AUSTIN, Texas — Technology is obviously a big topic of conversation at South by Southwest (SXSW), but how does technology from the future tie in with how we eat?
The panel "The Future of Eating" was held at the JW Marriott on Wednesday afternoon in conjunction with SXSW. The panel included Max Elder, who is the research director for Food Futures Lab, Henry Gordon-Smith of Agritecture Consulting and Art Markman, who is a University of Texas professor in psychology and marketing.
One of the first aspects talked about is what could be lost by technology changing or simplifying food too much. Markman brought up the point that we use all five of our senses when many of us eat, while there is also a social component when we sit down to eat with friends and family. If food becomes a pill or injection, will the time saved be worth what is lost in regards to the other aspects of eating?
The panel also brought up the idea that restaurants might be able to eventually personalize each customer's food -- with tech -- based on their dietary restrictions. You could submit this type of information as you enter the restaurant, then all the food served to you will line up with those restrictions.
There was a debate of many types of trade-offs that are already starting to appear. For example, would you rather get to know your barista at a coffee shop or inject the taste of an espresso into your body in seconds? There's a difference here between efficiency and social interaction.
Other panelists brought up the fact that many types of foods and drinks we intake are an acquired taste, such as beer and other liquors. If this becomes simplified, the experience or growth goes away.
Some said tech in the food world is a one-way street, as in once we start moving forward and adjusting how we eat, there's no going back to the way we did things before.
Even with all this advanced discussion and these complex theories, the innovative leaders said no matter what happens, as Americans (and Texans), we still need to consume fewer calories and eat more fruits and vegetables.