Taste The Future October 3, 2006Posted by eric22222 in General, Personal Favorites.
Currently listening to: “Dig A Little Deeper” by The Fairfield Four
I was thinking about this in Malaysia, mostly because of how delicious roti canai is. I believe that some day in the future, the innovative minds of our society will devise a way to record and playback taste and smell. Think about it: if we can reduce taste down to the basic elements of salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami, we should be able to represent the proportions of each with numerical values.
Each taste has its own chemical that triggers the perception of the taste. Saltiness is recognized by the presence of sodium chloride and other salts. Sourness is triggered when acids are detected. Bitterness is perceived in the presence of alkaloids. When sugars are present, sweetness is produced. Umami, also called savouriness, is caused by glutamates. If each chemical can be detected, then an approximate value of the taste’s proportion can be determined. If the same proportion of each is “played back,” that is, reproduced by the release of chemicals to some sort of output device, taste can be recorded, saved, and replayed.
I can foresee several consequences and problems that could arise, though. First of all is the issue of the “play back,” or as I’ll call it, taste forming. Some sort of output device will need to be used, which in turn must transmit the signals to one’s body. For visual output this is fairly easy: light travels through the air, reaching your eyes and letting them do the work. The sensors for taste are a little less accessible. Something will have to touch the user’s tongue. Possible methods include some sort of mist that is sprayed onto the tongue, or maybe chemicals are injected into an edible, tasteless solid.
The next problem is refills. This could be compared to today’s problem of ink cartridges. In the future, we may need taste cartridges. Instead of having to get black and color, we may need to get one of each taste (salty, sour, etc). This runs into the problem of running out. In printing, when one runs out of red ink, the only punishment that is endured is viewing an overly green/blue image and knowing some color ink has been wasted. If “sweet” ran out before taste forming ice cream, you may end up with something similar to AA batteries. Hopefully some sort of “low taste” warning will be implemented before such technology becomes available.
Yet another possible problem would be file sharing. We may end up with a second Napster happening. Cooks and bakers will be demanding royalties on the tastes. (As a side note, I think it’s important to point out that the file extension for tastes will probably be .mmm)
But when we look at it all together, I think it will be a wonderful golden age. Programs for virtual taste mixing will become available, Mac users will be introduced to iTaste, and eventually cell phones will be capable of taste forming delicacies on the go. Looks like it’s going to be a delicious future.