Future Burger and Nicer World

Steven Pinker, author of the wonderfully counter-intuitive book on the decline of violence The Better Angels of Our Nature had this to say a while back on the subject of the evolving relationship between human beings and animals:
In sixteenth-century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted in a sling on a stage and slowly lowered into a fire. According to historian Norman Davies, "[T]he spectators, including kings and queens, shrieked with laughter as the animals, howling with pain, were singed, roasted, and finally carbonized." Today, such sadism would be unthinkable in most of the world. 
If you could go back in time and attend such an entertainment -- actually, let's calibrate our time machine so that we get there right after it ends; we don't want to see that. Okay, better idea: let's go back and stop one of those from happening. Assuming that we don't cause some huge disruption in human history in the process (or some universe-ending paradox) it would be interesting to have a chat with a few of the spectators whose fun we have just spoiled.

They would be astonished, no doubt, that someone would make such a big deal deal out of what happens to a cat. They would tell us that we are sentimental, overly fastidious, ridiculous. If we told them that we come from the future and that one day pretty much everybody will think like us, they would scoff.

Which brings us to this story:
World's first lab-grown burger is eaten in London 
The world's first lab-grown burger was cooked and eaten at a news conference in London on Monday. 
Scientists took cells from a cow and, at an institute in the Netherlands, turned them into strips of muscle that they combined to make a patty. 
Researchers say the technology could be a sustainable way of meeting what they say is a growing demand for meat.
It's interesting that BBC news immediately picks up on the environmental aspect of the story rather than the humanitarian one. They've buried the lead: no cows were harmed in the making of this burger!

Much of the discussion surrounding the vat-grown burger has to do with the "yuck factor." I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that since we somehow get past the yuck factor involved in killing animals and consuming their corpses, the yuck factor for vat-grown meat will not be a permanent barrier.

We're still years away from the perfectly marbeled two-inch thick, vat-grown ribeye. When that shows up it will be the beginning of the end for meat as we have known it. We live in a nicer world than the one where they used to set cats on fire for laughs. In the not too distant future, our descendants will live in a nicer world where they no longer kill animals for food.



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