If you had replicator technology, would you still cook? (and other replicator oddities)

Discussion in 'Trek Tech' started by retroenzo, Aug 19, 2016.

  1. retroenzo

    retroenzo Commander Red Shirt

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    My understanding of a replicator is that it creates exactly the same meal for you every time you order it. Exactly the same ingredients in exactly the same ratios, cooked exactly the same way.

    I appreciate that sometimes you'd want the quick option, like we'd use microwaves and ready meals now. But for special occasions, like Christmas, etc, would you want to prepare and cook a meal yourself? Sisko's been seen to prepare his own food, but that could be because of his father's career.

    Also, in the case of DS9, if everyone has access to a replicator, then why buy food or drink at Quark's or even the replimat? The social aspect? Or do replicators only prepare meals that are pre-programmed into that particular replicator? Or is Quark's replicator the only one that prepares alcoholic drinks?
     
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  2. TonyaLang_SB118

    TonyaLang_SB118 Lieutenant Junior Grade Red Shirt

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    I'd most likely compare replicators with microwaves as well, because it's simply much faster and easier than real cooking. But then comes the question: Why are there no microwaves anymore in the 24th century but actual ("oldfashioned") cooking still exists? My explanation to that is cooking isn't just preparing food - it's a social activity and also a form of of experimenting with fruit, vegetables etc. On screen (for me that's mostly Voyager), you can witness that when:
    • Seven prepares food with the holographic Chakotay as their date -> social activity/special occasion
    • Janeway once cooks for her's and Chakotay's weekly dinners -> special occasion
    • Neelix bakes an apple tart for Harry when he's homesick -> non-replicated food as reminder of home
    • everyone's delighted to have Hydroponics so they (or mostly Neelix) can eat/cook real food -> cooked food tastes better than replicated food
    And for the drinking in Quark's or any other bar: That's clearly a social activity and I think it will always remain one. I'm not entirely sure whether those drinks are replicated or not but if they're not, that's another reason for why people come to bars. Drinks simply taste better in a bar than replicated at home.

    I think it is possible to pre-program paticular foods in a replicator but there also are certain foods that are always available on every replicator. (At least on starships. It's hard to say what it's like on the planets, because we don't see much of that in Star Trek, but I'm sure it's at least similar to that.)

    And no, you can replicate alcoholic drinks everywhere. At least everywhere on Federation starships which means it's probably the same on DS9.
     
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  3. retroenzo

    retroenzo Commander Red Shirt

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    I think the use of replicator rationing forced the Voyager crew to make food though.
    There are episodes where Quark's usage of a replicator is shown. Rom repaired them once or twice and I remember a harassed O'Brien getting called to Quark's to fix his replicator in another episode.
     
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  4. Tosk

    Tosk Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Quark also mixed drinks from a bottle, so he's not a replicator-only kind of guy.

    I don't recall ever seeing anyone pay at the Replimat, but maybe that was just officers? Can't remember.
     
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  5. Tirius

    Tirius Captain Captain

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    It's also possible that replicators, like today's microwaves, come in varying degrees of quality. Perhaps the replicators in personnel quarters are very basic and incapable of creating more complex patterns, while Quark could have a more sophisticated one. I also suspect that the writers at least intended for some foodstuffs to be unreplicable - why else would people treasure age-old bottles of booze if a replicator could simply scan one and make a limitless number of copies.
     
  6. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    This would certainly be an option. However, it should be trivially easy to have a subtly different meal every day, too. And you could choose between letting the computer "randomize" the meal for you; ordering a "customized" series of subtly different dishes for the next two centuries from a high-end cook (or cooking program), and never mind that you'd just be fooling yourself if thinking you can really appreciate the difference; or simply getting new recipes every day from the social media, automatically and infinitely (as there's be about a trillion people with too much time in their hands).

    Probably not. Rather, even if I had culinarism as a hobby, I'd order something I could never hope to cook myself, not even if I were the most skilled cook who ever lived - because the replicator can do impossible dishes, too.

    People who have cooking as their hobby instead might also be eager to use the replicator for the impossible ingredients in their works of art.

    Then there would be people who don't use replicators, as a thing. But that might be an expensive choice to make. Or then not.

