From IEEE Spectrum:

Zume, the robotic pizza maker, is now valued at more than US $2 billion, thanks to its latest round of investment. According to The Wall Street Journal, this latest infusion of funds – $375 million –came entirely from SoftBank; and the Japanese conglomerate apparently has another $375 million at the ready should Zume need it. The valuation, in Silicon Valley terms, makes the new company a unicorn, one of the rare breed of startups thought to be worth over $1 billion.

This is just wrong. Because it’s just not good pizza.

This is such a perfect little encapsulation of venture capital and technology startups: the quality of the product is shit, but investors insist it’s “innovative” and as such bound to be lucrative.

In this case, someone somewhere read a SF novel in which robots made and delivered pizza. The pizza in that novel was probably lousy too – entrepreneurs tend to struggle with reading comprehension, I find, and fail to notice or understand the criticisms that writers inject in their prose. (You know the type – the ones that insist that Diamond Age and Ender’s Game serve as ringing endorsements of artificial intelligence in education.) Robot-made pizzas are a fast food of dystopian fiction – a world in which flavor has been sacrificed for gadgetry, in which slow, simmering sauces are replaced with a red ooze that a mechanical hand can speedily squeeze out as the cardboard crusts roll by.

Who wants to eat this way?

Food can serve as a resistance to standardization and automation. Or good cooking can, at least. But good cooking – like good teaching – won’t come from a robot. A robot will never care enough to do it right.

Audrey Watters


Audrey Watters


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