Joey looked around the luxurious restaurant. It was the most lavish restaurant he had ever been to. The view from the huge windows was breathtaking. Nearby he could see the steeples of a dozen skyscrapers piercing the blue sky. He watched as air cars drifted slowly by outside the restaurant, located on the 125th floor of a huge tower complex.
picked up his menu pad to select his meal. This was something far
better than an ordinary paper menu. It was a digital device allowing
him to choose from thousands of potential meals he could eat at the
restaurant. Maybe I'll try some Chinese, thought Joey. Using his
fingers to swipe the pad, he scanned hundreds of images offering
delicious dishes from Shanghai, Beijing, and China City.
against Chinese, Joey used the menu pad to navigate to the European
section of the menu. His eyes scanned through hundreds of small
images of food from the great cities of Europe. Stopping at the
Italian section, he scanned through fifty different pasta and pizza
dishes. Finally he found something that looked interesting: a
meter-wide ring pizza, with each slice having different toppings.
pushed the Visualize button on the menu pad. Suddenly he saw before
him a rotating 3D holographic representation of the ring pizza. He
examined each slice as the image rotated before him. That looks good,
thought Joey. He pressed the Order button on the menu pad.
much better to order food like this, thought Joey. There's no need to
give a tip to a waitress. And no chance the waitress will mess up
your order by writing down the wrong thing.
knew it wouldn't take long to make the pizza ring. He wouldn't have
to wait a long time for human cooks to make his food, because his
food would be generated automatically by 3D printers, which would
print out the dish layer by layer. There was no chance that some
clumsy cook would mess things up.
the few minutes that Joey had to wait, he looked around the
restaurant, to see what other people were eating. One woman was
dining on a croissant ball just like the ones that only a few people
in Paris could enjoy a hundred years earlier. Hollow and the size of
a softball, it was made of the most delicate layers of pastry stuff,
which somehow stayed in a ball shape until you started to eat it.
Another man was dining on a thirty-layer sandwich, made of thin
slices of thirty different types of meat and fish. Another man was
gorging on some dish called Noodle Ecstasy, a dish in which every
noodle had its own unique flavor. Others were enjoying ice cream
objects that could be printed out in any shape you desired. One
woman was enjoying an ice cream treat shaped like the Chrysler
Building, with each floor represented by a different ice cream
a robot brought Joey's meal. His mouth watered as the robot came
near. This is going to be so delicious, he thought. After the robot
put the dish on his table, Joey reached out his hand to grab a piece
of the delicious pizza. This is going to be the greatest meal ever,
OVER said the virtual reality goggles Joey was wearing. Sadly, Joey
took off the goggles, and looked at the bleak scene around him.
was in a restaurant, but not like the one he had seen in the virtual
reality simulation. It was a dim, run-down, underground restaurant
packed tight with customers. Its one good thing was the virtual
reality goggles it offered to customers.
were no more inhabited skyscrapers. Most of the great towers had
fallen in the two atomic wars, and the Great Collapse that brought
down most of civilization. The remnants of the human race lived
mainly underground. Agriculture was almost impossible in a
devastated world, but there was one dish that the government was able
to supply in abundance.
it's time to eat your regular meal,” said Joey's wife.
looked at the dinner table. Before him was the same meal he had eaten
for the last 700 meals: cold green porridge. It looked like oatmeal, but
was a sickly shade of green, as if mold was growing on it.
looked around, and saw that all of the customers in the crowded
restaurant had only this same meal on their tables.