    I'd rather think it's the complete freedom of replication (freedom from effort, freedom from cost, even freedom from having to choose) that makes people use them so freely - including freely letting them go unused. There's no investment to be made in obtaining a replicated meal, no nagging guilt of "I bought this fine machine in order to save money/save time/make better meals, and now I'm eating out anyway".

    A free lunch is a thing you can afford to skip. Although I don't think the Replimat charges anything for the meals. Quark might (although it might drive him out of business - free drinks and foods might be essential in luring in customers for the pursuits that do have a price tag attached), but then again, you can always replicate more money...

    Or, rather, the fact that the replicators were broken forced the crew to agree to rationing and to Neelix' home cooking.

    I doubt anything could even theoretically be unreplicable as such - that goes against the fictional principle on which the device works. But there certainly are different replicators for different needs. Remember how "Data's Day" had a special replicator gift shop where our heroes obtained wedding gifts for the O'Briens? Why not do that with the replicators in their cabins? It's not even as if the shop had clerks who would advise you on what to replicate!

    What would dictate the performance of a replicator is difficult to determine. Is it cheaper for Starfleet to have a separate "high end" replicator for the shop and "low end" food replicators for the thousands of cabins? In terms of how much it costs to make or maintain the different machines, that is. Or is there a social function to artificially limiting the performance of certain machines? A security function? An economic one?

    There might well be a reason to put limiters in food replicators so that they can't produce truly tasty food. Somehow I don't see the UFP going for that reason, though.

    Timo Saloniemi
     
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  7. OtherGene

    OtherGene Captain Captain

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    Ol' Ben Sisko was a hell of a cook and whilst his old man was against using replicators I'm sure Ben would've needed to replicate at least some of the ingredients for his creole recipes due to the lack of shrimp (to name but one) on DS9.

    I bloody miss that show.
     
  8. Spot261

    Spot261 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    I have a shop two minutes walk from my house, where I can buy vegetables and eggs. Its cheap, convenient, the products are presented cleanly, typically well within their useable, safe life span and the stock is rarely anything but complete.

    I often do exactly that, but I also grow vegetables and keep hens for eggs. I'm convinced my own taste better but it may be psychosomatic. I enjoy growing them, I enjoy watching my chucks grow and looking after them, I enjoy the end results all the more because I know where they came from.

    People will often forego the easy option in favour of the personal touch precisely for that reason and no other, it's personal. The meal will be enjoyable exactly because they cooked it themselves, they put in the effort, learnt to prepare the products, to time and judge the cooking process to their own tastes. They might well do that even if that means imperfections in the recipe, human errors, etc when compared to a clinically perfect meal for no other reason than the joy of doing so.
     
  9. psCargile

    psCargile Commander Red Shirt

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    If the matter is coming from my septic tank, I'm not using a food replicator.

    Obviously, the matter has to come from somewhere. Are they beaming cows into matter streams and reassembling them into meat slushies? Or are they generating complex molecules from quark/gluon plasma? Why not add nutrients to your matter stream when you use the transporter? Or take away waste while they are at it.
     
  10. C.E. Evans

    C.E. Evans Admiral Admiral

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    I think with pretty much everything, there are pros and cons to the replicator. Yeah, you can have almost any food or drink within a matter of seconds at the push of the button, but not everything will come out to your liking if you have certain tastes. Even if it's reproduced bit-by-bit like a handmade dish, there will still be some kind of variance that your taste buds may pick up on--just like how two different cooks making the same dish and following the same recipe can still produce two slightly different tasting dishes somehow. In that regard, a replicator is a fast order cook that follows a particular taught guideline when making meals and only deviates from it on demand.

    But I've always likened replicated food to the difference between fresh and frozen. Most of the time, you can't tell the difference, but with some foods you can, especially if you're even remotely a connoisseur.
     
  11. Shikarnov

    Shikarnov Rear Admiral Premium Member

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    I'm sure there is a reason, and I'm sure it probably has to do with fitness. Grilling a steak in a pad of butter might make for a tasty sear, but I'm sure it's somewhat incompatible with healthy officers. Perhaps the health requirements of replicated meals only enable the technology to get close without ever truly replicating the meal exactly. Perhaps food replicators should have been called approximators.

