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I’m Betting against Soylent

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The other day I got into a fight on Twitter.

It was with Adam Ozimek, co-author of the excellent Modeled Behavior blog. Adam isn’t a guy to disagree with lightly. He’s razor sharp and superlatively well-informed. I was brash on the outside — but I was actually rather frightened on the inside.

If I may say so myself, our dispute offers a useful example of how to resolve many similar disputes: by betting on them.

We disagreed about… Soylent.

What is “Soylent,” you ask? I’ll let Soylent’s website explain:

Soylent™ was developed from a need for a simpler food source. Creator Robert Rhinehart and team developed Soylent after recognizing the disproportionate amount of time and money they spent creating nutritionally complete meals.

Soylent is a food product (classified as a food, not a supplement, by the FDA) designed for use as a staple meal by all adults. Each serving of Soylent provides maximum nutrition with minimum effort.

The FDA deems Soylent a food. Its creators are — a bit weirdly — slow to agree. The media likes to call Soylent a “food replacement,” and if anyone on the Soylent team has objected, I can’t seem to find it. (“What if you never had to worry about food again?” its ad copy asks.)

Switching to Soylent appears to mean drinking a beige-colored, slightly thick, very bland, mildly sweet liquid whenever you feel hungry. And never eating any food.

Simple, right?

On the plus side, Soylent appears to be significantly cheaper than actual food. It’s also nutritionally complete, at least as far as its creators can tell. (Ordinary Times‘s own Russell Saunders has opined two times about Soylent, both in the negative, finding the product’s health claims dubious. Like me, he finds the pleasures of food… still pleasurable.)

As most of you know, I am a foodie. I spend a lot of my cognitive surplus thinking about what makes foods appealing. As a bright-eyed Thoreauvian undergrad, I reasoned that the need for nutrition couldn’t be avoided: If nature forces me to do it, I might as well extract as much fun as I possibly can. It’s been a wild ride ever since, and I’ve loved absolutely every moment of my relationship with food.

And, to me at least, Soylent seems like everything that could possibly be wrong about food. Prisoners get bland, totally uniform, flavorless foods. As punishment. And they hate it. Prisoners hate it so much, in fact, that they have alleged in court that bland, totally uniform, flavorless foods are cruel and unusual punishment. I think they’ve got a plausible case.

What about convenience? Granted, Soylent is nothing if not convenient. But when people are under pressure in real life, they don’t go for bland, thin, nutrition-conscious monotony. Oh no: They go for convenient comfort foods: Think cops eating donuts. Or undergrads gorging on pizza while pulling an all-nighter. Or really, just any fast foods anywhere.

Adam was considerably more bullish on Soylent. He thought there might be a market for it — maybe not as a total food replacement, but in place of ramen or McDonald’s, and as a sometimes food. He even argued that regularly consuming Soylent might make “real” foods more pleasurable, in light of diminishing marginal returns on variety. (There may be a follow-up post explaining why I believe this is wrong, but it would be pretty lengthy. If you’re interested, let me know.)

Anyway. Adam and I did what two rational individuals probably should do in such cases: Rather than pound the table, we tried to work out a bet: a testable prediction on the future of Soylent. And, of course, there would be real stakes involved. As Bryan Caplan put it:

Blathering talk surrounds us, but I will take no part in it… When challenged, I will bet on my words, refine them, or recant. When no one is present to challenge me, I will weigh my words and thoughts as if my fellow oath-takers were listening…

I will claim no false certainty; unless I will stake my life on my belief, I am not truly certain – and will admit it.

When I lose a bet, I will admit defeat, pay promptly, and hold my tongue – never protesting that I was “really right.” If I have caveats or reservations, I will declare them when I make the bet – not after I lose it.

When I win a bet, I will not shame my opponent, for a betting loser has far more honor than the mass of men who live by loose and idle talk.

Betting helps clarify whether a person means what they say. It helps winnow out the times that they’re saying it only because they want to believe it, or because they feel good when they say it, or because they look good when they say it. Those times should not be interesting to us.

Bettors take for granted that many pundits do little more than signal their own interior goodness, by whatever definition of goodness they hold. Bettors find such signals very, very unlikely to lead to the truth. Betting helps to clarify the assumptions that underlie our claims, and bettors believe it is deeply unfortunate that wagers are stigmatized rather than applauded in our society. Morgan Warstler deserves credit for suggesting that Adam and I bet, but the two of us readily agreed that this was the right course to take.

In short: By offering a bet, I wasn’t trying to be a dick to Adam; indeed, Adam was exceedingly gracious throughout the private negotiations that took place about the bet. In the end, though, he declined my offer. For which I give him my deepest respect: He did a far nobler thing than one typically finds in the chattering classes.

Here is the text of the bet, which I will now propose to any one other person who might want to take me up on it. (First come, first served, subject to our arbiter’s approval.)

The stakes are $500.

________ will win the bet if, at any time within the next five years, either of the following two conditions is met:

1. Soylent and derivative food substitute products thereof (hereafter “Soylent”; see Definitions, below) records annual total worldwide sales revenue for any year in excess of $600 million, excluding any revenue derived from famine relief.

2. Soylent becomes the self-reported majority source of nutrition, by choice and to the exclusion of medical necessity, for more than 300,000 non-incarcerated people in the United States, as found or estimated by any of the following research agencies or outlets:

Gallup
Harris Interactive
Pew Research
Public Policy Polling
Zogby
Any U.S. government agency (CDC, USDA, etc)
Any article in a peer-reviewed academic journal
Any analysis by a reputable, independent marketing research firm.

For (2), neither of the parties to the bet nor the arbiter is permitted to contribute to the research findings or estimates. (n.b.: Polling agencies named above have all conducted research on Americans’ food choices and were selected for this reason.)

The default assumption is that conditions (1) and (2) have not been met, and it will fall to ________ to demonstrate otherwise.

Jason Kuznicki will win the bet

3. Immediately, if at any time in the next five years, the original Soylent permanently ceases production, and the arbiter agrees with Jason’s assertion that no derivative products can be found on the market.

4. At the end of five years, if neither (1) nor (2) can be demonstrated.

The bet will be off if either the corporation manufacturing the original Soylent or the brand name of “Soylent” is sold or transferred.

Definitions: “Soylent” is defined here as the product currently sold under that name, as well as all derivative products whose adjudicated aim is to become a food substitute. No other currently existing food substitutes, and no derivatives thereof, may count as Soylent for purposes of this definition. Only food substitutes that make use of Soylent’s open-source formula, or modifications thereof, can potentially be called Soylent for purposes of this bet, subject to the arbiter’s further discretion.

Examples: A chewable product composed entirely of the original Soylent’s powder component will count as Soylent, as will a chewable food substitute product composed primarily (> 50%) of Soylent. An onion soup that uses Soylent as a base will not count, because the intent is to be a food rather than to substitute for food. A mixture of Jevity and Soylent will likewise not count, regardless of the proportions involved, because it is a derivative of a currently existing food substitute.

Payment: The bet will be paid in U.S. dollars within two weeks following the arbiter’s decision.

Arbitration: On all matters of dispute, including particularly disputes about what counts as Soylent, we name Adam Gurri as the arbiter, and we agree to respect and abide by his determinations. (n.b.: We can choose another arbiter, if Adam Gurri isn’t interested, or if he doesn’t want to arbitrate for a particular bettor. I do think he’s trustworthy, however, and altogether impartial.)

Effective date: The bet is effective on the date when both parties and the arbiter have agreed to it.

Why did Adam decline? Here are his reasons, from an e-mail he allowed me to share:

I’m reconsidering the specifics of my forecast. I think if someone wants to be optimistic about Soylent, your parameters make for a good bet. I’m just not sure how optimistic I am about it being embraced. If I had to put odds on it right now, I would say I think my side of the bet winning has a non-trivial probability, maybe 20%, but I can’t say it’s 50%+.

I think if Soylent costs fell to the point where it represented much more significant saves versus other low-cost food options, it would have a much brighter future. I think genuinely healthy food substitutes would represent a significant improvement over many of the most popular convenience foods today for many people. But I am not sure they would be embraced. Maybe success comes when some zero/low calorie flavorings get added… But a lot of the possible contingencies would fall outside our bet parameters.

You should definitely feel free to blog about anything we’ve said here. Narrowing disagreement and forcing us to select specific probability estimates and forecasts is what betting is for!

Indeed it is. This was the first time I ever offered such a bet, and I have to say that I learned a lot about it too. (What does “success” mean here? What does “failure” mean? How might my success conditions be foiled? What other possible futures have I neglected? Am I being absolutely fair to Adam? And so on… Needless to say, any argumentative schema that of its own accord forces an arguer to be fairer to his opponent is to be highly recommended!)

Dear readers: If any of you think Soylent has a future, let’s bet. And if you think it has a future but you don’t want to bet… well, why not?

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183 thoughts on “I’m Betting against Soylent

  1. I am with you. The guy who created the product seems like such a radical minimalist and he seems to dislike things that I consider to be all the pleasures of humanity including food. Food is not only fun for the taste, it is a time for social bonding and relaxing.

    I made a little rant about this product on fb once and people did chime in that they thought it was a good idea and gave the examples of people who are just too busy to sit down for a meal*, or there are people who said that they just didn’t enjoy food very much.

    *One of my worries about soylent is that the social expectation will be to use soylent instead of taking breaks for meal times especially at work.

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    • how many of an average persons meals are filled with social bonding and relaxing?

      You see soylent becoming so widespread in use that people are FORCED to have it for lunch? k.

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      • Here’s where we see the real beauty of betting.

        If he has the courage of his convictions, then he will approach Adam Gurri and accept the bet. If he doesn’t do so, then we can rest assured that what appears to be blather, and what we certainly want to be blather… really is blather. Put up or shut up, my friend!

        Honestly, Soylent is the least interesting part of this post, for me. Betting is where it’s at.

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      • Did someone say ban? I always find that swinging the ban hammer does a fine job of sculpting my biceps. Summer’s right around the corner so I gotta look at the community pool. A couple sets of 10 swings will do the trick ;)

        After that, I’ll add Soylent to my post-workout shake.

