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Our future, our universe, and other weighty topics

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dining Out in 2150: A Science Fiction Story

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.

Joey 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. 

Deciding 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.

Joey 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.

So 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.

Joey 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.

In 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 flavor.

Then 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, he thought.

SIMULATION OVER said the virtual reality goggles Joey was wearing. Sadly, Joey took off the goggles, and looked at the bleak scene around him.

He 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.

There 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.

Cmon, it's time to eat your regular meal,” said Joey's wife.

Joey 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.

Joey looked around, and saw that all of the customers in the crowded restaurant had only this same meal on their tables.

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