apology for posting 3x in a row, but must write how bringing up the drinking of alcohol was not a hidden insult, Chris. It was to point out a tautology. If one writes “[alcoholic] drink is heavenly, it must be a blessing from God”, you know such is not right.

However to write “eating is quite enjoyable, it must be good” is not altogether correct either.





Maybe nanobots will also be able to reconfigure our taste buds so they don’t respond to tastes in the same way.  Then again, the whole sensory apparatus may need to be reworked—textures (crunchy, crispy, smooth, etc.) have auditory, olfactory, and somatic components, all of which play into the pleasure of the experience of eating.  Rather than fighting all that, the nanobots that make sure our cells are all properly nourished can monitor to make sure they’re not overnourished and just discard any excess.





The authors recognize that many people will not want to give up their eating pleasures, so they mention that a special food tract could be created to accept real food consumed the way we eat now, but those nutrients would not flow through our blood.

This food would be retrieved by nanobots and discarded into a ‘nutrient belt” which would be changed for a new one when necessary.

In this manner, food lovers could eat to their heart’s content and not have to worry about health repercussions.

Comments welcome.





That does sound a little better.





One of the things that we are discovering is that food and nutrition is more complex than we thought. Research suggested that people who ate lots of fish were healthier. Sales of fish oil skyrocketed. Years later more research showed that people who eat fish are healthier, people who take fish oil are not.

I expect that by the time we have tamed that complexity, the population of our species will be low enough that providing sufficient food for nutrition as well as enjoyment will not be an issue.





Yes, and we alter the world so much anyway.

Chris, the only time I deliberately provoked you was in writing perhaps your parents drank wine and heard angels singing—but that comment was only to emphasize we should not neglect biochemical factors in religion (visions also caused by such as ergotism, etc. BTW, in talking to church people, for instance, I’ve noticed there’s no way not to be tactless sometimes; one cannot say there will be no Return of Jesus—nor can one say there’s no Heaven—without being tactless because then the Why of talking to such people arises. One is faced with turning away, saying “there’s no common ground”, or in some way at some times being slightly confrontational. And unfortunately they do not accept it, thus it ends up being talking at cross-purposes.)

It ought to all be open to discussion.





But briefly back to the topic of this thread:
is food sacred? IMO, no; it doesn’t seem as if the total disappearance of what we now call food would be any sort of loss.


“we should not neglect biochemical factors in religion (visions also caused by such as ergotism, etc.”


Ought to go into a bit more detail:
in the roughly 2,000 years between when relatively serious records started to be kept (circa 5th century BCE)
and the Renaissance (roughly starting 1500 CE) many psychoactive substances contributed ro religion. Some usage was deliberate, the use of certain plants, fungi; and some faiths, i.e. Christianity, unintentionally used alcohol to create the altered states of consciousness that cannot be excluded from a dialogue—or in my case, monologue—concerning religions. Altered consciousness via externally induced chemicals
(“St. Anthony’s Fire” being one designation given to ergotism) was and is part and parcel of spirituality/religion. Plus naturally: fasting, meditation, etc., have been and are part and parcel of spirituality/religion—altered chemical states from internal and external sources are inseparable from spirituality/religion and ought to be included in any pancritical dialogue/monologue on the subject of religion.





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