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    • One of my worries about soylent is that the social expectation will be to use soylent instead of taking breaks for meal times especially at work.

      Saul, I think this is a place where you’re over-applying your own life experiences. It’s nice to think of meals as a time for bonding, but I’d say at least 90% of my own work meals were eaten alone. It’s easy for everyone to eat lunch at the same time when you work in an office or a factory, but a heck of a lot harder when you work in a store or a restaurant or a hospital.

      When my “lunch break” is at midnight and my only co-worker is busy managing the cash register, I’d rather spend five minutes sucking down a pack of soylent and then nap or read a book than spend half an hour preparing and the savoring microwaved lasagna.

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      • I eat most of my meals alone but at the same time, what if manager’s decided to cut down breaks to five or ten minutes because soylent is available and can be consumed fast? I think Saul’s concern was more about the latter, another companies using this as another way to screw their employees more than about sociable lunches.

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      • Well, in that case, I think the fear is unfounded but I suppose I don’t begrudge the impulse.

        Saul said something in a previous thread about the bonding value of meal-times that I never got a chance to respond to, and was responding to that statement as much as the statement he posted here.

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  2. You know, I can see using something like that for breakfast. I’m a busy gal and not an early riser, so usually I have have a cracker or yogurt or whatever, gulp it down w/ an espresso, take my hormones, and scamper out the door to catch the train.

    I mean, if the flavor wasn’t foul, I could see buying it.

    It’s not actually that shade of green, is it? ’Cause, uh, nope!

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  3. I can’t see a real market for this other then a small fringe. Other then an odd day if people don’t have time for a meal that is their own scheduling issues. There are plenty of choices for people who need a quick meal that don’t involve green glop, so why choose this over tasty unhealthy quick breakfasts or fruit or the jillion bar type foods or a bowl of cereal or even fricken Ensure, etc. I’m not seeing the niche here where they are offering something that isn’t already out there.

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    • Like Saul, I believe that a certain type of manager is going to love soylent because it can be consumed faced and they could cut their employee’s lunch break short.

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      • You don’t actually see soylent being in such widespread use that it becomes acceptable for managers to cut lunch hours. You don’t. Because length of breaks are in no way determined by how long it takes you to eat now. So thats why you don’t actually believe that.

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    • There’s no way tofu will ever take off – it’s just flavourless stodge. People want their protein sources to have a flavour.

      There’s no way vodka will ever take off – it’s just flavourless ethanol-water. People want their booze to have a flavour.

      Soylent, by the sounds of it, is sufficiently neutral that it takes a back seat to whatever you want to add to it. Blend it with kale, a tomato, and some Bragg’s sauce, or a lime, ginger, and chilis, or strawberries, or coffee, cocoa powder, and a spoonful of honey – there isn’t a thing it doesn’t go with. No way that could catch on, right?

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      • This is sort of my thought. Soylent’s success or failure will mostly depend on what can be done with it. What does it taste like with some basil? Chipotle powder? The thing is that the product machine isn’t pushing that point.

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      • Note that tofu and vodka were both strongly established ethnic staples OUTSIDE the US well before they caught on here. Moreover, the versions offered outside the US actually have character and flavor, so the comparison really doesn’t wash.

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    • On these terms, I’d go about 5:2. Only hesitating because I know a number of people who have little experience with real food that tastes good. (Or rather, who did before I cooked for them.)

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  4. I haven’t read anything before about this thing. So being lazy, can someone answer why he would name a product Soylent and make it green? Why hearken back to a movie or create the connection?

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    • That’s my fault. Note to everyone:

      Soylent isn’t actually green. I used a photo of green tea powder as a bit of a joke.

      The real Soylent is beige.

      It’s still got a disgusting name though, if you ask me.

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      • Soylent Beige is made of maltodextrine, canola, rice protein!!!!!

        Meh not even Heston could pull that off.

        So wikipedia says the guy deliberately named it Soylent after the movie and book the movie was based on.

        I know this is snap judgement, but he sounds like a doofus. Of course lots of brilliant pathfinders looked like doofuses at first. But on the other hand the firefox spell checker doesn’t have the word doofus which seems like a major fail.

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      • The name “soylent” comes from “soy” + “lentil”. In the book it was a cheap vegetable-protein-based food the government gave out to the indigent. Of course, since so few people read bad SF books compared to the number that watch bad SF movies, that’s an obscure bit of information.

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      • Er…Jason’s post. Note that the word “soylent” is a blend of “soy” and “lentil.” The non-green soylent was a plant-derived food that provided all the nutrients a human needed.

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  5. There seems to be a certain type of utopian techie, perhaps influenced too much by very utopian science fiction, that can’t stand any reminder that humans are biological creatures. Biology is very messy after all. They have an almost Platonic desire to overcome the physical and achieve the singularity. I have a feeling that soylent’s creator is one of them.

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  6. I want to say, “No, there is no market for food-replacements.”

    I want to, very much. But. I volunteer at the local food pantry, where we get the benefit of purchasing bulk foods from a food bank. Much of this is stuff that didn’t sell or is too close to its expiration date to sell to grocery stores; stuff at it’s expiration date pulled from grocery stores. A lot of the food we distribute is frightening. Have you ever purchased a tube of mechanically separated chicken? Bleh.

    I also know a lot of people who have little food sense; they think of food as medicine, not sustenance. They drink a variety of shakes, smoothies, and other powdered products as replacements for meals. I don’t understand why, to be honest. These same individuals typically don’t know what a well-balanced meal looks like, they don’t know how to shop for food, they don’t know very much about preparing food, and they are in search for a magic something that makes them feel good about themselves, good about their bodies.

    I wonder how they can be so far removed from knowledge of their bodies. I wonder how their colonies of flora and fauna are. I wonder why they spend so much time watching cooking shows on TV instead of, you know, actually cooking.

    So I fear that there is a market for Soylent; though it’s one that might easily be disrupted by a viewing the movie “Soylent Green.” Bad branding, that.

    But I hope you’re right,

    As to the failure side of the bet — if you find another taker, I’d add a major class-action law suit before the five-year mark, filed by customers with a big beef.

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    • I know someone who’s working on lab-made food (meat, oil, you name it).
      That’s far more likely to catch on than the organic movement is to survive.

      But this? Nah, most people won’t jump. It’s not government cheese.

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  7. You should put this in an open thread on Lesswrong. You can probably find at least one person to take the other side of the bet.

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      • the problem with Jason’s bet, is it is loaded in his favor. If soylent doesn’t gain traction and get 600 million in revenues he wins. However if it does gain traction and gets over 600 million in revenue then it will likely be bought out and the wager is cancelled. Not much chance to win this bet. I believe soylent could get to 600 million but that would depend on a number of factors including competition and execution that could prevent that number, but would not mean the idea failed. If you reposted the bet as soylent type products(ie. Nutritionally complete food replacements for otherwise healthy people) and removed the buy out language, I would take that bet.

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      • “if it does gain traction and gets over 600 million in revenue then it will likely be bought out and the wager is cancelled.”

        It had been my understanding that at the moment the $600 million number was reached, I would have immediately lost the bet.

        I am more than willing to add language to clarify, if you are willing to take me up on the bet.

        I will not, however, include all nutritionally complete food replacement products. The market in those is already well into the billions: I would lose that bet the moment I made it. (Do you really think I’m that dumb? Or were you just that uninformed about the thing you were trying to bet on? Either way, it reflects poorly on you.)

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      • I think it reflects poorly on you if you really think that slim fast, boost, ensure or any of the current meal replacements are in the same category as soylent. One must only take a cursory glance at the nutrition label on those products and you would realize none of the current products have all the nutrients recommended by the FDA and if you consumed nothing but these products you would end up with too much of many others. They also include copious amounts of sugar or other sweeteners. These products are not in the same category as soylent. You might be able to replace a meal with them but you certainly can’t replace all your food with them. Maybe you should do a little more research before you call other people uninformed.

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      • The only thing keeping from taking the bet is the takeover language and the fact that Rosa Labs is an unproven entity and Soylent the brand could fail for a number of reasons with out invalidating soylent the idea. Rosa Labs could have logistics issues causing it to never scale to the required number. A superior competitor could enter the market that has greater scale and buying power like Nestle. I believe soylent the IDEA will have at least 300,000 customers and probably much more, but it may be from multiple companies that fill particular niches.

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      • The only thing keeping from taking the bet is the takeover language

        Fine: If the company sells for $500 million or more within the bet’s timeframe, you’ll win, regardless of what the buyer does with it. Sound good?

        As to competitors, that’s why Soylent derivatives are already included.

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      • Bzzzzz WRONG AGAIN! Did you even look at the nutritional labels? For a normal human to consume 2000 calories of this stuff would put them at dangerous levels of many nutrients. Additionally these are aimed at people that are sick. These are NOT competitors to soylent. Try again. Try looking at soylent’s nutritional label first.

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      • I know I’m a libertarian. But I do trust the FDA to get these things right, and not, say, Soylent’s kooky inventor.

        Plenty of people survive on Jevity for extended periods of time.

        So anyway… if you’re really so convinced that Soylent will succeed, why not craft a bet that will demonstrate your confidence?

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  8. I certainly wouldn’t take your bet Jason. The only way I see Soylent becoming a mass staple like you define in your wager would require humanity’s turning down a dystopian or apocalyptic road in history that frankly I have no desire to wager in favor of and I earnestly hope the odds of it occurring are poor.

    That said, I would like to express that I feel somewhat more bullish on the subject of Soylent than many of my co-commentors. While I do not see Soylent replacing food I can think of many scenarios where it becomes a material option within the human universe of food:

    -As you cleverly rule out in your wager if Soylent truly is a 100% nutritious food replacement then its application as a tool of famine relief and emergency food supplies could be significant.

    -I can very easily conceieve of Soylent brands designed as palative low digestive system impacting medical prescription food. Suffering severe heartburn? Anticipating surgery? Suffering a variety of dietary tract impacting maladies? I can imagine a constellation of Soylent brands each tailored for a specific scenario where eating ordinary food can be problematic.

