»Unfortunately, I can’t give you the methods behind this form of microbial control that is keeping me alive and sustaining me in these dire, uncertain times…because if I did, I would create a paradox and erase myself from existence.«
– David Zilber
Back in the summer of 2021, a few cautious steps out of endless lockdowns, we were restless and hungry for the future – the very distant future. Attempting the impossible ›we‹, the Food& team, quantum modulated a Hertzian radio (yes we did), lassoed its waves into the darkness of the next century, caught one of the last remaining humans now living on the Moon and – well – had a nice chat.
Ellie: Hello? Hello? This is Food& calling from the past, into the future on Moonchies radio 71.0. Is anyone there? It’s 2021 here on planet Earth and it’s raining.
David: He-hello? Hello? Is the communication line open? I…I’m not sure if the entangled quantum feed was stable. There have been pirates trying to break the encryption code for months now but you know, if I’m coming through, well that gives me some hope. This is David Zilber coughs food manipulator, what people used to call a chef, fermenter, microbes are the key to my long life. The year is 2131… and I’m on the Moon.
E: Hi David! We are so pleased our radio waves have reached you. From our understanding and as forewarned by a disturbing AI oracle, we’ve met you here, a year into The Great Gravitational Collapse. At this point in future history the Earth has long been obliterated by our failures to prevent climate disaster. Forcing humankind to reestablish life on other planets in our universe. As the AI oracle tells it, the demise of planet Earth catalysed an onslaught of destruction in the cosmos and you are one of the few remaining to live through the end of all eternity. So… we’ll begin with this, how does it feel?
D: Not going to lie, it’s been lonely. I’m camped out in the sea of serenity, near the moons equator. The Gravitational Collapse has caused me to, well, drift away from our tightly locked geo-synchronised orbit around the planet that humanity used to call home. There’s not much going on up here I’ve got to say. I have my poly tents, my underground water extractors, there’s a lot of dissolved hydrogen and oxygen for me to extract water out of the soil and moon dust but, as far as entertainment goes, I mean…it’s rough, it’s really rough. You know, a year into this Great Gravitational Collapse, you don’t know what’s up, what’s down, what’s left, what’s right. But looking back through the old photo albums about what life used to be like on that blue-green marble, it was remarkable. To be fair, there is still life down there, just no form of it suitable for human inhabitable-ness. Inhabitability? The words jumble, I haven’t talked to anyone in eighteen months, it’s a goddamn disaster. But yeah, even though average temperatures on the planet that I still orbit, scorch at some forty-five degree Celsius, there’s all sorts of weird things evolving down there, none of which are edible but I mean life’s ticking on in a weird old fashion. I guess I’ll have to make do with my moon potatoes.
Asis: Oh we’re really sorry to hear that David, we're more than happy to stay communicating with you as long as this loophole enables it, glad to give you some company. You haven’t spoken to anyone in the last eighteen months? I can’t believe this! Here on planet Earth, we just went through the COVID 19 pandemic and we also spent a lot of time alone, but nothing like that, it must be really tough. We were wondering in any case David, how have you adapted to the lunar calendar, what's your everyday like there? Are you just eating potatoes or is there any other food that you've managed to grow? Do you have something to brush your teeth with, is there something similar to coffee that you can drink in the morning? What's left of the rituals you had when you were back on planet Earth?
D: Yeah… well… I mean let me just wipe the tears from my eyes, just for a moment. The sound of another human voice, more than one at that sobs sorry, I’m just overcome with emotion. Well, in 2102 Apple released the hyper adaptive i-communicator 78, with plugins that allow me to communicate directly with microbes in my environment. I don’t actually eat the potatoes directly myself, I farm the carbohydrates that are able to grow in the lunar soil and then feed them to my flights of microbial communities that live among me. My communicator allows me to directly interface with their G-Nomes via viral splicing and chromosomal methylation. That means that I’ve been able to override the behaviours and direct evolution, so I have a pile of slime molds in the corner to the left of me and some zoogleal mats with multiple communities of some seventy-two hundred members to the right. A weird fungi that I didn’t actually have any part in growing likes the lactides. But you know what, they offer good insulation so I’m not messing with it. By allowing them to feast on the potatoes, it gets me to eat soups of bacteria and that kind of offers me some sort of dietary diversity. Time to time I can even have them draw faces in the sand, memories of people I used to know. They can’t communicate with me but at least I can, for a minute, paint images of my mother and father.