    That overall health idea might even extend to the population outside Starfleet. In today's world, we see high taxes to deter consumption of particular products, and even outright bans in some cases. It might very well be that, by the 24th century, they have imposed such measures against fats and excess salts and other ingredients proven to be harmful -- at least as a function of simple food replication.

    I don't think that's exactly the case. We've seen instances in which people were able to order variances in flavor. Chief O'Brien ordering his coffee "black, double sweet" comes particularly to mind. But it does show that there isn't a single "coffee" recipe available. And I imagine that, if the Chief wanted it even sweeter, he could probably have instructed the computer to continue making it sweeter until it was to his liking -- and then save it as "Coffee - O'Brien's Night Shift Recipe."

    I think that's probably a matter of quality. The truth is that sometimes cooking -- especially with or for guests -- can be an epic pain. As for me, assuming the replicator was capable of doing a good job, I would use it every day for every meal. I would never cook again. And I really mean it: never. I would much prefer to relax and visit with my family/guests and enjoy having company. I'd be very happy to let the computer do the work.

    Perhaps all of the above. I particularly like the theory presented above that Quark's replication somehow produces food of a higher caliber -- perhaps due to some technological reason, or perhaps due to being unencumbered by Federation restrictions. And the social aspect is probably a big deal also.
     
  12. Laura Cynthia Chambers

    Laura Cynthia Chambers Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Cooking is an art form and some of the pleasure comes in adding the personal touches yourself. It's why painting and sculpting still survive into the 24th century instead of asking the replicator to produce an image of your family in post-modernist style.
     
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  13. UssGlenn

    UssGlenn Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Indeed, given the complex compounds that are created during the cooking process I bet coking with replicated ingredients comes damn close to the real thing.
     
  14. Tomalak

    Tomalak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Did we ever see anyone pay for replicated food or drink at Quarks, or at least Starfleet officers? I'm sure it's mentioned somewhere that Sisko doesn't charge Quark for rent or power, and he doesn't charge Starfleet crew for basic food and drink.

    The genuine bottled stuff might be different though. I got the impression Quark made his money on the gambling and brothels, er, "Holosuites".

    The Replimat is obviously a no-frills place to get basic sustenance, but it's not terrible exciting. What does Quark say to Odo? "You want quiet, go to the Replimat - this is Quarks!"

    It may well be that even passing aliens aren't charged anything for replicator usage. Each ship might pay Bajor a docking fee, but the basic facilities seem free to use.
     
  15. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Oh hell no, I wouldn't cook. I hate cooking - I'm lazy, all I want to do is eat. A replicator would be perfect for guys like me. :lol:
     
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  16. -SS-

    -SS- Lieutenant Commander Red Shirt

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    ^ Same. I don't cook as it is. At least with a replicator I could eat healthier than I do now.

    But I totally get why people would still cook, same reason people keep any old-fashioned trade or hobby alive. People enjoy the process itself and the journey can make the destination so much more gratifying.
     
  17. publiusr

    publiusr Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Outside of the microwave--I don't cook NOW
     
  18. retroenzo

    retroenzo Commander Red Shirt

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    That would account for all the Starfleet officers, but what about passing trade? We are talking about Quark at the end of the day. He'd sell his own Moogie if it made a profit. I can't see him giving away anything for free.
     
  19. Timo

    Timo Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    In contrast, Sisko would have every incentive to provide free meals for everybody, to show how things are done in the Federation. It's not as if he would be any worse off for it: replicators supposedly chiefly run on power and maintenance, and he has plenty of the former from the now-idle refining machinery, and an exceptionally high quality of the latter from Fleet experts.

    How could Quark compete? By advertising "I give you ambience at three credits per peanut bag"? Or by providing the same free food so that the customers at least don't go away, and then charging on what Sisko doesn't provide, namely holosuite thrills and gambling? It would be a difficult tightrope act to charge for drinks, no matter how exotic, when replicators do provide free beverages as a thing. But we do know that Dax bought a holoprogram from Quark's with hard cash, and that Quark offered "free" use of the holosuites to placate dissatisfied customers every now and then (although this might well hae been an empty gesture, knowing our sneaky little barkeep).

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  20. Tomalak

    Tomalak Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Quite, in a world of replicators, who would pay for food? Perhaps he charges for "organic" imported food and drinks, but obviously his main business is gambling and brothels.