A lot tends to go missing from the modern dinner. How often do we sacrifice greens, whole grains, or a structured sense of communal ritual in favor of a quick slice on the walk home? But that’s not all that’s missing from one of the most important meals of the day. Dinner is also missing holographic animals that you can unleash in your house for your children to hunt and kill.
Every year, the Electrolux Design Competition invites students to submit futuristic ideas that riff on a theme. This year’s was “creating healthy homes.” Two weeks ago, Electrolux judges plucked out the winner, an augmented reality concept called the “Future Hunter-Gatherer,” imagined by designer Pan Wang. In Wang’s vision, families let loose holographic plants and animals for the kids to go and capture. Once the whole family bashes a school fish to death, the fish carcasses arrive at the door. It’s kind of like a gamified Seamless.
“The problems we face today are because of the lack of connection between people and food sources,” Wang writes in her Electrolux submission. “I was inspired by the original way for people to connect with their food, which was the hunter-gather period where people had a closer connection with what they ate.”
Wang makes a good point. I mean, how many times have you looked at a chicken nugget and thought: Wow, I wish I could have chased that around my apartment before it was ground down into pulpy detritus and treated with chlorine? How many times have you stared at a piece of grilled salmon and wondered if your eight-year-old could catch it in an icy spring river with her canine teeth?
It’s true that a lot of kids have no idea where their food comes from. A 2013 survey from the United Kingdom found that a third of elementary school kids thought cheese came from plants. At the same time, we’ve watched the “hunter-gatherer” lifestyle gain renewed interest, largely characterized by elites going on Paleo diets, or that thing Mark Zuckerberg did when he decided to eat only the meat he killed.
But it’s important to remember that our collective food issues stem from something much deeper than a lack of augmented reality animals. Public health problems related to poor nutrition are complex–they also have close ties to conditions like extreme economic inequality and the ubiquity of Big Food marketing.
Maybe kids could learn about the food system through holographic animals. Wang’s project is beautifully rendered, and it’s a fascinating idea. But it’s also easy to fetishize a hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the past without addressing the knotty and persistent economic problems of the present.