    -I also think you’ve overlooked a significant arena where Soylent could be applied: athletic or weight loss products. What Soylent is, when you dig down to the basics, is a very specifically measured caloric meal. I can see its use for weight loss being a natural fit. Counting and estimating calories on normal food is a howling pain and Soylent would bypass this annoyance. You would simply consume X amount of Soylent in a given day with an occasional cheat day and watch the pounds melt off. Consider also protein intensive Soylent as a supplement or meal replacement for body building. We’re talking about a huge industry around this stuff and I could easily imagine Soylent flavors for building muscle, cutting fat, building tone, boosting energy etc… etc…

    So when considering Soylent I see it not as something that replaces the food world but as something that supplements it. In that I expect it simply to expand our range of options* I greet its development with unalloyed pleasure.

    *Assuming that Soylent is capable of being tailored to meeting human dietary needs. I see, however, no reason to think that in time they could not figure out a correct combination of nutrients.

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  9. $600 Million is a helluva spread, son. I’m from Vegas; let’s make this a real man’s wager. The stake’s a dime. If at any time in the next five years, the original Soylent permanently ceases production, then you win. However, if Soylent remains in production after five years, then I win.

    Now that’s a real wager, friend.

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    • No way: By those terms, my homebrew will be in “business” five years from now. That’s not what I’m interested in testing.

      The numbers weren’t random, either: 300,000 is 1/5 the smallest estimate I could find for American vegans. $600 million is only slightly more than the revenue they would generate by eating nothing but Soylent.

      I made it an easy bet — that is, if you really think the stuff will catch on, rather than limping along like veganism is.

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      • Depending on your definition of mainstream, veganism could be counted as mainstream. Certainly, at conference dinners, they often set out a vegan option. So, even if it is a minority lifestyle choice, it is sufficiently embedded in our cultures for there to be an expectation of accommodation. I doubt something like soylent will even get that far. In fact, I’m willing to bet $500 that fewer than 5% of academic conferences in the next 10 years (percentage calculated on an annual basis rather than cumulatively) will have a food substitute option on the table.

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      • I won’t take that bet, because I imagine that someone somewhere will probably still be making the stuff five years from now.

        (See how this works? See how betting allows us to find areas of true agreement and true disagreement? See how we’re sifting out all the posturing? Oh good…)

        Now, what about my bet?

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  10. People who have a healthy relationship with food are not the people in the best place to judge the potential for a good food replacement.

    Everyone, including the dude behind soylent, seems to be missing the positive place for this sort of thing: Slimfast done right.

    Veronica is the person that got the #2 thing ?ight.

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    • Here’s the thing, though: I considered the SlimFast angle before making the bet. Plan-in-a-can diets have been in decline for the last decade or so. Studies say people don’t do well on them, compliance is terrible, and eating a healthy, varied diet is where nutritionists want people to be anyway.

      (Incidentally, my bet parameters are way, way above SlimFast’s total user base.)

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      • I have no position on the bet itself. If I did, I would probably be on your side. I am commenting mostly on how people who are objecting on the basis of food enjoyment and the greatness of food. And food is great. Even people with an unhealthy relationship with it love food, the same way people love lovers that aren’t good for them. The catch, of course, has always been that you can’t “dump” food. Unless you have a good product like Soylent.

        I did the Slimfast thing. What tripped me up about it was the “sensible meal” that came with it. And lingering doubts about the sustainable healthiness of it. Both of which Soylent can address.

        Compliance is an issue across the board. Which is why dieting is so incredibly ineffective. The difference between something like Slimfast and “Lifestyle change!” is that in the former case people (this here not aimed at you) blame the product and in the latter case they blame the user.

        I know what nutritionists want. For people that have a bit of a problem but an otherwise healthy relationship with food, that may be reasonable. But nutritionists, in my experience, aren’t much help to the people with real problems. Often inclined to make the perfect the enemy of the good when the perfect is not obtainable for the targeted individuals. (I have issues with nutritionists and the public health community.)

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      • Will,
        I have problems with all the “news reporting”. OOh, lookie, we’ve found something good about Chocolate (they haven’t. just finished doing the study that contradicts the preliminary findings — but that doesn’t get half the play).

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  11. I don;t know how common this is, but my enjoyment of food depends more on texture than roughagetaste. (I don’t care how delicious you’ve made that eggplant, in my mouth it still feels yucky.) If Soylent is a complete substitute for food, it has to include a significant amount of roughage, which makes me suspect it’s pretty nasty going down.

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    • I remain curious to try it. A serving of Soylent has 27g of fiber, and fiber it would certainly need to be nutritionally complete.

      People who subsist on Soylent still poop, of course, and something needs to keep things moving…

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  12. I guess with all of these Soylent articles in the media I am wondering why people are so concerned about something that they clearly wouldn’t use? I have no idea why people call it the end of food because I don’t see that actually happening and it’s not as if there aren’t tons of meal replacement drinks/shakes/etc on the market already – they’re just not as healthy as soylent would be – but they already exist.

    This “end of food” tag is misrepresenting the idea of soylent being a low cost, nutritious, food alternative for people that WANT it and that could be for a variety of reasons … gastrointestinal problems, food allergies, diabetes, financial and time issues etc. I’ve posted before on my blog about food being an emotional and chemical experience and it is … and people seem to have really passionate feelings about food as a result.

    This soylent bashing reminds me of the early days of the vegan movement where it wasn’t so much about the health benefits but a lot of “why would you give up meat” kind of statements. The why is personal isn’t it? Food is pretty personal. No one is pushing soylent onto anyone. No one is saying let’s get rid of food everywhere. In fact it’s more about the problems with our current food production, nutrition, and affordability that drive soylent.

    Why people are interested is personal. Some people are lazy and don’t want to cook. Some people have health concerns and specialized dietary needs that make food prep complicated and expensive. Some people like the idea behind having more time to do the things they want to do and spend less time punctuating their day with meal prep. Either way … isn’t it up to each person? And why would you care what someone else does or eats? If they are vegan or not … how does that concern you and why would it?

    Misrepresenting soylent as green or talking about it when you don’t really know much about it or when you have no interest in it makes not much sense. Eating is a very personal thing and I just don’t understand why people have to come down on people for what they decide to do. Soylent isn’t being forced on anyone. It’s a choice you make for yourself for your own reasons. People who really rely on food for some kind of emotional sustenance or to break up their days or as a reason to socialize … keep doing that. No one is trying to take anything from you.

    I like the idea of soylent actually. I really think that so much needs to change when it comes to food, nutrition, how we eat, what we eat … etc. A lot of people I have spoken to about soylent don’t plan to go 100% with it but they plan to replace some of their meals like breakfast and lunch because they know that with their schedules they aren’t eating right or enough or healthy … If soylent provides them with proper nutrition then what is the problem? A lot of college students love it and make their own versions and they feel better drinking it instead of eating the ramen and the junk food they were eating in between classes and studying because their budgets are tight. I don’t know why you’d advocate BAD nutrition over a food alternative that is healthier and more cost effective and doesn’t contribute to the overall problem with food production.

    If you’re not interested in soylent that’s fine but why come down on it and the people who are interested? I don’t come down on vegans or paleo people for their diets or their lifestyles. Why would anyone do that? It’s their choice and if it works for them and they feel better and have more energy or whatever going vegan or paleo etc then what’s it to you?

    Plenty of people are interested in soylent. Not just “geeks” or “minimalists” but some governments and scientists are also interested in it because there are real problems with what’s going on with food not just in the United States but in other places to. Maybe you don’t read the news or keep up with the science and maybe you don’t care what goes into the meat you eat or what’s sprayed on the veggies you steam or how we’re running out of room for crops or how there are billions of mouths to feed and not enough food … maybe it’s just about a lack of education and understanding about how serious the problem is. Soylent is just one product trying to address some of these issues. I’m sure there will be more as time goes on because something does need to change and these problems will need to be addressed – maybe not in this generation but certainly the next.

    I approve of what Rob and his team are doing and the conversations they are starting – conversations about the future of food that are ALREADY going on. I appreciate the fact that there are real health crisis going on and a lot of those issues are about proper nutrition and affordable food sources. I want to see movement on these issues. I want to hear ideas on how to fix these problems. I keep up with what’s going on in the world.

    Articles like this don’t help educate people about the real issues. If you want to bash people and products that are trying to address real issues then I would hope you’d have some ideas of your own on how to make things better. Eat your food. No one is taking it from you or forcing you to drink soylent. Let soylent drinkers do what they want. Let vegans eat what they want. Let paleos eat what they want. Why does it concern anyone?

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      • Yes I think the internet is great for that. I’m expressing my opinion as well or does it only work in one direction this “internet thing” you mention …

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    • I never said anything about anyone forcing Soylent onto the general population.

      I’m only worried about Soylent being forced on people in one context: prison. That’s because our prisons already force people to eat a similar product, Nutriloaf. Prisoners and their advocates say it’s cruel, and they may be right. (Not taking a stand on that here, by the way.)

      Meanwhile, if you think that I really am making a mistake in my assessment of Soylent’s chances in the market, then take my bet. It should be easy money, right? I mean – if you really are sure of yourself… take the bet.

      If you don’t take the bet, I will conclude that you’re just saying stuff to signal how very, very concerned you are. And that’s nice.

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      • I’m not sure why you would compare Nutriloaf to soylent or vice versa? I don’t get why anything is being compared to it since there isn’t really anything like it yet. Have you tried either one? I don’t think you’re making a mistake about anything. I think that people can eat and think what they want. I’m expressing my thoughts about what I think about soylent and asking questions.

        I don’t see a need to bet on soylent. I don’t see the relevance of that. But I don’t think that that means I’m worried either. I think if it works for some people and helps them then that’s a good thing. Soylent seems interesting and the idea of “a food alternative” is also interesting and certainly going to become a necessary reality at some point. It may not be this product called soylent but it might be something else. Food production and distribution is becoming a clear problem (natural disaster scale) and eventually something will have to be done to address it. It seems clear that most people aren’t interested in the actual issues the existence of a product like soylent SHOULD be starting conversations about. I’m not worried about soylent so much as I’m worried about everyone else who seems worried about the wrong things.

