Future of Computing & Food Manifesto

A manifesto to enable a healthy debate and an inclusive futurism

Future of Computing & Food Manifesto
‘Associations between Computing & Food’ — Sketches provided to us by Dr Makayla Lewis www.makaylalewis.co.uk

The importance of food and technology in modern society is undeniable. While the basic need to eat to survive is defining us as a species, the last century had also made it very clear that we have become increasingly dependent on technology. The interwoven past, present, and future of Computing and Food is a fact. Technology—changing our species—has revolutionised how we produce, distribute, and prepare food beyond local boundaries, and even how we eat; this is evidenced in the field of human-computer interaction (HCI) and food interaction design. Yet, there are still a lot of challenges that technology didn’t solve, such as for example the inequality of food access. Despite advanced sensing and tracking systems we have still food abundance/waste and food scarcity/starvation at the same time. It is time to act more forcefully to overcome those and other challenges through changing the way we design computing systems.

On 31st May 2018, a group of academics, practitioners, a Chef and local food producers gathered in Castiglione della Pescaia, Italy, to kickstart the co-creation of a Manifesto on the Future of Computing & Food and thus enable a healthy debate and an inclusive futurism. The field of food & computing will exist with or without this Manifesto. But now we have a chance to voice our fears and hopes and turn them into actions.

I. Educate people about the impact of ‘what they eat’ on their own health and wellbeing
II. Promote the sense of communal participation and its importance to food
III. Optimize food equality by reducing food waste and increasing access to nutritious food
IV. Help people in recognising the basic sensory, hedonic, and social functions of foods
V. Provide just-in-time feedback on purchase, storage and consumption of food
VI. Foster the relevance of personal, social, and cultural experiences related to food
VII. Enable data-driven (real-time, large scale) informed food policy decision making
VIII. Avoid one-fits-all solutions that undermine personal freedom of choice
IX. Ensure total transparency on the origin and heritage of food
X. Celebrate each actor in the food system (farmer to Chef) to create a sustainable system

Sketch of the Jozef keynote
‘Keynote by Jozef Youssef’ — Sketches provided to us by Dr Makayla Lewis www.makaylalewis.co.uk

Mistakes are made by citizens, businesses, policy makers because of mis-information or pure lack of information on the impact of a technological innovation on individuals and society (e.g. atom bomb). Designing interactive systems around food requires careful consideration of what one could do with such technology (use and misuse) today and also tomorrow in order to ‘help avoid big mistakes’ (e.g. killing each other). Educating people is the most urgent and fundamental action this Manifesto calls for in order to prevent mistakes. Educating people means to train them critical thinking, something we often ignore when we eat and what we eat, and how that impacts others and ourselves.

Transparency around food will enable citizens to think and act responsibly. We need to know where food comes from, how it is made, and who is involved in making it. Connecting the dots—applying a data-driven and computational approach—will maximise sustainability of life on Earth, but it also comes with restrictions on personal freedom of choice. While personal freedom of choice of foods can ensure diversity—a fundamentally important aspect for evolution, resilience, and survival—we first need to solve the problem of inequality to food access. Many people still die from hunger and much food is wasted in certain countries. Technology needs to help balance that inequality and guarantee that the production and distribution of food is optimized.

Sketch of the Kirill keynote
‘Keynote by Kirill Veselkov’ — Sketches provided to us by Dr Makayla Lewis www.makaylalewis.co.uk

Finally, technology is already augmenting properties of food (e.g., enhances crunchiness perception via sound to facilitate eating in the elderly) but also enables diminishment (e.g., visually influences bitterness perception through augmented reality to facilitate vegetable ingestion). It is important, not to lose out of sight the relevance of food in everyday life, and its key functions in human societies. These includes not only the above sensory but also hedonic (e.g., enjoyment) and social (e.g., facilitate interactions, create sense of community, cultural meanings, etc.) properties of food. Technology has to support those basic functions that foods have in human societies, including the need for inter-personal and inter-cultural understanding through food.

This Manifesto calls every human being to think about how we position ourselves in the world with food (past: from nature) and computing (future: built by humans). We specifically call upon technologists, innovators in the computing community designing the food systems of the future to

1. Make the invisible visible to enable learning and ensure transparency
2. Develop for fairness in algorithms and system optimisation to remove in-equality
3. Design for multisensorial experiences to remind people about their full human capabilities
4. Allow for creative personalisation and creative problem-solving with technology
5. Account for changes over time and in everyday life through intelligent adaptation

Attendees at the May’18 Event in Italy & Contributors to the Manifesto

The event on the “Future of Computing & Food” was a co-located satellite event of the AVI – International Conference on Advanced Visual Interfaces 2018. The following people attended the event and contributed to the discussion that lead to the above Manifesto. The list also includes further references to the “Inspirational Talks” and “Demos” given at the Event, as well as the two Keynote Talks by Chef Jozef Youssef from Kitchen Theory in London, UK, and Dr Kirill Veselkov from Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London, UK.

1. Marianna Obrist [main organiser] [Talk]
2. Patrizia Marti [co-organiser]
3. Carlos Velasco [co-organiser]
4. Tu Yunwen [co-organiser] [Talk]
5. Takuji Narumi [co-organiser] [Talk]
6. Naja Holten Møller [co-organiser]
7. Jozef Youssef [Talk]
8. Kirill Veselkov [Talk]
9. Chi Thanh Vi [Talk]
10. Giada Brianza
11. Sriram Subramanian
12. Luigi De Russis
13. Pavlos Georgiadis [Talk]
14. Masahiko Inami
15. Jason Ernst
16. Thomas Gayler [Talk]
17. Maurizio Mancini [Talk]
18. Natalia Andrienko
19. Anders I. Mørch [Talk]
20. Haris Papageorgiou
21. Kent Norman
22. Eleonora Ceccaldi [Talk]
23. Marco Winckler
24. Carmen Santoro
25. Gualtiero Volpe


For any questions about the event and manifesto please do not hesitate to get in touch with Marianna Obrist (marianna.obrist@sussex.ac.uk)


We had an innovative illustrated representation of the discussion from the event on 31st May 2018 provided to us by Dr Makayla Lewis www.makaylalewis.co.uk


Special thanks go to our ACM-FCA Co-Creation Group Ambassadors Irina Shklovski, Associate Professor at the IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark and David Ayman Shamma, Senior Research Scientist at FXPAL, USA for their valuable feedback on the Manifesto. The event and work on the Manifesto was supported by the the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 638605.