Fabian: Wow David, this sounds incredible! We took the time to build this quantum radio to get the waves to you but the technology that you have there sounds really great. Can we look forward to this technology soon on Earth, or is it something you invented? I’m also really eager to know... these microbes, when they are in your mouth and your body takes in all the nutrients, does it have flavour? Can you replicate the taste of a banana or an apple?
D: Unfortunately, I can’t give you the methods behind this form of microbial control that is keeping me alive and sustaining me in these dire, uncertain times… because if I did, I would create a paradox and erase myself from existence. To be honest, I don’t know what ways the transmission of such information backwards in time might bifurcate the time stream. Maybe we could prevent the climate disaster if that were the case? Maybe we could get people on Earth to stop eating... what were they called? Cowooos?... and start eating other things in their stay. But, I can tell you that I’ve recreated the flavour of the famous Big Mac from your time with my microbes. I can recreate pretty much any flavour from simple organic molecules. Texture though is something that I am sacrificing in my solitude, I will say that. Single celled organisms don’t do much in the way of creating fiber or anything really worthwhile chewing on. It’s all just kind of a sliming mash that sticks whilst it’s going down your throat. Half of it entering your stomach while the other half is still wrapped around your tongue. It’s a bit gross but you know what, beggars can’t be choosers. I’m here, drifting on a satellite that I’m sure is going to end up orbiting the sun as the Earth’s gravitational collapse furthers into chaotic decay… but… well… here we are.
E: Ah David, I can tell that you’re feeling super nostalgic for a proper Earth home-cooked meal, and we kind of feel responsible for this loss you know, having been the generation that spins the planet into The Great Gravitational Collapse. With your wisdom and hindsight, I was wondering whether you could, I don’t know, give us some ideas on how we can fix our nutrition here on planet Earth, in order to prevent the climate disaster? We have some ideas floating about, I don’t know if you've read about them in your history books but at the moment people are talking about lab grown meats and the vegan diet, what do you think will help save our planet?
D: Maybe I’ve been away from people for too long but this ancient practice of…cannibalism…was that the word? This is something I’ve seen in my history texts. Anthropologists documented it all over the world, especially in your post COVID times of 2032. I don’t remember how long it lasted, it might have been outlawed within a decade there after but, for a while it was an effective means of population control. I mean, you were feeding people and getting rid of people at the same time, it really lightened the load. Barring that because, I’m a pacifist, and I feel bad eating my microbes. The bottom line is I don’t recommend it but, you know, the idea that you could eat plants, that seems like a pretty cool one. I would die to eat anything other than microbes and potatoes. The thought of having a salad blows my mind. I can’t even fathom what a mango must taste like, no less a pawpaw. There’s so many wondrous fruits and vegetables in your time that we haven’t had here in the future. It seems ridiculous that you would squander it and waste all of that precious verdant beauty back in the day.
A: This is horrible stuff, so you say that in ten years from now we will be facing cannibalism? Oh my god this is extremely horrible! I’ve been trying to think about what we can do to avoid it, maybe we can push for a more vegetable based diet here so people actually stop having so much interest in meat and hopefully avoid eating each other. But, I can’t even think about the future generations eating each other, I hope we can do something about this. Ah - one moment - Fabian is just saying something to me, he’s asking me to tell you if you can turn on your Hologram Manifester Pod because we wanted to send you radio waves of the texture of a bean so that hopefully you can use it to create better texture for your future meals. Just let us know if you’re receiving it?
D: I am switching it on now.
F: Okay David, it looks like it’s deconstructing, I’ll try to get it to you as clearly as possible. Here’s the channel number… nine seven six six five four… I repeat… nine seven six six five four. If you tune in your Manifester Pod to the bean channel I think you should receive the file. Let me know if it works.
D: The Hologram Manifester Pod is powered, please send me beans, my microbes need them, I need them. They say the more you toot but… to be honest… tooting in zero G is an effective means of saving fuel to get around.
F: Okay, sending the bean texture molding system, the process is starting. I’m just going to stay online while the file is checked... okay now it’s encrypted… now it's sent over. Yeah, we’re good to go, you should have received it by now. Oh… oh shit! I've just realised the power level of our system is going down rapidly, I’m not sure why. Inaudible. I… I guess the manifester waves... they kind of intervene with the radio waves… I’m not sure… I have to check, I have to go, I have to run so Ellie, please take over.
E: David, before we lose you to eternity, do you have a final message for the humans of 2021?
D: Yes, to the people of the past and those who have come before me, be good stewards whilst you still have your feet on the ground and clouds in the sky. Because, nothing lasts forever and the secret to eternal life… as I found in the future even though I’m too late to experience it for myself is…