The supermarket is our modern day savannah. We have evolved from an environment where our food had to be gathered and our game hunted. Today, we forage for our food on supermarket shelves, collecting our fruits and vegetables in a plastic basket. Much has changed, our food supplies seem abundant, but our food systems are unsustainable. How might this alter the supermarket of the future? 

Research-driven design and art studio Nonhuman Nonsense are investigating this question in collaboration with artificial intelligence. A project whose name at the time of writing has not yet been decided (they are in discussion with said AI over what that name may be.) Initially, the AI Supermarket, and at the time of publishing; AI-Bert's Fresh Place: Personalized Solutions for Life on a Damaged Planet. This project will participate at Dutch Design Week as part of the Embassy of Food, where we speculate on the supermarket in 2050. 

The supermarket as a place of community, whilst simultaneously being a place where all of the world's relations are captured.

Within this supermarket, AI is curator of the aisles. All human cashiers are replaced by automated intelligence. The ads on the wall, the packages on products, the voice of the checkout. Both colleague and employer, security and cleaner. Even the products on the shelf are generated, like the Pickle Pepsi for only 5.99 today. In creating these products, Leo notes the AI ‘speaks in a super commercial language, with slogans and logos. Which is a reflection of our consumption habits at the moment.’ In this automated overhaul, Nonhuman Nonsense investigates the role of the supermarket and how AI might alter what is found on the aisles. 

“AI-Bert, an artificial intelligence that co-founded a supermarket chain”.

Initially, Nonhuman Nonsense imagined handing over control directly to the AI, in order to make better decisions than humans about our food. Yet, the AI is a hyper creative being, ‘that suffers no writer's blocks, but continues to create.’ So throughout their research, the creation of the supermarket has evolved in the conversation between both human and machine. Instead of the AI taking over, Nonhuman Nonsense will co create with the intelligence. The AI has even helped to reformulate their research question; exploring not only the supermarket of the future but also asking, how to find personalized solutions for life on a damaged planet? See the Rice Commuter below, a speculative device created in collaboration with the AI that imagines a future where food can be transported in a way that reduces carbon footprint (by teleportation none the less).

The Rice Commuter

At AI-Bert's Fresh Place, within the Embassy of Food, the visitor will be able to engage in conversation with the AI. Like the chit chat one might have in the past with a human cashier. Why? Well, Nonhuman Nonsense recognizes ‘the supermarket as a place of community, whilst simultaneously being a place where all of the world's relations are captured, and the history of those structures.’ The project recognizes how the ‘highly controlled agriculture environments we have created are recorded in the supermarket somehow’ which is an ongoing point of discussion. The visitor will be able to explore this with the AI, about their food choices and their economical and social impact. With the AI even stating, 'what you buy is your vote.’

The Fresh Place poster

AI-Bert's Fresh Place will open up a dialogue on how these systems can be better understood and therefore addressed in the future. The project seeks to find a balance between personal consumer habits, to the responsibility of the wider food structures set in place. A playful critique of a system of hunting and gathering that is not sustainable. Avocados from the Americas. Strawberries in winter. Nonhuman Nonsense addresses this commodification of nature in our indoor sheltered savannah.

We love the unique and peculiar way in which Leo, Linnea and Filip's view the world. They question the status quo and design speculative futures based on a lot of humor and creative, iterative research. We asked them to formulate a thought-provoking vision of what they think the physical supermarket will look like in 30 years time. Precisely because they dare to think big and question the entire relationship between humans - animals - ecology and objects. We think the all-encompassing challenge fits them perfectly, rather than a specific part within the supermarket of the future. - Embassy of Food.

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