        I don’t think soylent is going to be the first product to address these concerns about the future of food. I’ve been reading about some really interesting innovation also about algae and how it could and probably will figure into a lot of new “food alternatives” or a completely new, renewable, and sustainable food product. I guess your green photo made me think about that recent article too. I imagine that people will also have great concerns and bets about that if it ever comes to fruition. But it’s on the horizon and the reason scientists and biologists are all talking about it is because there is a real problem out there that needs to be addressed.

        I don’t really see a problem with a neutral flavored oat powder and rice protein based drink. People have been making DIY versions of “soylent” using whey protein and whole milk and vitamin/herbal powdered supplements for a while – athletes for example. They call them “protein shakes” or “calorie boosters” and often use them as a supplement to things they already eat. This really is no different than that so I don’t see what the big deal is or why people are so threatened by it.

        There is a much larger issue to be threatened by and that issue concerns GLOBAL food production. No one seems to want to talk about that except the soylent people and scientists and environmentalists. But I think people need to also talk about it or at least be aware of the problems. There’s plenty of reading material out there.

        I’d like to try it out. I don’t know how “successful” it will be at an alpha stage. It seems like it would take a long time for something like this to be implemented in some kind of large scale way but I really couldn’t say. I actually think more that there will be other similar type products before soylent gets into it’s “full version”. The ingredients are things you can buy in bulk at Amazon or GNC so I don’t see them holding the corner on it for a long time. Someone will always come up with something better or cheaper or have more money to manufacture it quicker etc.

        It’s easy to say “go eat a banana” but I would wonder why you would think everyone in the world has the same circumstances and same “availability” of food choices or can even eat the same things? So I can’t say I bet on soylent so much as I bet on “food alternatives” and the market/interest for them picking up steam sooner rather than later.

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      • I’m not sure why you would compare Nutriloaf to soylent or vice versa?

        Because both are food replacements.

        I don’t get why anything is being compared to it since there isn’t really anything like it yet.

        Not true. Food replacement is a well-established market already, with lots and lots of products out there.

        Have you tried either one?

        No.

        I don’t think you’re making a mistake about anything.

        Thanks!

        I think that people can eat and think what they want.

        I agree. I am a libertarian, and I strongly support every adult’s right to put into their own bodies exactly the substances that they think best, even if I personally disapprove, as is the case with Soylent.

        Please do not imagine that because I find the idea of Soylent unappealing I would therefore go on to ban it. It’s the very last thing I would do, I assure you.

        I don’t see a need to bet on soylent. I don’t see the relevance of that.

        I’m trying to gauge people’s confidence. I personally am very confident in my prediction. You appear to be considerably less confident of the contrary, which is fine.

        But I don’t think that that means I’m worried either.

        It certainly means that you don’t think the product will succeed either. If you did think it would succeed, you’d be lining up to take my money.

        . Food production and distribution is becoming a clear problem…

        I look forward to that problem diminishing in the future. See the work of Jesse Ausubel, for example, on reforestation and the future abandonment of farmland.

        It’s easy to say “go eat a banana” but I would wonder why you would think everyone in the world has the same circumstances and same “availability” of food choices or can even eat the same things?

        I don’t think any of those things. What made you think I think them? But anyway: Bananas are among the very cheapest fresh foods around, they are hypoallergenic, they are culturally appropriate to every human culture, and they are good for you. Why the hostility to bananas?

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      • That…. really surprises me. I’d never heard of such a thing, and I recall reading somewhere that bananas and rice are two of the most easily tolerated and safest foods in the world.

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      • You know, I actually make bets like the one you’re proposing sometimes (and unlike @rtod’s opponents, I always make good on my losses; though I never make any effort to collect, sometimes people do pay me when I win). Just this week, I bet someone two hundred dollars that something would not occur in the next five years. In fact, I effectively bet them two-hundred-dollars-to-no-dollars, because I have no intention of collecting the money if I win and I don’t actually expect them to remember the bet unless they win it. But I’m very comfortable with the bet – the odds that I will lose seem miniscule.

        You know why I did it? *Because I was signalling*. We were at a crucial point in a decision-making process, and I really needed them to hear how intensely I believe the thing won’t happen, and convince them to trust me in embarking on the course that assumes it won’t happen because that’s how confident I am.

        At the end of the day, the value of the signalling far exceeds the cash value of the bet for me. It’s true that I do actually care about the outcome of this particular course of action, and I care even more about the person I’m betting against, so I was just using every tool at my disposal, including a bet, to convince them of my sincerity – because I am sincere, and I really think the decision I wanted will be best for both of us, our short-term and long-term goals, the larger entity we are part of, etc etc etc.

        But if I was a manipulative and calculating person who had very very little confidence that I was right, but just thought the risk was worth taking because I needed to win that argument for whatever random purposes best suited my own immediate needs?

        I would have done the exact same thing.

        At the end of the day, it’s just money. In the very large scheme of things, relative to other sacrifices you might make to demonstrate your sincerity, it doesn’t cost you very much more to put 500 dollars on the line than it does to write a blog post. In fact, there are ways in which it costs you less.

        So I don’t really see what makes it such a crucial indicator, nor why you distinguish it from other forms of signalling.

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      • All communication is signalling. What betting aims to do is weed out the signalling that isn’t really about confidence in the event. Betting tries to weed out signals that say “I’m a pious/well-meaning/right-thinking person” and only leave behind signals that say “I believe X will happen.”

        Someone could of course bet money to signal their good-personness, but people who did this would lose their money, and I would gain it.

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      • I doubt Bananas are that much of a monoculture. I see at least 4 varieties available in stores and there is one more growing in my back yard. In the stores, there are your large mildly sweet ones, some slightly smaller somewhat sweeter ones, these weird brown ones, and the kind which never ripen and are great for making savoury curries and chips. At home, the bananas are even smaller and much sweeter than anything I’ve ever had in the shops. I seriously doubt that they are all the same variety as there are significant morphological differences between them. At most, maybe one of those types of bananas will be wiped out in the event of a disease, not all bananas

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      • If I understand correctly, the type most widely available in U.S. grocery stores, which probably accounts for northwards of 90% of the bananas sold in the U.S., I’d guesstimate, is what is found on most banana plantations in Central America, where almost all our (U.S.) bananas come from. And there’s a fungus that, if it spreads down there, could wipe them out.

        Yes, there’ll still be bananas in the world, but it would take a long time to cultivate a sufficient number of trees of other varieties to replace what would be lost. It’d be a hell of a shock to banana lovers like me.

        But, damn, I’ve heard that our standard bananas are comparatively bland, and to hear you talk about having 4 or 5 varieties available is making me drool. It’d almost be worth putting up with the heat and humidity to be able to access that.

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      • Well, the bananas in my back yard seem ready to be taken down from the plant in about two weeks. If you don’t mind coming in then, you’ll get the opportunity to have the sweetest bananas you’ve ever had. In addition, its mango season and I’ve got two mango trees. One tree gives you the sourest mangos you’ve tasted, ideal for mango salad and mango pickle. The other tree gives really sweet mangos. Also, our chiku tree is fruiting and you can try some of those if you are game.

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      • Mike,
        No, we’d simply quadruple the price (or more). The current monoculture is just that — Americans demand cheap bananas, no matter the quality (remember, the middle class is getting poorer, market speaking), so that’s what we get.

        We kill this one, we shift to the closest substitute.

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  13. The one role I would be happy to see Soylent fill is fast-food replacement. A few times a month I end up working late and the only food option available is the pizza place across the street. I absolutely hate going there: all of the slices are bland, terribly unhealthy, and overpriced. If I could go to a Soylent vending machine and get something flavorless that was reasonably nutritious and made the hunger-pangs go away, I would do it every time. And I would probably be healthier for it. On the other hand, the idea that Soylent-like products should be a general meal-replacement sounds complete nuts to me. It would be as if someone advertised an alcohol-replacement pill that just makes you belligerent for an hour and then gives you a hangover the next day.

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      • Well … 3-5 bananas would do the trick, sure, but the vend-ability becomes a challenge. I would certainly love for more late-night food joints that offer copious amounts of fruits and vegetables instead of pizza, pasta, and bread but the market (i.e. early AM college binge drinkers) just doesn’t seem to be there for it. On the other hand, I could easily see my employer replacing a Coke machine with a Soylent machine.

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  14. I like to offer wagers, too. Curiously, I’ve never had anyone actually accept, but they’ll still insist they’re 100% confident.

    Of course I think they’re wise not to wager with me, but I don’t share their confidence in their confidence level.

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    • Hillary Clinton’s a bettor. Maybe you just haven’t been making interesting enough bets?
      Tried picking who the next Doctor will be? (Dr. Who)
      If you’re willing to bet in England, you can always bet on the next US President…

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  15. trizzlor quite a few years back there were fruit and veggie vending machines. I think del monte made several and marketed them towards schools but there were tremendously more expensive than the normal vending machines which made the idea pretty much dead in the water. I think the Japanese have quite a few healthy vendibles (is that a word?) though but things just work very differently in the United States. Comes down to cost effectiveness. The healthier people want to eat, the more expensive it is. I think that’s one of the saddest facts of trying to stay healthy especially in this country. It’s a business after all the pizza and junk food etc you mentioned. Quick. Convenient. Cheap.

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  16. This product will expolit those with certain eating disorders. It’s claim to being an alternative to food will appeal to people with irrational eating aversions.

    Indeed, I suspect that Rheinhart himself has some sort of sub-pathological eating disorder.

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    • That really just sounds like a fancy way of saying “people who would rather eat soylent than real food will eat soylent.” The whole point of eating disorders is that they’re mentally unhealthy because they’re physically unhealthy. If people are eating an appropriate amount of calories and nutrients, that’s not an eating disorder–It’s an eating habit.

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  17. I want to know what basis Soylent’s creators have for marketing it as “healthy”. Is it just because it contains all the chemicals the government says your body needs to survive? Seems like it to me, but that doesn’t mean that Soylent can actually sustain a human body.

    Soylent strikes me as an archetype of “nutritionism”: the idea that a food’s chemical components are what render it healthy, regardless of what form they are presented to your body’s digestive system. This idea is well-understood by good nutritionists to be hogwash: Your body evolved to process these chemicals in a very particular way, and so your body may not be properly nourished even when you’re theoretically getting 100% of the RDA of every vitamin and mineral.

