Sunday, September 20, 2009

Too Much Information, or Not Eating Crap

For the last two weeks, Samil has been really concerned about being healthful. I think he got on this kick after talking to one of his friends, Toast (who I have been told is someone who I should not trust, just because of his name, but of all the people in the circle Samil and I met in, he is possibly the most trustworthy). Toast was talking to him about a lot of the things in Omnivore's Dilemma, and Samil thought I would be a good expert on these matters, since I previously worked at an evil national food chain selling only good foods.

The problem though, is that on issues like this there is a ton of information going around, and its not very well catalogued or filtered. I blame the Internet, since without the Internet people would only have access to information placed in context and organized to give a broad understanding. Instead, Samil can just wander around the information looking for Good Information, even if said Information is totally unrelated to what he is concerned with.

On top of that, Samil is plagued with a pretty massive case of indecision and confusion, so this massive influx of Good Information re: eating well is not exactly healthy for him. So Samil is stuck trying to balance the Local Food issue with the Organic issue with the Whole Ingredients issue with guides for Raw Food diets. If you haven't spent time thinking about each one individually, it can be overwhelming. That doesn't ease the pain for me when he asks questions like "But its not healthy to eat raw foods if like, you get the food from California, right?"

The scenario plays out something like this: Samil is looking for foods with a small number of ingredients, all from natural sources, but is looking on highly processed, full of artificial additives that we call the Internet to identify these foods. So before he even has a chance to eat well, his mind is so polluted with high fructose corn syrup type information, leaving him so confused about what to do that he ends up just eating a falafel for dinner.

Also, call me Debbie Downer, but I'm not totally convinced that we will be able to travel from New Jersey to California in two hours or less any time soon. This literally shocked Samil. Samil is now on the record as believing wholeheartedly that we will in just a few short years develop such a strong Artificially Intelligent machine that all of our energy problems will be solved without us having to lift a finger. They'll also solve a bunch of other things too, he said. I didn't pry.

How is this related, you ask? Well, he became very concerned at one point with the problem of defining Local Food. The problem defining it, to him, was not whether one should be looking at regional America maps or restricting their foods to some place they could drive in a day (this is an interesting issue to me, which I would have loved to discuss with him for a while - the Local Food movement is just as much about carbon foot prints and developing a more stable regional economy as it is eating fresh nutrient rich foods. Unfortunately we never got to have the discussion). The problem, of course, is when we have super rapid transportation, what will be the cutoff for earning the Happy Sticker signifying that a food is local?

Personally, though, I find his assumption of free gigantic amounts of power to be very convenient, which really plays into his personality. Of course scientists (or said robots) are going to figure out how to make a super duper fast train. Why? They're going to do it because Samil wants his nectarines, and he wants them in his fridge 3 days after they were picked, so its going to happen. Of course Human Resources should be available to him whenever he feels like showing up, regardless of whatever other responsibilities they may have during the course of the day (and no matter how clearly they post this on District's website) His thought process normally goes from "what would I like to happen" to "this should happen because" or if not possible "that's dumb because." This thought process occurs in all sorts of places, from super duper fast trains to how his boss should behave. I wouldn't even be surprised if I saw him arguing with some nutrition expert telling him that 'no, its not healthy to eat a box of Newman's Own cookies, because the cookies were made naturally. Its just more convenient inside his head.

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