Food Production
agricultural age
Image from Steve Bowers

There are many ways of making food: hunting/gathering from the environment, traditional farming and animal rearing, industrialized farming, meat factories, culturing plants hydroponically, vat grown meats, artificial meats based on yeast, algae or bacteria, as well as food built directly by matter compilers.

Which methods are used are both a question of technological ability, economics and culture. As long as a society is poor, the method used will always be the most efficient - be it the meat factories of the early information era or the food vats of the interplanetary era ("Erst kommt das Fressen, dann kommt die Moral" as Brecht put it). As societies become richer, consumers will not just demand cheap food but also higher quality, lower environmental impact of the production, ethical treatment of animals and "spiritually correct" farming. This often implies less efficient food production than could be done, but the consumers are willing to pay the extra price of food they regard as good.

In advanced post-federation societies basal food production is often done using nanofacture, although a sizable amount is actually farmed using various traditional methods. Some cultural cuisines are based on special techniques, such as the Penglaiese vat foods, the many Sophic ahimsa cuisines where no living individual organisms are killed, and the hunted meat dishes of Atlantis and other worlds where hunting is regarded as important spiritual or ideological expression.

Of course, many clades have moved beyond the need of traditional food. However, corresponding functions are often mapped to eating. Vecs have more often than not made recharging into a symbolic meal when dealing with bioids, and in Metasoft the recharging stations act as places of social interaction not unlike human coffee houses and restaurants. Nanocyborgs often imbibe raw materials together. Uploads enjoy virtual meals. Even some AIs are known to enjoy food, although more like an art form than sustenance.
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Development Notes
Text by Anders Sandberg

Initially published on 29 October 2001.