A Korean artist named Jihyun Ryou has invented modules to keep food fresh without refrigeration. This connects with the themes of this blog in several ways: using science to find cheap safe low-tech solutions, minimal solutions (Ryou’s designs use no electricity, I try to find solutions that require no willpower), and increasing (rather than reducing) the microbial content of food. Food stored at room temperature will have more microbes than food stored cold. Ryou says:
I’ve learned that we hand over the responsibility of taking care of food to the technology, the refrigerator. We don’t observe the food any more and we don’t understand how to treat it.
That there could be something wrong with division of labor — handing over tasks to specialists, including specialist machines — is a subtle point. Division of labor works fine for inanimate things, such cloth and furniture and pencils. No economist has realized that animate things (such as our bodies) might be different.
The value of Ryou’s designs partly rests on the variability of living things, as does the value of personal science. Well-educated Americans, in my experience, have little idea what they lose when they hand over care of their body to experts, such as doctors and drug companies. As Ryou says, they lose a kind of mental fitness (“we don’t observe the food any more,” we don’t observe ourselves as closely) and are forced to accept solutions in which what the experts want plays a big role. I discovered the power of self-experimentation when I decided to see for myself if the acne medicine my doctor had prescribed was working. I found it wasn’t, a possibility the doctor hadn’t mentioned.
Thanks to Steve Hansen.