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Making Sense of The Week That Was: Future of Food, Food for Thought

Grey Swan Guild
13 min readNov 27, 2021


Grey Swan Guild

News Wrap Edition #45 of Volume 1 | 26th November 2021

Editor: Gina Clifford, with Ben Thurman

When was the last time you sat down to eat a meal and really thought about the food on your plate? Have you ever thought, “I wonder what dinner might look like in 2050?” Will farm animals still be part of our food system or will we have successfully transitioned toward sustainable, ethical, and environmentally friendly food production? And if we do, will it be healthy, and will we actually enjoy eating it?

Unless you’ve been hiding under a very large rock, you may have noticed that billionaire entrepreneurs have started taking people on joy rides to the edge of space. By 2050, will people be trekking across Mars like Mark Watney in The Martian? If so, what might they eat and how will they produce it?

For sure, technology has a big part to play in a bountiful future of food. But as with anything else, it can also lead to unintended consequences. If you can’t think of any, we suggest you read Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood.

Why does any of this matter?

Let’s start with a trend we’re seeing right now — the explosive growth of plant-based protein. Even if you’re a dedicated meat lover, you have to admit that the environmental impact of our meat consumption is startlingly large. And by 2050, we’ll have to figure out how to feed 9 billion people, which means doubling crop production to feed the livestock as demand for meat continues to skyrocket in the developing world.

Not only is meat responsible for 60 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in food production, but the practice is also very water-intensive. A single pound of beef requires a whopping 1,800 gallons of water!

These are some of the reasons why plant-based meat products are becoming such a huge deal. Plant-based meat replacement products promise a meat-like texture and flavor without the huge environmental impact.

Photo by Lefteris kallergis on Unsplash

Have you noticed that some grocery stores are creating entire sections of the meat case for these plant-based meats? Perhaps Gen Z individuals are already putting their mark on the world as they stand up for the environment and align their lifestyles with climate-friendly behaviors. So, these products are likely to become even more popular.

But wait a minute. What about healthy? These faux-meat interlopers tend to pack a ton of sodium and fat, just like animal-based processed meats like sausage and hot dogs. So, there is still work to be done so that good-for-the-planet also includes good-for-the-people. For a thorough offering of tasty morsels, click through the Deeper Dive section further down.

As noted, sustainability is an important consideration in our food systems, but for as big a contributor to climate change as agriculture can be, there’s little real progress toward change. COP 26 just happened, and food was not even on the agenda. What’s the deal with that?

A wonderful National Geographic Magazine article shares some interesting ideas for reducing our agricultural footprint while increasing food output for humans. In a nutshell, here’s what we can start doing now.

  1. Implement precision agriculture technologies to boost yields and reduce environmental impact.
  2. Reduce factory-farmed cattle so more food crops go to people and not animals.

If you think food production problems on Earth are going to be challenging over the next thirty years, what about producing food in Space? That’s right, Space. It’s just a matter of time before some Earthlings become Martians. As it will take several months of space travel to get to Mars from Earth, what food can we produce on the ship that will nourish the intrepid astronauts? It is going to be a big challenge.

That’s why the Deep Space Food Challenge, a collaboration between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, has awarded $25,000 in prizes to teams that shared the most innovative ideas for producing food in Space. Some of the winning ideas included micro algae crisps and black soldier fly larva. Hungry yet? Let’s just hope that Space chefs will be a thing by the time we trek to Mars or it will be a very long 5 to 10 months!

Speaking of Mars, what do science fiction writers imagine for the future of food? It’s worth examining imagined future fiction where food is a big part of the story. The Martian, an imaginative book that later became a Ridley Scott movie starring Matt Damon, does a convincing job of showing how a Mars colony might function — right down to how a botanist-astronaut might grow crops on the red planet. It’s science fiction for now, but learn how some scientists have a crazy scheme to terraform Mars in the Deeper Dive section.

Photo by Nicolas Lobos on Unsplash

Then there is the MaddAddam series by Margaret Atwood. The series is decidedly dystopian and the food in this world is mostly made from soy (SoyOBoyburgers) and genetically modified animals (ChickiNobs). It is definitely a cautionary tale about how large corporations fuelled by greed make decisions that are great for their bank accounts but terrible for society, in general. So, genetically modified foods have their place, but without government oversight, unchecked greed could become society’s downfall. Check out the Deeper Dive links for more on Margaret Atwood’s Maddadam series and the food that is such a central part of this work.