    Take sugar for example. Sugar in fruit is a wonderful source of energy, and our desire for sweets results from this historical fact. But processed sugars don’t operate on the body in the same way as the sugars found in nature. Although a can of soda has as much sugar as a large apple, the can of soda is much worse for you, because your body processes the sugars differently. In an apple, the sugars are surrounded by fiber, which has to be broken down by the bacteria in your gut before the fruit can be accessed. The fiber therefore acts as a natural “slow-release” capsule, putting just enough sugar in your system at a time for your liver to be able to metabolize it smoothly and effectively. But with soda, there’s no fiber, so the sugar just floods your bloodstream — or it would, if your body didn’t convert it instead into visceral fat (i.e., the kind associated with health problems like diabetes and internal organ failure). Followers of “nutritionism” have a hard time articulating why soda isn’t just as good as an apple, even though one is clearly healthy and the other can be fairly characterized as diabetes in a can.

    But the problems with Soylent and other nutritionisms aren’t limited only to the dietary processes we know about. Evolution has been working on the human body for literally a billion years; do we really think that a few hundred years of science has exhaustively explained nutritive processes and their interrelations well enough that we can fully replicate them with our own efforts? This thesis is necessary to Soylent’s success, but it’s also wildly implausible.

    At this point, people in the Soylent camp will probably want to respond that I’m committing the naturalistic fallacy. But I’m not so convinced that this is necessarily a fallacy, depending on how it’s phrased. If I were to say that because something occurs in the natural world, that it therefore must be beneficial, this would surely be a mistake. But if I instead pointed out that humans are part of natural processes that have gone on for hundreds of millions of years and are still dimly-understood, and concluded from this that it’s probably better to try to integrate our dietary practices into those processes instead of trying to reinvent the entirety of biological history from scratch, then the “naturalistic fallacy” starts looking less like a fallacy and more like a valuable epistemic heuristic based on relevant empirics.

    To further illustrate, I want to talk about a problem that I think makes it clear that Soylent’s creators are in grave need for some kind of epistemic heuristic, because they’re not even aware of the extent of their own ignorance: Ear infections. To clear out the gunk in your inner ear, your body relies on the chewing mechanism of the jaw: Every time you chew, a little bit of gunk is moved from the inside of your ear to the outside — earwax migrates from the inside of your head to the opening of the ear canal at about the same rate fingernails grow, and chewing helps with this process. Also, chewing crunchy things like nuts helps the proper development of the wisdom teeth — people who live on mushy industrial-era diets suffer 10 times as much wisdom tooth impaction is people who eat “rougher” diets. And because impacted wisdom teeth are a common cause of ear infections, a chewy and crunchy diet is an important part of maintaining inner ear health and staving off infections.

    The desire some commenters here have voiced for satisfying texture in their food isn’t just some arbitrary preference: The aesthetic concern seems to be rooted in a very serious and concrete health issue. But because the Soylent camp is purposefully blind to aesthetic, it missed out on this important consideration. I highly doubt this is the sole apparently-aesthetic consideration that actually sheds light on a hidden issue of physiological health: After all, our desires about food have evolved right along with our digestive systems (really the desires ARE part of the digestive system), and I’m willing to bet that there’s a lot more unspoken wisdom in them to be discovered.

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    • I was thinking of prediction markets. Or of Julian Simon. Not of Goldberg. Cole absolutely should have taken his bet. The fact that he did not tells me that in 2005, he was far less confident than he should have been.

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      • I’ve found the whole “I bet $X (and I’ll donate it to the charity of your choice)” bet to work well.

        Would you ever donate to the SPLC? How’s about the JPFO?

        Most folks in the circles we travel in have $5 to spare in the entertainment budget. While they might not begrudge losing five bucks, they’d puke at the thought of giving five bucks to KONY 2014.

        “But you’re playing with people’s lives!”

        Technically, no. The lives would be played with whether or not you’re betting. This is more of people’s lives derivatives finance work.

        Hey, if you pick a charity that you actually care about, you have the pleasure of knowing that you had a friend donate there.

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      • his refusal to bet didn’t indicate uncertainty.

        What do you believe that it indicated?

        Some plausible answers include lack of trust in Goldberg, financial trouble, a religious or ethical scruple about betting, and lots of others, really. But overall, knowing his reluctance to bet does cause me to update somewhat in the direction of thinking he was underconfident.

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      • I don’t see any reason to disbelieve what he said in the piece I linked: he’d made a bet that Bush would invade, felt crappy about winning it, and felt no need to go out of his way to have something else to feel crappy about. (Also, I presume the value of proving he was smarter than Jonah Goldberg was not large.)

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  18. “It should be easy money, right? I mean – if you really are sure of yourself… take the bet. If you don’t take the bet, I will conclude that you’re just saying stuff to signal how very, very concerned you are.”

    “I like to offer wagers, too. Curiously, I’ve never had anyone actually accept, but they’ll still insist they’re 100% confident.”

    Yeah, so I’m going to push back on this not-as-winning-as-you-think j’accuse argument. I get some version of this line from time to time, and although I used to bite on it I no longer do. There’s a reason for this, and it isn’t lack of confidence.

    There are two types of non-gambling wagers I have engaged in as an adult. One type is what I call the friendly wager. For example, I might make a wager with my son over who will make it to the NBA Eastern Conference Finals. We’ll bet a dollar, or a coffee at Starbucks, or maybe just a “gentlemen’s bet.” Or I might bet a good friend who’s a political junkie that the guy just elected President will win his re-election, and the loser pays for dinner out with the wives. I still make these wagers from time to time, and enjoy doing so.

    Then there’s the “if you’re so confident, why don’t we bet on it” wager with people that I don’t really know that well. It might be a guy in a bar, or some guy commenting on the internet, or some guy at a party I just met. (And yes, they are indeed always guys.) I’ll disagree about something I know to be true, they won’t back down, and eventually to “win” the argument (without actually seeing who’s right) they’ll wager me $100, or $1,000, or some other amount that shows they mean business. If I decline, I get pretty much the kind of responses I quoted above. But I still won’t make those bets anymore.

    These “bets,” as I’ve discovered per time, aren’t actually wagers at all. They’re almost always just a debating tactic, and a way to play “alpha” to a crowd. And I say this because every single one of these wagers I’ve taken over the years — each and every one — has never been paid. When I win (and I’m not a big gambler, I never bet $100 with some guy unless I already know I’m right) there’s always some qualification: all the sources that show I’m right must be wrong, or they didn’t REALLY bet because of some arcane wagering rule not followed, or they guy was drunk and “doesn’t really remember,” or he just doesn’t return my calls. Twice I had these kinds of wagers where we had a third party hold money — “to show our confidence” — and the guy would bully, threaten and cry foul at the third party until I agreed to “call it a draw” for the sake of the third party, who suddenly wanted nothing more to do with the wager.

    So now I tend to think of the “you must not be confident, or you’d take my bet” as pretty weak sauce.

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    • I agree that examples like you mention exist. I don’t agree that the type of bet I offered here is like them.

      I’m making a written bet, in public, with an independent arbiter. The person I first offered it to is, like me, someone who cares about his public persona, and would not want to be seen backing out of a bet. (I presume he wasn’t drunk.)

      I do mean to signal my confidence here, and I see nothing at all wrong with doing so. I gain in that confidence when others decline to take the bet. I think that’s part of the point here — I’m not 100% confident of my predictions, but I’ve certainly moved in that direction in the last couple of days.

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      • Oh, I’m not suggesting that you’re a moocher. Heck, any bet I ever made with you would by definition go into my former category. But on a more meta level, I think you (and James) are still overreaching. What you are both saying, in essence, is this:

        “If you are believe that you are right, then you need to do this other separate thing I want you to do. If you do not, it will prove you are lying*.”

        It puts a whole lot of weight on this notion that honest people will just naturally do what you want them to do.

        Here’s another way to look at it:

        I’ve met people who work in the insurance industry that are terrible at what they do. I mean, just tricking terrible — not a clue what they’re doing.

        Were I to say that to you about a particular individual — say, someone you knew who was a friend — and you were to respond, “Well, why don’t you come out of retirement and work for that company and see if you can do better than my friend?” I would politely decline. That declination would have absolutely zero to do with my belief that I would be far, far better than that person in their job. You might well say, “but if you did you’d prove me wrong AND you’d earn a lot of money by doing it!”, and you’d be correct. That still wouldn’t mean I’d take the job just to show you, and — again — it would have zero to do with my level of confidence.

        * Lying to you, lying to themselves, lying about their claim, or lying about their confidence in that claim.

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  19. I have to admit that I have an extremely growing concern that sludge like this would be pushed as an adequate nutritional substitute for people on social welfare. If the price claims are true then I can see a number of state legislatures in the country suggesting that they cut food stamp benefits and simply give recipients the equivalent of a few dozen Soylent cans a week in lieu of real food.

    Which to me is extremely problematic given the food access problems that are already prevalent in people with lower incomes to begin with.

    …am I being unfair to penny pincher legislators?

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    • “Which to me is extremely problematic given the food access problems that are already prevalent in people with lower incomes to begin with.”

      Which, I believe, is a combination of both food scarcity and food that lacks nutritional substance. Why then isn’t soylent a possible solution?

      Don’t get me wrong, I am a big enough freedom of voice guy that I would be against such a thing.

      But if I really want to fight poverty — and I believe that proper nutrition is a necessary step for fetal and child development as well as the kind of chronic illnesses that are nutrition-related that disproportionately affect those at the poverty level and that help keep them there — I’m not so sure I think soylent over a diet of generic boxed Mac & Cheese and other such crap is the obviously immoral route.

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      • Well I’m more concerned that it’ll be used as an excuse to cut benefits, restrict how they can be spent, etc. more than I am about it being a bad replacement for say mac and cheese.

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    • …am I being unfair to penny pincher legislators?

      Probably not, but at a certain point this argument looks like “let’s not find solutions to problems because legislators will use them to reduce benefits.” And I think that might be where a focus on secondary issues obscures our view of primary issues.

      Although in the particular case, I’m doubtful soylent is actually a solution to a primary problem.

