Euphoria, calorie control, and DAOs

17th September, Berlin, 15:01, because we are now subscribed to a streaming service to watch House of the Dragon and because we already caught up with the last episode, we decided to check other series and found Euphoria. Zendaya is playing a young drug addict. Her character seems to be extra smart and it seems the society is having trouble handling her. The doctors label her with ADHD and bipolar disorders when she looks perfectly healthy from her point of view. We, as the viewers, don’t know whether she is an unreliable narrator or not. We are also given pictures of other young people and their various teenage problems; questions of self-worth, belonging to a group, drug abuse, porn abuse, bullying, gender confusion. It’s a really heavy show tackling many serious topics. Visually and audibly the show makes us experience the same discomfort and disorientation these young people might be feeling.

For me, the most powerful moment of the first episode was the confrontation in the kitchen in the middle of the house party, where the main bully corners the newcomer and asks whose friend she is. The complete silence of the packed house felt like she was alone, felt like everybody was looking at her, pointing fingers and whispering discontent. The rejection of the society, the ridicule is the most scary notion. 

Xella_reads asks: “Are these problems of the youth all there and we just tend to ignore it?”

I believe what the TV show Euphoria is presenting us with is close to reality. It felt painfully true when the main character said, “The world is falling apart and I’m not even graduated from high school”. Climate change, wars, social decay, economical decay, the future doesn’t look good right now. We are seeing more and more protests by young people, led by young activists, who feel cheated out of their future and a pleasant planet to live in. Rue(Zendaya’s character)’s explanation for her drug addiction is that this is her way of dealing with all the problems in her life. But of course addicts would say anything to justify their behaviour.

Thinking of the future, we came across a dystopian idea of calorie control for the whole society, down to the individual level. It’s not hard to imagine a time when the food resources would be scarce and the government regulating every aspect of the food chain. The control would start from the land, with the farmers. There’s already various incentives and subsidies to increase food production. Then it would be the middlemen, the wholesaler. Then the controls would reach the restaurants.

Some real data: In Germany, around 11 million tonnes of food waste are generated every year (as of 2020). The figures do not include other material flows, such as use as animal feed, in the farms’ biogas plants, or losses that occur before and during harvests and slaughter.

Let’s assume we have tightened the supply chain and reduced food waste in farming, in wholesale and retail operations, and in restaurants and away-from-home caterings. The official numbers say 59% of the waste occurs in households. This is where our dystopian story begins; calorie limitation for individuals. What if we were only allowed to purchase 2-2.2k calories worth of food per day? And it would be less for women I suppose, perhaps 1.8-2k. The days when we could happily order a burger for lunch and a pizza for dinner would be gone. Snacking an ice cream or a pack of chips or popcorn at the movies would become a matter of precise calculation and proper planning. There are already apps to track your intake and help you lose weight. But doing it voluntarily vs by necessity are totally different things. 

Desperate times call for desperate measures” – Hippocrates

Also, the calorie numbers may be optimistic. What would stop the government from adjusting the intake limits according to the times? Summer diet, war diet, recession diet, etc. 

Personal privacy regarding what we eat, what we buy would be compromised as well. We’d all have a profile the authorities have access to, watching our every move. Think of going to a market and being denied a pack of rice. Or going to a restaurant and your order being rejected due to a daily or weekly restriction. You’d sleep hungry that night.

How would people adapt to this level of control? We’re good at finding loopholes. Blackmarkets of saved up calories, of rare delicacies? Perjury of the calorie indicators on the package? Using dead relative’s accounts to buy more? Desperate times indeed.

Xella_reads suggests: “Maybe we’ll be just provided with the food, no way to choose, no options, except allergies. Everyone will be tested, some kind of check-up.. and based on this testing they’ll develop your diet.. that’s it.”

That’d be a further controlling step than calorie limitations. An even more bleak prospect. Which reminded me of the movie “Soylent Green” where the government produces only one type of food, a green tablet and it’s rationed. They don’t even care if you have allergies. Complete herd mentality. A brutal concept, a terrifying movie.

Some time ago I had an idea around developing a collective constitution through a version control tool. In software development we use a tool called “git” which we use to create changes to the main body of code and request our changes to be reviewed and approved by others. I was fantasising about everybody being literate in version control and knowledgeable of our constitution. Anybody could request changes and additions to the rules that govern us. And every change and word choice would be reviewed by millions of people.

Recently, I realised a similar concept to the collective constitution is being built in the blockchain and it’s called a DAO, a decentralised autonomous organisation. Wiki says that a DAO is “an organisation constructed by rules encoded as a computer program that is often transparent, controlled by the organisation’s members and not influenced by a central government. Governance is conducted through a series of proposals that members vote on through the blockchain, and the possession of more governance tokens often translates to greater voting power.”. 

We are at the very early stages of its development and the applications of DAOs are currently limited. Although its transparency and its democratic governance are not favourable to many businesses, they are idealistic and attractive qualities for the society. It reminds me of the discussions around transparent salaries. Most companies keep it a secret and if they make the salaries known to all their employees, many would be upset and demand a raise or leave their jobs. But it would be great for equity. 

A transparent business model and having all your data public would make competition difficult, but it would raise the quality of service for the rest of us. We’d probably have to consolidate certain services into a single DAO. It would keep us re-inventing the wheel over and over again. Right now every company is implementing the same or very similar machine learning algorithms to find the buying patterns of their customers, and the same algorithms to offer their products. 

Maybe DAOs are the future, maybe we’ll find a middle ground between total transparency and opaqueness. And if we keep the governance model and build our organisations and institutions around an equivalent technology, the code that runs DAOs would become the law that governs our lives. Then indirectly, the changes we propose to the code would be the changes we would introduce to our collective constitution.

Stream recording:

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