I think Rob Rhinehart is trying to turn himself into some sort of creepy nerd messiah. Today he posted a giant essay to promote the release of Soylent 2.0, the next version of his sperm-esque food replacement drink. It was all about how he’s given up alternating current so he can get ready for his life as a space cyborg.
Rhinehart has all the hallmarks of a future cult leader. First of all, he’s marketing a pseudoscientific bullshit product, Soylent, which promises to liberate your nerd mind from its analog meatsack. Though actual nutritionists say replacing your food with Soylent is a bad idea, why should you trust them? Rhinehart, an electrical engineer, knows better. If you just drink Soylent, you no longer need to do icky physical things like eat solid food and store rotting items in your house. (Yes, he actually refers to food as “rotting ingredients,” which is not exactly a good sign from a dude trying to sell you things to eat.)
But now Rhinehart has taken it to the next level. He isn’t just trying to sell you on a dubious product from science fiction. Now he’s discovered that the road to enlightenment is slick with Soylent. In today’s manifesto, he’ll sell you on a whole new way of life. Inject your fingers with magnets so you can feel electrical current. Then give up on dirty, dirty alternating current, which uses up so much energy. Use a butane “space stove” to heat water for your coffee. Ride in Ubers to cut down on emissions (that is, if you can’t ride “robot horse cheetahs, or drone multicopters.”) Get your clothing custom-made in China, and stop doing laundry. Drink Soylent warm so you don’t need a fridge.
It’s a little bit Scientology, and a little bit 4-Hour Work Week. There are cleansing products somehow related to outer space, and there is outsourcing of manual labor. Rhinehart calls it “opulence in asceticism.” And it’s all based on what every successful cult has as its foundation: a deeply-felt wish to make the world better, coupled with an equally fervent desire to be completely superior to everyone else. Just follow Rhinehart’s instructions, and you can be cleaner, smarter, and more special. Even better: you’ll be closer to the future, just the way hermit monks were once closer to their gods.
Writes Rhinehart in his cult manifesto:
The first space colonies will have no coal power plants. I am ready. For now though, as I am driven through the gleaming city, my hunger peacefully at bay, I have visions of the parking lots and grocery stores replaced by parks and community centers, power plants retrofitted as museums and galleries. Traffic and trash and pollution will evaporate, if only we are willing to adopt some routines.
This futuristic vision, this desire for a better world where we are “driven through the gleaming city,” rests on a completely fake premise. Pollution will never “evaporate” if we “adopt some routines.” You can’t fix political conflict and economic imbalances and runaway climate change by taking Uber and drinking Soylent. Just like you can’t replace food with a disgusting supplement.
But it’s so tempting to believe that Rhinehart has all the answers — because if he has them, then you do too. After all, cults and brands share one thing in common: they sell you products by appealing to a belief in your own potential superiority. You could optimize yourself. And live in a better world. If only you’d adopt some routines. And buy Soylent 2.0.