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      • I think it could be a real solution to say nutrition shortages after a natural disaster for example. Shipping soylent to a location is probably much easier (particularly in places with bad infrastructure). But I really do think that there’s plenty of sadistically calvinist legislatures in the US that would see it fit to “punish” the poor by making them subsist on soylent.

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      • It’s also important to remember that the history of food aid is largely a history of rich countries subsidizing their own agricultural interests. Is it really the case that Soylent would be cheaper and easier to ship than raw nuts or grains? I think that’s a stretch at best. And fruit trees are usually the most resilient crops in natural disasters like floods and droughts, which is why fruits are often paradoxically known as famine food. If people can get nuts and grains and fruit, why would we ship them this processed crap, except for the same reason we’ve always shipped “food aid” overseas — to make agricultural interests happy?

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      • Or, depending on it’s shelf life, something people would have in their disaster kits. It might not be a good long term choice for food, but in a pinch when supplies & refrigeration are scarce for a little while, it would be good to have. A couple large containers could stretch other emergency meals for quite a while.

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    • The question I have is, why do you think this is a bad thing? First, it would never fly, because Soylent’s not intended to be consumed as a sole food – although it CAN be, that’s not what it was created for. It’s mean to replace quick, cheap meals, not decent meals. It also doesn’t have the right nutritional balance for children. Right now, low-income folks are given food stamps which aren’t adequate in amount for them to purchase nutritious food that they have time to prepare. So, they buy cheap junk. Soylent is a heck of a HUGE improvement over that. So, again, what’s the problem? If the State would provide a complete supply of Soylent for each family member, the nutritional intake of low-income people would be dramatically improved – astonishingly improved. Instead of worrying about how to make their tiny stipend of food stamps last an entire month, they would know they had adequate nutrition for the entire period. What a stress-reliever that would be!

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  20. “And, to me at least, Soylent seems like everything that could possibly be wrong about food. Prisoners get bland, totally uniform, flavorless foods. As punishment. And they hate it. Prisoners hate it so much, in fact, that they have alleged in court that bland, totally uniform, flavorless foods are cruel and unusual punishment. I think they’ve got a plausible case.”

    And the same people who’d never spend grueling days picking apples for minimum wage will gladly pay for the pleasure of picking apples.

    People can be weird when they’re doing something because they want to versus when they have to.

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    • This might have come across other than I intended. I’m not disagreeing with anything you’ve said here, Jason. Rather, I just find it interesting that there are a host of things people are willing to spend money on because of the cache associated with them that they would rail against if forced to partake in them in other circumstances.

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  21. Yeah, I’m not seeing this as going to be widely accepted either. I agree that there are very good specialized uses: famine relief, disaster recover, sick folks, etc. But let’s not forget the military and space. Yes, we’ve got MREs and such, but if you can get weight out of a product and still have the fiber and nutritional value, especially in the military and space applications, you’ve got something there.

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    • I don’t see any real weight savings. What accounts for the weight difference between Soylent and regular food? Water. So they need to bring extra drinking water to make up for the water they’re not getting in their food.

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      • Since I’m not space scientist, I’m going out on a limb, but I assume that water is recylced somewhat, so you’re not slepping up AS much water since it’s not in the food, ie less weight.

        As for the troops. Compare a MRE pack in size with the same volume of soylent and h2o. I think for the same weight/size combo, you’d get more calories in the same weight/size combo than with MREs. OFC I’m speculating….

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      • Oh, yeah, I guess you’re right about the water recycling.

        The energy/weight density of food is pretty much entirely a function of the water content and macronutrient balance. Micronutrient content is usually negligible.

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  22. “He even argued that regularly consuming Soylent might make “real” foods more pleasurable, in light of diminishing marginal returns on variety. ”

    I guess I’ll set up a company call ‘Your Daily Beating’ (.com, .biz, .net and .org). A good hard beating first thing in the morning has got to make the rest of the day go better. And a good hard beating scheduled for 9 PM will make the day’s drudgery feel much better.

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  23. I’m not sure a measure of a person’s confidence in a particular position that is dependent, to some extent, on their financial situation is really a way we want to go about solving debates. I mean, a billionaire can bet $500 on just about anything, even if his or her confidence in being right is only 1%. Me, I’ve got to be over 50% (probably well over). I’m sure there are some people who’d want their confidence to be in the neighborhood of 99% before betting that much money. And some people who wouldn’t bet $500 unless they were 100% confident. And of course it’s not just wealth that it will interact with. People have different levels of aversion to risk.

    Basically what I’m saying is that it’s a really awful way to solve disputes. I understand the motivation, but in practice, it’s not going to tell you what you want it to tell you.

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    • I’m sorry, but I have to disagree: I should make bets when (a) the expected future value of the wager is positive and (b) taking the bet won’t incur any opportunity costs unaccounted for in the bet’s mechanics (having to forego a mortgage payment, for example).

      The people who wouldn’t bet $500 unless they were 100% confident are almost certainly facing opportunity costs of exactly that type. Me? I’m not. I’d say I’m also about 85% confident of being right in my assessment of Soylent’s future. So it makes sense to offer the bet.

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      • Diminishing marginal utility. For people with sufficiently small net worth, the marginal uility loss from losing $500 is significantly greater than the marginal utility gain from winning $500.

        That said, I would not think that most members of the pundit class over the age of 30 would be in such a position.

        By the way, have you considered offering Ozimek better odds, since that was the sticking point for him? Or are you only 50% confident yourself?

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      • I’m sorry, but I have to disagree: I should make bets when (a) the expected future value of the wager is positive and (b) taking the bet won’t incur any opportunity costs unaccounted for in the bet’s mechanics (having to forego a mortgage payment, for example).

        The problem with (a) is that, as I was saying, the calculation isn’t strictly a matter of monetary value. So we will often be making very different bets, or asking people to make very different bets, even if our confidence in our correctness is the same. As a result, the bet isn’t measuring your confidence relative to mine, say, so much as it is measuring a complex relationship between our respective confidences, our respective financial situations, our respective level of risk aversion, and so on. We’re simply not judging the bet on simple expected value, but on a fairly complex expected utility metric. I know you try to account for this with (b), but as soon as we admit this complexity, the usefulness of the bet for the purposes described in the post goes out the window. That is, it doesn’t determine whether someone’s simply trying to make themselves look good. It doesn’t really determine anything obvious, because it’s such a dynamic and complex calculation.

        When I was in grad school, and therefore broke as hell, there was a faculty member who frequently offered bets to resolve disagreements. I never took a bet with him, because losing would have been a big problem (and he would have collected, of that I have no doubt), but looking back, I’d probably have won 2/3 of the bets he offered me, at least, and therefore would have come out ahead. It would have therefore been in my best interest, at least long term, to have made the bets (I was usually quite confident, but then I tend to be), but in the moment there was no way I was going to pull the trigger, at least without knowing the outcome for certain.

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      • I considered it, but he indicated that he was rethinking his assumptions, which I now understand to be in a state of flux. It seemed impertinent to press the point when he did not have a clear idea of his own beliefs.

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      • Jason, I was insufficiently confident to bet what would have been food or rent money at the time, for sure. At the same confidence level (considered independently), I’d easily make those bets now, because $100 or $200 (his usual betting values) wouldn’t make nearly the same dent in my finances, which is my basic point: the bet then wouldn’t be any better a measure of my confidence, in absolute terms, than it would now. It would instead be a measure of my confidence relative to all sorts of factors related to my current situation (your “opportunity costs”).

        Though thinking about my being right most of the time (though not all), I realize that another factor might simply be how many bets I’m going to make. A good poker player may be willing to be more on a hand knowing that, even if he loses, he will likely win more often than he loses, and therefore will come out ahead in the long run. So if I plan on betting on everything, the confidence level at which I will bet will approach (but never reach) 50%.

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      • Chris,
        Anyone is able to change the terms of the bet, provided the other person is willing.
        For instance, you could have gotten 10 of your compatriots to go in with you on the bet (as some physicist students did with Hawking).

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      • Jason, I was insufficiently confident to bet what would have been food or rent money at the time, for sure.

        Okay, then you’re at prong (b), rather than prong (a).

        I still don’t see where we disagree. Except that you’re using this thread as a chance to talk down to me, which I have to say I dislike.

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      • I am certainly not intending to talk down to you. If I’ve made you feel that I am, I apologize. I’m just trying to be clear, because we use different technical vocabularies to talk and think about these things (I don’t think in the language of economics, usually). And my point, as I said above, is that all of the stuff that is being glossed in your (b) makes the calculation that actually go into (a) too opaque to tell you much about a person’s confidence. So we may not disagree about the issues involved, but we clearly disagree about what it means for the utility of your method.

        If I’m being honest, my biggest issue is that I don’t particularly like any method of resolving disputes that favors the wealthy. It seems like a particularly bad idea, though as Brandon notes, if you’re just dealing with professional pundits, it’s probably not a big deal, because they’re mostly going to be people with means anyway.

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    • I mostly agree with both of you.

      Chris’s original objection was using this methodology in a generalizable fashion (I also fwiw don’t see it as a talking down to you thing, Jason, more of a explanatory to the combox thing). I agree with this.

      On the other hand, between two guys like Jason and Adam, hammered out on terms via iterations, with fairly similar monetary/utility measures (at least, guessing by socioeconomic class), it’s not a bad way to show exactly how much skin you are willing to put on a game.

      Problem is, as a technique, the guys you’d want to put up or shut up won’t, most likely.

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      • I also fwiw don’t see it as a talking down to you thing, Jason, more of a explanatory to the combox thing

        This is how I read it too. As one of the dummy onlookers around here, I always appreciate a little bit of extra clarification from the participants in a convo, even if the participants themselves don’t need clarification from each other.

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    • If the size of the bet is a sticking point, couldn’t this could be solved by lowering the amount involved? It seems to me that these bets are less about the money than about getting the specifics of the disagreement on record, encouraging people to make at least a token demonstration of conviction, and creating a reason to go back and figure out who was right and who was wrong.

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      • The problem then becomes that the bet ceases to be a measure of confidence even when it could be counted as such. If we made it $5 or $20, virtually all of us, even grad student Chris (except maybe at the end of the month) would make a bet, perhaps only to not look like a chump in the face of a challenge.

