Thursday, September 13, 2007

Arthur C. Clarke's "The Food of the Gods": A corporate FUD campaign

This somewhat humorous narrative is in the form of a businessman's testimony to a US Congressional Committee.

Story summary.
Food production via agriculture as well as meat produced by butchering animals is now in past history. All food is synthetically produced by corporations - synthesized "from the basic raw materials of water, air, and rock".

Because of long established tastes, most popular foods still tend to be what they always were. Means animal meat is still popular - only it is not produced by butchering animals; it is synthesized. And social guilt dictates calling it something else. In fact, most people now feel repulsed by mere mention of meat.

Triplanetery Food Corporation has invented a new "Ambrosia Plus" line of dishes that has become popular enough to worry competitors.

Manager of one of these competitors is giving testimony. He is freely admitting that his company tried all it could to duplicate "Ambrosia Plus" - without luck. Now he wants to appeal to morals of lawmakers & public to put "Ambrosia Plus" out of market. So he points out the animal whose meat the "Ambrosia Plus" simulates ...

A note on story time line.
I am not clear on the time the story is set in. At one place, I got the impression it is set a century or two from now (500th anniversary of US constitution, if I recall correctly - I am not familiar with US history dates). At another place, there is a mention that the term "carnivores ... comes from a language that has been obsolete for two thousand years". At another place, it says "until a few centuries ago" to refer to current time.

Fact sheet.
The Food of the Gods, short story, review
First published: Playboy, May 1964
Rating: B

This story is included in the following collections.

  1. "More Than One Universe"
  2. "The Wind From The Sun"
  3. "The Collected Stories of Arthur C Clarke"

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/6680989/Meat-grown-in-laboratory-in-world-first.html

That story was the first thing to come to mind when I read the article.

Leah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tinkoo said...

Interesting. Thanks for link.

Anonymous said...

Just a note on the timeline. Carnivore comes from Latin and, with the downfall of the Roman empire, Latin has been a "dead" language for nearly 2000 years at present. It didn't become technically obsolete for a lot longer since it was used by clergy and scientists and lawyers as a common language. It's easy to imagine someone in the future, after it's fallen completely out of favor saying that about it (although from any lawyer who has studied the history of law at all it's unlikely). Still, any lawyer trying to make a point will bend definitions to make that point. So, no confusion on the timeline, just some lawyerspeak.