Neil deGrasse Tyson tries Soylent and talks future of food with CEO Rob Rhinehart

Neil deGrasse Tyson tries Soylent and talks future of food with CEO Rob Rhinehart

For science! Hi, I’m Neil deGrasse Tyson
and this is “Rising Stars.” Today, we’re featuring Rob Rhinehart, who’s founder and
CEO of Soylent, a meal replacement product that’s all the rage in the tech
universe. Rob, welcome. Thank you very much for having me. Soylent! How old were you when you started this? 24. Your company’s now
valued at $100 million That was a few years ago. We’ve
grown substantially since then. – That’s crazy
– Food is a huge market. How did you get initial funding to do this?
Were you using your savings to start this? Was it in your garage?
– We raised a small
amount of capital from a startup incubator, founded by Paul Graham,
called Y Combinator and then after we started to get off the ground a little
bit, we used crowdfunding. We raised $3M in a crowdfunding
campaign. Was it the word “Soylent” that was getting people?
– It definitely stimulated some conversation You’re too young to remember the original
reference. I’m a huge fan of the movie and the book. “Soylent Green.” Keeping that science aspect and that science fiction aspect is very
important to me because when you think of Soylent, Soylent Green in the book
“Make Room! Make Room!” that’s a very real problem about population growth and
burdening the earth’s resources. I think we need to take these problems
very seriously and catch them before they start. What are you trying to do
here? We’re trying to make food better. We wanted to see what balanced diet entails
and then meet those requirements as elementally as possible.
– So elementally, you mean sort of molecular nutritional level of the product.
– Exactly. The goal was to
use science to improve the food system. Whatever you put in here, you want
to say it’s better than like the whole meal I just had? I had like eggplant
parmesan last night. Well it depends what you’re optimizing for. Optimize for pleasure — how about that? This may not be the most pleasurable
meal in the galaxy. However it is very functional. Functional food? Right. Ever since food fortification from a generation ago. I mean, iodized salt,
fortified rice, cereal even macaroni and cheese has to be
fortified.
– Yeah it’s all the grains Nutritional deficiencies used to be
just part of life and now they’re gone.
– They’re gone completely. This is an engineering problem. A food engineering problem. A food engineering
problem and it’s a very complex problem I mean it’s pretty astounding that we
can make something like this that will sit on a shelf without refrigeration for
a year.
– It’s the food you want in the zombie apocalypse.
– Exactly, preppers love this stuff. So can I try your liquid here? You can. So how do I know what flavor this is? We were trying to have something
kind of neutral, kind of bland So you managed to create this and not have much of a taste? It’s really a
perfunctory act Which is very difficult because every one of those ingredients
does have a taste, so to have something ending up neutral is much, much
more difficult than to have something that tasted strongly of, say, mint. So this will define forevermore what Soylent tastes like for me?
– Yes. Some of it reminds me of
Kaopectate. This doesn’t have the
same function. You know what it is? The urge to participate in
this brilliant exercise in food is not bigger than wanting this to taste
awesome. We have another flavor. We have Coffiest. You want to try that? OK, I’ll try some. See, that’s way better. That, I don’t know what this is. Maybe I
want to taste. That’s what it is. You put so much energy taking taste out
of this then why am I doing… This tastes like a coffee, a room-temperature
coffee milkshake. Because first we had to take taste out of everything else in
there so that we could add in something So it’d be a pure thing? And it would only taste like what
we put in there — not all the previous stuff. This tastes like a
coffee milkshake. You did it. I think he likes it. So what’s your science
background because you can’t just walk into this saying I want new food and not
understand chemistry and physiology. Personally I actually studied more
electrical engineering and computer science – This in college? Are you a
rare entrepreneur who actually graduated from college? I did graduate from college.
– (Jokes) I’m so disappointed I know, I lose a lot of credit. All it meant was that
college did not homogenize your creativity? I suppose not. And so once you
have the engineering background you just your science geeked-out anyway then
you just absorb the rest of what you need to know. Always loved
learning. Always loved studying and I realized that I don’t need to take a
class on something to learn it. What revelation that is! That
works only when you’ve learned how to learn. I wish I got more educators like
you. I have it easy because I just look at a camera lens. I’m not there with the
screaming kids. When I see an actual teacher, it’s like
“ahhhh” “I’m not worthy.” No but you were like the
world’s coolest teacher — you know that? You must know that? No, I got good material. The
universe is good material. Is this the future of food or is this,
say, something to get us thinking new ways about food? The process by which
this was designed is a big component of the future of food. That we need to
start thinking really seriously about what the body needs and how food is
produced. Until now, we just thought about what the body needs and we just combed
the earth to put this stuff in here. Now you’ve got this but I used 10 acres
of land, 3 cows, 4 quarts of milk, whatever and you got the full, would you say,
the vertical integration of the production of this in mind.
– Exactly
– You think that’s the future? Absolutely. Eventually, I’d like to get to
the point, and I’m focusing on protein right now, to produce everything with
single-celled organisms. Calories come from from the sun at some point. Plants
take the sun’s energy, then if you feed those plants to an animal, then you get
the energy that ends up in its meat or fat. – Right a cow is just a machine
to turn sunlight into steak. That’s the only point of a cow. But a lot of energy is
lost along the way. So the more directly you can extract
that energy from the sun, the better. Is this one meal or one whole day’s
worth of..
– We’re not quite there yet – Eventually we’d like to get to a pill
– There’s a limit to how many calories you can cram in a certain volume of the
space-time continuum. There is, but maybe if we had some sort of radioactive
isotope that in an engineered strain of gut bacteria to extract the energy from
that and then that therein synthesizes the carbohydrate and fat and protein
that you need. So you’re actually thinking about this? Oh absolutely. So we would
since we currently and we evolved to be 100% chemical energy-driven, in this
model, part of us would be tapping nuclear energy. It’s certainly possible.
Maybe you wouldn’t even need to swallow the pill. You could fit enough energy in
a tiny seed that maybe you could implant the isotope and then the bacteria could
feed off of that for a century. Presumably, you wouldn’t otherwise get
cancer from it? You could shield it. Holding aside that minor complication —
you’re dead from cancer in a week but you’re otherwise really healthy.
– And you’re very well fed. I imagine a day, as long as we’re making stuff up here, where we
understand the genome of every species. Recognize the commonality among us all
and figure out a way to turn some patches of our skin into photosynthetic
surfaces. If you had an ideal surface on your skin to absorb sunlight, it should
be completely black and somewhere under there you put in
– Well, I guess you’d need a few
photosensitive proteins like you have blue-green algae which not just uses the
chlorophyll but also phycocyanin. I didn’t know that. OK. They had
their run of Earth 4 billion years ago. Still going strong. Not what they used to be. They used to be in charge. They gave us all our
oxygen. We are not the biggest changers of the Earth’s climate.
Those bacteria were. Another thing, speaking of the genome, is
that you could, in theory we could synthesize our own vitamins. How come we can’t grow limbs
but newts can? And and why do we need some amino acids we can’t make? Or we can’t digest cellulose and most of the plant life in the world is
cellulose. Yeah you can either have cellulitic gut bacteria… Then we’d have way more methane flatulence… And then cook it on your stove.
(Laughs) The future of food! You got the whole, the whole closed loop. Well it sounds like you have just the right kind of
background to think that creatively. If you had only a pure biology background
maybe you wouldn’t have come to some of these revelations.
– Maybe not. The engineer thinks about a problem
and how to solve it. And I think a great engineer or a
scientist sees that the boundaries between the fields are not absolute. Right and you just cross them over whenever you need to. Yeah, that chemical energy, electrical energy. – Just energy
– It’s the same. So what’s next? You just gonna keep growing the company. Be a zillionaire and then help the UN? Absolutely. We can help feed
the world and in time I think we’ll invest in science and technology,
vertically integrate food production such that you can have an at-home
bioreactor that will print nutritious food directly from
sunlight, air, and water. At-home bioreactor?! Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. You gotta drop an octave. Like George Takei. “Oh my.” Oh, yeah. Yeah! (Laughs) So that’s fascinating. The future of food.
$2 — under $3. That’s a little over $3. This is
under $3. You’re out of control. Best is yet to come.