        So the issue is the betting method itself.

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      • The problem then becomes that the bet ceases to be a measure of confidence even when it could be counted as such. If we made it $5 or $20, virtually all of us, even grad student Chris (except maybe at the end of the month) would make a bet, perhaps only to not look like a chump in the face of a challenge.

        There are lots of things you can bet besides money. I can’t say that finding one of them is guaranteed or problem-free. But yes, haggling over the price should absolutely be a component of this type of punditry.

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      • The problem then becomes that the bet ceases to be a measure of confidence even when it could be counted as such. If we made it $5 or $20, virtually all of us, even grad student Chris (except maybe at the end of the month) would make a bet, perhaps only to not look like a chump in the face of a challenge.

        Probably true, but at least when the bet is paid, the question is theoretically “resolved” one way or another and shouldn’t come up (in the exact same form, anyway) for the participants again.

        And even enough $5 losses would presumably make the bettor more circumspect and thoughtful in future – so his FUTURE bets would be more confident.

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      • What I like about the method is that in composing the bet, Jason worked out exactly what it would mean for him to be right or wrong. It seems to me, then, that an equally effective method would be to have the disputants lay out precisely what predictions their positions entail. Given that these are mostly online disputes, no one’s going to remember them 5 years from now anyway, probably even with a bet, unless we put the money in escrow somewhere, so I imagine the act of laying out the (relatively) precise predictions gets us as far as we’re going to get in the here and now, where it matters.

        In the case presented in the OP, it’d be interesting to see whether Adam would agree that Jason’s predictions are a good measure of the correctness of the opposing positions. If he didn’t, and wasn’t willing to offer counter measures, it would suggest to me that at the very least his belief is imprecise, which makes it less useful.

        I don’t think this is method is foolproof, particularly where cultural factors are involved, because they throw a lot of noise into any system, making predictions difficult even if you’ve got the principles down, but it gets you as far as a bet would, without the added complexity that comes with the act of betting itself.

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      • It’s as much about status as it is about money, I think. You don’t want to have to pay up and admit that you were wrong. If there’s no bet, it’s less likely that somebody’s going to go back and remember that you made an incorrect prediction.

        Also, the bet forces you to define your prediction precisely, so that you can’t use the ambiguity of a prediction to weasel your way out of admitting that you were wrong.

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      • Perhaps it’s just me, but my embarrassment at being wrong in a prominent online discussion (were I ever to have one) would not be moderated in either direction by whether money is involved. If I made specific predictions and they did not play out, that would be embarrassing, regardless of whether I had money on it.

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      • One way to free betting from Chris’s objections would be to establish a system of reputation points for bettors in a community.

        New entrants get 1,000 reputation points. All bets are made in points, and the points are otherwise non-transferable. One would not bet wealth, but credibility.

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      • One way to free betting from Chris’s objections would be to establish a system of reputation points for bettors in a community.

        New entrants get 1,000 reputation points. All bets are made in points, and the points are otherwise non-transferable. One would not bet wealth, but credibility.

        Basically a currency dedicated to establishing one particular measure of credibility.

        I really like this idea a lot. After reading 30 or so cognitive psych papers in the last three months, I think you’d need to be careful about how you designed the system though.

        You want a way to measure people’s credibility, but people can be credible in one area and completely full of shit in another. Probably a good way to measure this would be to give people their pool of currency, let them divvy it up according to their own idea of what their expertise was, and then establish silos of credibility. Hm.

        Hmmmmm…

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      • Perhaps it’s just me, but my embarrassment at being wrong in a prominent online discussion (were I ever to have one) would not be moderated in either direction by whether money is involved.

        How often do you make specific, objectively measurable predictions? I don’t see this happen a lot. If there were a norm around doing this, I think it would serve much of the purpose that betting does. As it is, I think much of the value in betting is that it provides a reason to formalize predictions.

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      • Patrick, domain specific credibility measures? Everybody has a series of scores: Chris has a 3 in macroeconomics, a 76 in social psychology, a -123 in dating, and so forth. That’d be pretty cool, particularly if we could lay out some broad but useful discussion categories.

        Brandon, it is certainly not the norm in online discussions, though I think part of this is that online discussions rarely get that formal. In a discussion like the one that Jason was participating in, it seems like it’d be pretty straightforward to demand that the specificity be worked out if the discussion is going to move forward.

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      • I’ll note that this idea has the vastly awesome side effect of rapidly encouraging all participants to only make projections they have some sort of ability to actually estimate.

        I wonder if anybody has read Shanteau.

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  24. That ought to be the case, yes. One of the effects I found from crafting the bet described above was that I had to do some quantitative framing of my gut instincts: What would success look like, in numbers?

    I’ve since been told that my proposed criteria are ridiculously too high a bar. But because the numbers weren’t simply invented, I can answer these sorts of critics by saying how I came up with them. A lot of that has already happened in this thread. A product that met my success criteria would be a moderately successful one in the existing adult food replacement market. Or it would be a moderately successful diet, somewhat less mainstream than veganism but still clearly appealing to a niche.

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    • I just literally wasted 5min of my life looking for this comment where you explain how exactly you arrived at those numbers. While I currently do DIY Soylent where it is 50% of my meals, I have no bone in this as I have no idea if Soylent, the company will be successful. While I think there are several things they are doing right, I also think the market is very niche and there are a lot of expectations including the involvement of VCs. Further, I think that the real gold is in easy personalization in nutrient profiles which they have explicitly said they will not do.

      Going by these parameters, I think the chances right now are straight up 50/50 for success at the high level you have proposed. Which is not enough for me to take up on a bet. Personally, I only make bets when I am 90% sure (and I haven’t lost a bet yet…), but for something that is more about bragging rights and exposure, I might lower that. :)

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      • I just literally wasted 5min of my life looking for this comment where you explain how exactly you arrived at those numbers.

        If I’d put them in the original post, someone else would have complained that I was wasting his life instead.

        If you want to offer other terms for a bet, I will consider them.

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  25. ONLY 300,000? Dude, you’re going to lose. Here’s why:
    Soylent’s meant to replace fast food grabs and microwaved burritos – it’s for people who don’t want to spend time preparing food, or (and here’s the important part), people who can’t spend time preparing food. That means people who are too busy with work or other tasks to prepare meals, or folk who are disabled.

    I have M.E. For me, fixing a couple of fried eggs is an exhausting task. If I can throw some powder and water in a blender, and prepare enough nutritious food for a day and a half just like that, I’m already sold, and I haven’t even tasted the stuff, yet. There are a million other people in the US just like me… now consider how many have lupus, or fibromyalgia, or are battling cancer, or… well, the list goes on and on. I expect Soylent to be used by those seeking weight loss, too – because it’s filling and contains all the nutrients you need, and it’s pre-measured, there’s no guess work involved in it. If you’re hungry, you just drink more. Most folks find they don’t need a full packet a day. Most folks who are consuming it regularly reported feeling more alert, losing weight, and having more energy – likely because they were eating fast food and microwaved burritoes before that.

    Soylent’s neutral flavor is designed that way so you won’t get tired of it. Supposedly, it’s just mealy and very mildly sweet. This isn’t the same as eating a McDonald’s burger every day – that would be overly salty, fatty, and have a distinct flavor. You’d get tired of it. The folks who tested Soylent reported that the idea works as planned – they didn’t get tired of the taste. If you do, you can always throw some cocoa in it, or some vanilla, or whatever. Jazz it up. But for the most part, it’s fine as it is. When you eat a nutritious food that contains everything your body needs, your body, and your taste buds, actually recognize that fact fairly quickly. It becomes the food you WANT.

    Since I’m not going to be preparing any homemade fettucine alfredo with snow peas, or whatever, any time soon… I’ll take the Soylent. Able-bodied people who have plenty of time on their hands can keep on cooking. More power to them. Honestly, though, how many people do you think DO have all that time? Consider how much people spend on fast food. Do you think all those sales were made because people just really really really wanted the delicious savor of that fast food right then? Nope.

    One packet of Soylent just sold on ebay for $115. That’s just one day’s food. There were 30 bidders. Not only do people want this food, they want it REALLY BADLY. I hope this has helped you to understand why.

    I’d take you up on your bet, but I don’t have $500. Another reason why I’m going to be eating Soylent.

    Not all of us are foodies. For a much larger number of people, food is a thing you use to get rid of hunger. Sure, I enjoy food sometimes – and still will, when I have Soylent. Sometimes. When I have the money, and the energy, and the time. It will be a luxury to be appreciated. And it won’t be a microwaved burrito.

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  26. I am up for your bet, but we should discuss the terms a bit. You have many contingencies that frankly show your lack of faith in your own bet. They screw it against actual success for the product or derivative products and in favor of you winning because of some artificial reason why “Soylent” itself has failed versus the product concept or because of an inability to get explicit data around how many users of the product group exist as opposed to the type of data (revenue) that is generally broadly available and communicated by organizations in this field.

    The stakes are $500.

    ________ will win the bet if, at any time within the next five years, either of the following two conditions is met:

    1. Soylent and derivative food substitute products thereof (hereafter “Soylent”; see Definitions, below) records annual total worldwide sales revenue for any year in excess of $600 million, excluding any revenue derived from prison meals. (I removed famine relief as I do not see why this would not qualify as your stated sticking point is prison explicitly).

    2. Removed section 2 in its entirety as this is not required to determine success. Revenues and a breakdown there-of is sufficient. In addition, no survey is likely to test what you are referring to in the next 5 years nor would they get a large enough sample size to quantify as “Self-Reporting” of 300k or more persons.

    The default assumption of any earning statements regarding sales of Soylent or derivative products is that at least 80% of sales are to consumer populaces and not prison populaces. In the event that revenue figures do not explicitly differentiate between the two populaces, a revenue of $725 Million will satisfy the criteria for success and _____ will win the bet.

    The default assumption is that conditions (1) have not been met, and it will fall to ________ to demonstrate otherwise.

    Jason Kuznicki will win the bet

    3. Removed 3 as it is a BS requirement that shows your lack of confidence. It is very possible that Soylent could be solve before meeting the revenue target, or that a competitor in the space will launch a derivative product with better brand, marketing, distribution, or other benefits inherent to a large corporation that would cause Soylent itself to fail while still resulting in a derivative product exceeding the revenue goal established at the beginning of bet.

