[ExI] Don't be a locavore fundamentalist

Anders Sandberg asa at nada.kth.se
Sun Sep 27 12:43:19 UTC 2009

Food is the new religion: besides having presumed effects on you (that 
are expounded by an expert priesthood), it is an effective way of 
signalling social status, culture and values to oneself and others. And 
since many of the facts are relatively hard to check, there is little 
pesky falsification of beliefs. A locavore (or Atkins dieter or organic 
fan) is very unlikely to hold their views because they are the most 
rational views given known evidence, but will easily get reinforcement 
in the form of placebo, selective news and various social feedback 

The reason we have these food fashions and food religions is of course 
that food is cheap, plentiful and has a high diversity. And that is 
fundamentally a free market effect.

It is so plentiful that you cannot show status by eating lot of food, or 
even eating expensive food - you need to show off by eating the "right" 
food, as defined by a complex discourse that takes some effort to follow 
and puts you in the same group as other high status people. That the 
facts the group claims as reasons may be completely unfounded is 
irrelevant. There is a free market of ideas and group membership too, 
and correctness is unfortunately just one price factor.

My suggestion is that we form our own high-status food-cult, "rational 
eaters". We want food that actually *is* good for us, the environment 
and the rest of mankind. Of course, researching it and getting it is 
going to be a major undertaking - which is good, since that demonstrates 
committment and makes the group more impressive. Sometimes you can have 
your cake and eat it too.

Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Philosophy Faculty of Oxford University

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