Robots and our lives: Would you like a robot cook?


I read articles on the future of humans with interest. As a grandmother of three kids under five, I am anxious to know that this earth will be a good place for them to live when I am long gone. And no article on the future can be called that without mentioning AI and robots.

The Forbes article of 2016 by Eustacia Huen says:

“According to Mark Oleynik— CEO and Founder of Moley Robotics, the way this machine works is by specifying the number of portions, type of cuisine, dietary restrictions, calorie count, desired ingredients, cooking method, chef, etc. from the recipe library first. Then, with a single tap, you could choose your recipe, place the individual pre-packaged containers of measured, washed and cut ingredients (that you could order through Moley) on designated spots, and press “start” for the cooking process to begin.”

A recent article in Futurism talks about how the gap between the rich and the poor is widening because of technology. It introduces the topic by opening the article on Moley. It is supposed to be able to replace you in the kitchen with its repertoire of 2000 digital recipes. Sounds great, right?

Moley is projected to get to market in 2017 and should cost around $15,000. Can the majority of us afford it? NOT! But, a restaurant or an Institute may. And the very rich.

The article says:

“Moley is not a chef. It is incapable of thinking up of new dishes on its own. In fact, it is not much more than a ‘monkey’ replicating every movement of the original chef. This description, however, pretty much applies to 99 percent of kitchen workers in restaurants. They spend their work hours doing exactly as the chef tells them to. As a result, they produce dishes that should be close to identical to each other.

As Moley and similar robotic kitchen assistants come into use, we will see a reduced need for cooks and kitchen workers in many restaurants. This trend will be particularly noticeable in large junk food networks like McDonald’s that have the funds to install a similar system in every branch of the network, thereby cutting their costs. And the kitchen workers in those places? Most of them will not be needed anymore.”

Did the article really categorize restaurant workers as “monkeys”? I am digressing. The point here is that, yes, restaurant work is routine, and many of us would not want to be working in a restaurant like McDonald’s. Or eat there!

The article goes on to say chefs can make money by designing recipes. Sure, but a true chef will tell you that there are some things you can’t follow as laid out in a sterile formula. A chef will tell you that the recipe will be different depending on the quality and nature of the day’s ingredients. The chef will tell you an actual cooking process is all about the spur of the moment decision as to whether to add a little more salt to a dish or do away with some lemon juice for a recipe because the other ingredients are more acidic than usual. Oh, but wait, Moley Robotics will sell you the aseptic package of ingredients, presumably quality controlled to precision characteristics.

Eustacia Huen’s article quotes Virgile Brandel, Executive Chef of Conrad Miami:

“Chefs put a little bit of themselves into every meal that is prepared, making no two dishes identical – I believe that it’s because of the Chef’s own personal touch, plating the dish and flavors in the preparation that truly make a quality dish. Most importantly, I think one must engage all five senses in order to prepare the perfect meal.”

Do cooking robots have a place in the future? They do because automation is already here in many forms.

Speaking for myself, do I want to eat food that has no soul? I don’t think so. We are born in this world, not just to go through the motions of living. We are more than that, and food is essential for this living. So are music and art. Other humans who have souls are part of this living. I don’t want a robot to cook the food that my loved ones and I eat. I want to cook, putting myself into the process to come out with something that is me. Or a flesh and blood chef who does.

Call me old-fashioned!

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