    Removed 4 for the same reason as 3

    Definitions: “Soylent” is defined here as the product currently sold under that name, as well as all derivative products whose adjudicated aim is to become a food substitute. No other currently existing food substitutes, and no derivatives thereof, with the exception of derivatives of existing products that are themselves derivative of Soylent just under existing brands (IE – Ensure Completely-like Soylent) , may count as Soylent for purposes of this definition. Only food substitutes that make use of Soylent’s open-source formula, , related Soylent DIY formulas, advertise using similar language to Soylent with similar formula style (as no corporation would explicitly say they make use of Soylent’s formula) , or modifications thereof, can potentially be called Soylent for purposes of this bet, subject to the arbiter’s further discretion.

    Examples: A chewable product composed entirely of the original Soylent’s powder component will count as Soylent, as will a chewable food substitute product composed primarily (> 50%) of Soylent or a like product. An onion soup that uses Soylent as a base will not count, because the intent is to be a food rather than to substitute for food. removed the section on a mixture of Jevity and Soylent as it would also be derivative of Soylent and therefore should count. It would also be nearly impossible to extrapolate from revenues how much of Soylent was direct sales and how much was for mixtures like this example.

    Payment: The bet will be paid in U.S. dollars within two weeks following the arbiter’s decision.

    Arbitration: On all matters of dispute, including particularly disputes about what counts as Soylent, we name Randall Monroe (author of XKCD who has demonstrated to be grounded in data and has no stated preference for or against this kind of product) as the arbiter, and we agree to respect and abide by his determinations. (n.b.: We can choose another arbiter, if Randall Monroe isn’t interested, or if he doesn’t want to arbitrate for a particular bettor. I do think he’s trustworthy, however, and altogether impartial.)

    Effective date: The bet is effective on the date when both parties and the arbiter have agreed to it.

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    • Congratulations, you are the first even to have made it this far.

      Your tone is obnoxious, and it betrays a lack of confidence. This only makes me want to take your money even more. I’m sad to say, then, that we clearly don’t have a bet. This is for at least two reasons that I can see right away.

      First, I am not interested in betting on Soylent’s prospective use in famine relief. I claim no special knowledge in this area, and I am not interested in betting on it. Not for any sum or on any terms. Famine relief is off the table for me.

      Second, your addition of “related Soylent DIY formulas” is a joke, because Soylent’s site now features recipes for all kinds of stuff. You could plausibly claim every new food replacement product, and indeed every new blended liquid food product, and say they were related.

      Finally, I note that the way you have phrased the bet, if read literally, only allows you to win. There is never a time at which I might win. I trust this was accidental, and it could easily be fixed. But again, I don’t think we have a bet either way.

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      • My tone is obnoxious… I find that funny given your entire argument and faulty “bet”.

        How would you propose that we differentiate revenue collected between famine relief and actual consumer purchases? I doubt this data could be acquired for any bottled water maker, let alone a product like Soylent. I tried to alleviate this concern by increasing your target to offset this concern.

        How would you narrow down the scope of the products while respecting the original intent of honoring revenues earned from products that are trying to capitalize on the interest for a liquid drink that is explicitly targeting meal replacements as a full nutritional supplement?

        Soylent obviously aims to go beyond existing products in the space, but it is also reasonable to assume that if Soylent continues to generate press and sales, the corporations making products ranging from Ensure to Gatorade will try to release true competitors to Soylent under their brands. For the bet to be fair, this potential market needs to be accounted for.

        How could I always win? That only works if you take the extremely broad view of DIY that I did not intend and can be clarified? That is unless you agree that $725 Million in yearly revenue is basically guaranteed. In which case, I don’t even know why you are doing this bet, instead of just for show.

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      • How would you propose that we differentiate revenue collected between famine relief and actual consumer purchases? I doubt this data could be acquired for any bottled water maker, let alone a product like Soylent. I tried to alleviate this concern by increasing your target to offset this concern.

        Simple: Exclude purchases made by relief agencies, NGOs, and the like, that were distributed for free in famine-afflicted areas.

        How would you narrow down the scope of the products while respecting the original intent of honoring revenues earned from products that are trying to capitalize on the interest for a liquid drink that is explicitly targeting meal replacements as a full nutritional supplement?

        This is admittedly a difficult problem, but I don’t think that deliberately adding in products completely different in formula from Soylent is at all in keeping with the intent that I had. That’s what you proposed, and that’s another reason why I rejected it.

        How could I always win?

        You wouldn’t always win. But of the two of sides, yours would be the only side ever potentially capable of winning. Your side has clearly a defined win condition, and my side does not.

        At the end of five years, if your win condition has not been met… then absolutely nothing happens, because you deleted condition 4.

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      • Simple: Exclude purchases made by relief agencies, NGOs, and the like, that were distributed for free in famine-afflicted areas.

        This would be nearly impossible to determine. Not to mention, in many cases, goods are donated to relief causes and organizations and not purchased. Also, the value of good purchased by these organizations as a whole would be hard if not impossible to collect and the value listed is often inflated to justify a higher tax credit/deduction for the manufacturing company and would not be fully included in their revenues.

        Do you feel a increasing revenue targets by 20% would be insufficient to offset these potential purchases? If so, why?

        This is admittedly a difficult problem, but I don’t think that deliberately adding in products completely different in formula from Soylent is at all in keeping with the intent that I had. That’s what you proposed, and that’s another reason why I rejected it.

        Define complete different? Is a product that uses “all natural” ingredients to form a Soylent competitor that is also a beverage and has the identical goals of fulfilling all nutrient requirements of the user with a simple drink that different? What about if Soylent gets bought by Pepsi and they offer a “Soylent Blue” which contains raspberry flavoring and added sugar to make it more palatable? What if Pepsi spins up its own “Meal Replacement beverage with everything you need!” that is clearly being marketed to the same consumer audience interested in Soylent?

        Your side has clearly a defined win condition, and my side does not. At the end of five years, if your win condition has not been met… then absolutely nothing happens, because you deleted condition 4.

        You are using the logical fallacy of the “Strawman”. While the betting edits I made were not “perfect” by contractual terms, it is clear that my goal is to have me win if Revenue for Soylent and Soylent-like products exceeds $600 Million for 1 year within 5 years, I win. If it is less than that, you win.

        As it is, your bet is disingenuous as you place the entire burden of proof on the person that you are making the bet with. Where is your accountability in this bet? What are the expectations on your end to ensure that you actually won the bet?

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      • [Famine relief uses.]

        This would be nearly impossible to determine.

        I disagree. Donated goods are typically matters of public record and publicity. And anyway, I am very happy to presume that all undocumented famine relief is to be considered non-famine sale, so the doubt works out to your benefit.

        [The Soylent derivatives problem.]

        Is a product that uses “all natural” ingredients to form a Soylent competitor that is also a beverage and has the identical goals of fulfilling all nutrient requirements of the user with a simple drink that different?

        I would say it is. See, right now I eat this stuff called “food.” It’s mostly all natural, because I like to eat healthy. And it has an exactly identical goal to Soylent.

        [No clear win condition for Jason]


        You are using the logical fallacy of the “Strawman”.

        No, I’m not. Not only do you not know what a strawman is, you also are apparently having some serious difficulties in even understanding what you wrote.

        I’ll make it simple for you:

        Condition 1 allows you to win, maybe.

        Condition 2 was removed.

        Condition 3 was removed and called bullshit.

        Condition 4 was removed and also called bullshit.

        Nowhere does it say that if you fail to win, then I win. Nowhere. (That, my friend, is real bullshit!)

        Just look, because here is the operative clause that sets my victory condition:

        Jason Kuznicki will win the bet

        [removed]

        [removed]

        You can’t honestly think I’m that dense, can you?

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      • As it is, your bet is disingenuous as you place the entire burden of proof on the person that you are making the bet with. Where is your accountability in this bet? What are the expectations on your end to ensure that you actually won the bet?

        That’s why we do it in public, with an arbiter. That’s also why I am happy to entertain any reasonable counter-offers. Like ones that maybe make it possible for me to win, for example…

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    • Looks like its time for a new draft based on this discussion. Before I try to whip up one, I need you to acknowledge that the win condition I am offering is acceptable to you.

      Basically, as I laid out a couple of times now, you win if 12 month sliding window sales figures of Soylent and Soylent-like products (need cleaner definition here) are less than $600 Million, after removing Famine Relief and Prison-related purchases, within 5 years of Soylent’s release (we will define that release date later).

      In addition, burden of proof for showing sales of Soylent are attributable to
      Based on our recent discussion, you would be required to prove what if any sales of Soylent or Soylent like products for each revenue source are attributable to Famine Relief or Prison-related purchases.

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      • Until now, you had never given me any win conditions. But I accept in principle the one you offer here.

        The release date of Soylent has already occurred, however, and I had intended to begin counting at the date of the bet. Make sense?

        Anyway, when you get to it, mail me your offer. We can see if Randall Munroe is interested in being the arbiter. I don’t object to him, although I doubt he will be interested. I named Adam Gurri because (a) I consider him impartial and data-driven and (b) well before this bet, he’d already expressed his opinion on Soylent, and it was that he just didn’t care either way.

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  27. I think it’s odd to bet only on the financial success of soylent. It would make more sense to me to make a bet surrounding the viability of using it as a meal replacement. The bet as it stands relies on the owner of soylent not only to have a viable product but also the business sense and capability to grow it into such a large scale operation in only a couple years, whereas it’s taken him a couple years just to get the product onto the market. Personally I love the concept of soylent, and will be following it over the next few months to see what direction it takes. I do expect it to remain fairly niche though, judging by the majority of people’s reactions to it and how attached some people are to their food.

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  28. From startup to $600 million in revenue in only 5 years? Are you delusional?

    Very few, if any, businesses in the entire world would be able to win that bet. Most billion-dollar companies that exist today didn’t grow anywhere near that fast at their startup time.

    Anyone betting for condition #1 to happen would have to be an idiot. Even if Soylent is a huge success, to go from startup to making that much money in only 5 years is completely unrealistic.

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