99 Comments

  1. soylent is not worth 100million… this is elite programming. That company is not worth $10 from the look on everyones face when they try it.

  2. Excuse Me???? Nutritional deficiencies are no where near gone. Check in with WHO. Iron deficiency, Iodine deficiency B1 deficiency B12 deficiency in the developed world!!! Why don't you tell us about Gannymede. Why don't you look at our blue-green algae? Soy is grossly genetically modified. Stay away from soy and corn GMO. Oh he mentions the blue green algae…interesting. Widows peaks, aquiline nose, no visible nares and sidling who?

  3. How is this revolutionary? It's a multivitamin mixed with soymilk. spoiler, you can't live on this. This is a scam all about money, this guy does not give a shit about starving children

  4. I don't think you can just dump raw molecules into you body and expect them to flawlessly be absorbed and utilized without any negative impact. The human body adapted itself to gear its digestion towards chemical energy that is available in nature. We should at least look into how the digestive system fully works rather than just going in with the mentality of supplementing molecule for molecule. Ps. I've seen this dude for many years, he looks mad unhealthy in this video. Not sure if the soylent is causing it or his lifestyle, but im no doctor. He looks to be having thyroid problems just by seeing his neck.

  5. This product is great but I think it's sad to think of a future where there's no enjoyment in food because all it is is a pill. The social impact on friends and family would be too much

  6. Why do we (people) try to change what God gave us.  He created us and this planet perfectly to utilize and do we do?  We tell God, His created isn't good enough or loving enough.  We (people) can do or make it better.  REALLY?