On a lighter note, for anyone who enjoys exploring strange new worlds and thus, Star Trek, Chowhound features Star Trek-inspired recipes that they describe as ‘drool-worthy and downright repulsive’ dishes. They boldly go where no one has gone before. Anyone for Bajoran Ratamba stew? Check out the Deeper Dive link to get these exotic recipes.

Speaking of recipes, Sylvia Gallusser, global futurist, founder of Silicon Humanism and fellow Grey Swan Guilder created a wonderful glimpse into what celebratory menus might consist of in the future. Sylvia’s artifact from the future is a wedding menu from 2043 and it is delightful. Whale milk cheese on a bed of coral reef algae sounds incredibly exotic. But view the entire menu and pick out your own favorites.

Wedding Menu — Artifact from the Future, 2043

This menu is an “artifact from the future”. This format of fiction is designed to help us reflect on how the future could look and make us feel — sometimes triggering feelings of unease, disbelief, or even repulsion. Such images offer insights into our future everyday lives and are intended to give an immersive look at a possible future change. As such, it provokes action: Sylvia asks, Do you want to be part of such a future? What would you do to evolve our food production and consumption practices? Read more about how menu design can shift food norms toward more sustainable choices in the Deeper Dive section.

And for those in 2050 who just want something quick, inexpensive and sustainably produced, Gina Clifford imagined the Mheate future food artifact. The image speaks for itself.

A quick sketch of a fictional future processed food product imagines how snack food ingredients might change as climate change and other forces shift the types of ingredients that make it into our food. By 2050, perhaps all food packaging will be impermanent in the environment.

What foods can you imagine for our future? How do you think climate change, culture, ethics and technology will shape our food? Please share your inspirations, ideas, recipes and projects with us!


Plant-based meats not necessarily healthier

Why Animal Agriculture Wasn’t Addressed at COP26

Feeding 9 Billion People

Ethics and Cultural Norms

Because scientific evidence has revealed that octopi, crabs and lobsters are sentient (can feel pain and distress), the UK has included them in the Animal Welfare Bill and has shared guidelines for human handling in the food production process.

Will eating dogs in South Korea become a thing of the past?

Technology to the rescue — reducing agricultural impact on our environment

2.5 billion coffee cups used in the UK alone — many are plastic lined, making them almost impossible to recycle.

Eat your coffee cup:

The Deep Space Food Challenge

Feeding astronauts on deep-space missions with no waste…and improving food security on Earth

Microalgae crisps and black soldier fly larva…yum.

Capturing the Taste, Texture and Smell of Food at Home…in Space

If we can terraform Mars, we can grow crops there, right?

People say they want more sustainable solutions, but there is a huge gap between words and action


3D Printed Food. Food Fad or Here to Stay?

We’ve been 3D printing pizza since 2015. In the future, does every kitchen have a 3D printer?

Menu Design as an Approach to Promote Sustainable Vegetarian Food Choices at Restaurants

Menus are a great tool to communicate with people and to establish a new norm. Shifting our societal norms about food is crucial in making progress with the huge impact which food has on climate change. The deeply ingrained narratives and social conventions around meat and dairy are a huge barrier.

Star Trek-Inspired Recipes

Why not join us on Clubhouse this Sunday the 28th November 2021 at 8am PST | 11am EST | 4pm GMT| 5pm SAST to make sense of it all, have your say and engage with your favourite Grey Swan Guild Wrap Editors: Doyle Buehler, Sylvia Gallusser, Sean Moffitt, Agustín Borrazás, Rob Tyrie, Ben Thurman, Antonia Nicols Esmee Wilcox, Louise Mowbray, Geeta Dhir, Gina Clifford, Su McVey with Clubhouse Captains Howard Fields, Scott Phares and Lindsay Fraser.

…..Let’s Wrap.

The Great 😇

1. “Rules? Where we’re going, there are no rules!” And indeed, when it comes to the future of food, there are no rules. Artful Chef Grant Achatz shows us that no matter what ingredients we use in our cooking, it is the experience that makes it truly memorable. Perhaps the future of food is already here. Chef Grant Achatz on Netflix’s Chef’s Table

2. Three cheers for humanity. Farmers in India forcefully protested implementing big tech agriculture solutions that had little transparency and privacy protections built into a system that could capture so much farming data. India scraps its big-tech and very digital approach to agriculture.

