“Why did I just eat that biscuit when I am on a mission this week to lose a bit of weight? Sod it, seeing as I’ve slipped I may as well finish the packet and really break my diet.”

Hardly rational thinking, but I suspect pretty common human behaviour. Food is an emotive subject; many of us have irrational behaviours around food. Indeed, who would jump again on their phone if they cracked the screen “just to really break it”?…

A friend shared some research on how lots of us would pre-select healthy food for a meal that is a week ahead but would select a less healthy option for our very next meal. I reflected how often I have felt disappointed about my food choices at a large function; “Why did I go for the *&$*^$# fruit option again? I WANT PROFITEROLES”

I also know when I shop using the Ocado virtual supermarket I make much healthier food choices than when I shop in the IRL supermarket. From a logical, rational perspective, food serves a vital physical function, but throughout human history food has had a much deeper significance for many cultures around the world.  For many, food represents love, comfort, security and, having been at a wonderful birthday gathering at the weekend, celebration and the opportunity to bond and forge relationships.

So how do we feel about the idea of robots and humans working alongside each other to generate and create our food? (Swedish-Swiss automation technology company ABB  has some great examples of human/robot collaboration in food manufacturing). Robotics is already fairly commonplace in manufacturing, but developments in Artificial Intelligence means that non-humans can now start to get involved in the recipe design stage.

This is game-changing, as AI is starting to get involved in what would have been previously a human-only domain; not just the making of, but the thinking and creating behind how and what we eat. IBM’s Chef Watson is an awesome example of machine learning using 10,000 Bon Appetit recipes: “whilst you might just see a cherry, olive, peach and potato – Chef Watson sees 98% chemical compatibility broken down into composition, flavour uniqueness and contrast”.

I love their phrase “Cognitive Cooking”, but just imagine that chat during a romantic Date Night dinner… Human creativity with food augmented by AI, suggesting food combinations without human intervention. I wonder what Heston Blumenthal’s team make of it; opportunity or threat?

Food is a basic foundation for human life. So I think any use of AI in this area deserves special attention – think back to the furore surrounding GM crops in 1990’s. Food can therefore prompt irrational, emotional responses; just ask any new parent! Would I feed my baby an odd-sounding recipe that a computer had generated for me?

Like with much of the debate around AI, the central theme revolves around trust, in particular around decision-making. Food is probably up there with our bank details in terms of the importance of feeling secure about our choices! Already Siri, Cortana and Amazon’s Alexa will happily recommend you tonight’s dinner recipe, so I am curious as to which conversations we are now having with our tech that 5 years ago we would have been having with real people (or at least referencing our trusted recipe books).

Of course most of us are so knackered by the time we get home I’m not surprised we use the ease of tech to give us the answers when all we’ve got is a random aubergine in the fridge. Handy if cooking is a chore for you. But for many people, cooking and creativity in the kitchen are pleasurable experiences.

So, I think we need to ensure that our tech automates the dull aspects of life to help us keep our creative juices flowing in our home lives. Rather than automate the recipe creating, could I automate the admin that is bogging me down? Conscious collaboration!

Every human is unique, so we each have to select with knife-like precision now, what our personal dull aspects are. I’m sure like many, I want to minimise the risk of a later regret; that in the pursuit of efficiency, I have unintentionally applied the sat nav through the most human aspects of life’s journey. Sometimes us humans are deliciously irrational and a little bit bonkers. Aubergine cookie anyone?

The robots are coming…get them to work so we can keep our creative juices flowing!
Laura x