  7. Terrible! not scientific at all. you go drink yourself for your life. Out gut cant absorb much synthetic minerals but must be biotics form.
    How ridiculous saying about revolutionary and future buzz words without science.

  8. I call BS on this. How is this different(or better) than other meal replacement drinks(like slimfast)? I have a hard time believing this is NOT just a very successful rebranding of something that already exists.

  9. These guys now often hang out with a beer they are willing to fight for in some back yard talking about crazy science shit

  10. Soylent is named after the food of the future from the movie "Soylent Green". Soylent Green was made from dead people! Now, I'm not saying Soylent is made from people too, that would be daft but it makes you think: did Rob Rhinehart actually watch the movie? If he did surely he would not have picked the name… unless this product is just a joke! 😀

  11. Funny how the most money and power magnetises to creatures who promote for profit the murder of generations and recycle dismembered aborted foetuses for profit which they then sell on to FOOD manufacturers. Cannibalism is the name of this game. Just look at these smug thugs.

  12. I don't eat for days and I'm very self destructive in my habits. I don't think we know very much about what we can or cannot eat, or how long we can live without conventional meals . I have researched nutrition and vitamins etc it's all pretty confusing . What is the truth as far as what we can survive off? What is or isn't good to eat or drink? There's so much confusion and at the same time so much junk food in every supermarket on the planet. So it's good that he's at least attempting to address this. I'm sure we can live off far less than we think, I just hope that this product gets offered to people as a supplement to people who can't afford to eat meals , rather than the rich who want it as an alternative to meals, there's a lot of people who could benefit from it if it is what he's saying it is.

  13. it was never fully realized. it should be sent to famished countries as it is cheap as chips, not drinker by techbros

  14. Are these people are interested in a spokesperson I am literally the prettiest man anyone will ever see in person of course my channel looks bad cuz my camera is bad red shows up as purple but it would make Soylent look good and Soylent is something I'm interested in switching to

  15. This is so cool! But the issue isn't a shortage of food, it's the lack of access to it within marginalized and oppressed groups. In just America alone, 2/3 of our trash is just food waste. Not only are we consuming absurd levels of resources to grow and deliver our food that will just be sent straight to landfill where it will result in methane gas production (especially if they are not cosmetically appealing), but we are denying underprivileged and exploited people from ever accessing it in the first place. In short, let's think about becoming low waste, sharing our resources equitably, and trying food sharing apps like Olio to prevent wasting the food we already have.

  16. i want soylent with no malto dextrin and with a boost of amino acids and way more protein, also add more multivitamins and minerals and thats perfect

  17. Important reminder: If you want to "switch to" Soylent, no one is forcing you to go full 100%. I personally only replace breakfast and lunch, then eat a normal dinner.
    While this may seem obvious, many critics seem to overlook it.

  18. I remember hearing about Soylent years ago but today and old video was recommended to me and it sparked my curiosity to see what the company has been up to more recently. I was very happy to see that you can now get Soylent in actual flavors AND pre-made (I absolutely HATE mixing and dealing with powders) and went ahead and placed and order to try it for myself.

  19. I found some at Walmart finally of all places. I bought strawberry, coffee vanilla and chocolate. Strawberry tasted like pepto cough syrup…..the vanilla was meh and the chocolate was very good.

  20. How do we know they're nerds? Because they went from a serious conversation about the future of food, to comic book shit.

  21. This is just fantastic.   I want to try some of this.   If it is nutritionally good for me, I think I will replace a number of my meals with this.   That way, when I make myself a home-cooked meal I think it will taste even better.

  22. It has the taste and consistency of ensure, you know. The stuff for cancer patients. Well maybe it’s our society that is terminal.

  23. "A cow is just a machine that converts sunlight into steak." – Neal DeGrasse Tyson. This should be the motto for the Impossible Burger.

  24. What a cool, wonderful human being you are Mr. Tyson…a pleasure, seeing and hearing you talk. Greets from boring Germany, from a German creative. best, yours Erik

  25. Watch the movie called Soylent Green

    Soylent Green is a 1973 American dystopian thriller film directed by Richard Fleischer and starring Charlton Heston and Leigh Taylor-Young. Edward G. Robinson appears in his final film. Loosely based on the 1966 science fiction novel Make Room! Make Room! by Harry Harrison, it combines both police procedural and science fiction genres: the investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman; and a dystopian future of dying oceans and year-round humidity due to the greenhouse effect, resulting in suffering from pollution, poverty, overpopulation, euthanasia and depleted resources.

  26. This is NOT the future of food. You need to chew and eat REAL food. If you don’t chew enough and use jaw muscles, you will grow a weak and underdeveloped jaw, which makes the entire face unattractive and can have major health consequences like obstructed airways and crooked teeth.
    I recommend this guy should avoid the shakes from now on and get on a Hunter-gatherer type diet ASAP. Maybe the product has potential for emergency situations, but consuming by choice because you don’t prioritise feeding your body real food is depressing and a pretty sick ‘vision’ for the future.

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