The Good 🤩

1.The latest adventure in food enhancement is CRISPR. CRISPR gene-editing technology could pave the way to alleviating food security issues, but we need good policies to ensure the resulting products are safe and ethical (see ‘The Ugly’ — Near Future Fiction).

2. Lasers one. Weeds zero. Precision laser technology is being used to zap pesky weeds in farm fields without disturbing crop plants. Discover these blasting weeds with the Autonomous LaserWeeder.

The Bad 😬

1.Snickle Doodle. Maybe for you, this isn’t bad. There is apparently a new food trend where you split open a pickle and stuff it with a Snickers candy bar. I guess it still beats the black soldier fly larva that Martian astronauts may have to consume. Learn how to make Snickles!

2.If an orange has been GMO modified… does that make it pulp fiction? GMOs get a bad wrap, but the cost of GMO bans is higher food prices and unnecessary suffering.

The Ugly 😱

1. Better ditch the doughnuts! Unhealthy foods are not only bad for our bodies, but they’re also bad for the planet. Did you know that many less nutritious foods and drinks account for nearly a quarter of diet-related greenhouse gas emissions? We didn’t either!

2.The Down side of GMOs. Are Pigoons and ChickiNobs in your future? This near-future fiction involving food is a bioengineering nightmare. If you enjoy dystopian fiction and the future of food but haven’t read Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood yet, check out the relevant passages from the book and decide for yourself if you’re brave enough to read it.


The collection of images, videos and charts delivered by the zeitgeist that is the internet and the news cycle.

Map of the Week:

Delivering the Goods: Our 2021 Food Supply Chain Tech Predictions (

Pink Floyd said you can’t have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat. Looking at the food tech landscape, we think the song might need a rewrite to mention robots and AI tech.

Word of the Week:

Edacious [id-ay-shus]: adjective — tendency to eat food in very large amounts; voracious.

With many in the U.S. still recovering from tryptophan comas, this may be a word to learn and keep handy for the remainder of the holiday season.

Meme of the Week:

With the supply chain mess and inflation on the rise, are we at risk of being turkeys right before Thanksgiving? If the government or corporations start unfriending us on social media, watch out!

Movie of the Week:

As we look at the future of food, let’s hope food tech doesn’t lead to food-based weather.

What’s Next:

This week is edition #45 of a compendium of stories and headlines we’re tracking in the Grey Swan Guild’s Global League of Sensemakers’ Newsroom. Imagine a newsroom that went deeper, had little bias and didn’t have to get their points across in 40-second sound bytes or linkbait headlines. That’s us.

This week’s edition will be discussed thoroughly Sunday 4pm GMT/11am ET/8am PT on Clubhouse:

You can make Submissions to The Wrap any time on The Grey Swan Guild’s LinkedIn page with the hashtag #TheWrap. Be pithy, be wry, be relaxed and make some sense of the news with us. It’s a place we hang out during the week too. Join the conversation there and share your ideas, hopes, and worries with us. We are in this together for a reason.

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We have opened up another Medium and Clubhouse flank to the Grey Swan. Based on the pioneering successes of our Grey Swan News Wrap effort we have created “The Futures & Sensemaking” Series with an array of articles forthcoming about the why and how of making sense of the world.

Why Sensemaking Matters — Part Two:

The Daily Habits of Futurists & Foresighters, Friday December 3rd :

Join us as we consider how we make the future a daily behavior:

Next week is Grey Swan News Wrap #46— “Making Sense of the Week that Was” authored by lead editor Su McVey and sub-editor Geeta Dhir Education Interrupted and Disrupted. Implications and Impact on Next Generation.

Join us this week for a tour de force discussion on the Future of Food on Sunday 28 November at Clubhouse for #45:

Sunday’s session:

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Making Sense of the World’s Biggest Challenges and Next Grey Swans— curating and creating knowledge through observation, informed futurism, and analysis🦢 This month we hosted 1,000 Day Radar — 21 hours of coverage that will impact us over the next two and a half years. This month, join our 50 Shades of Grey Swans as a Trend Sherpa.

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Making Sense of the World’s Biggest Challenges & Next Grey Swans — curating and creating knowledge through observation, informed futurism, and analysis🦢