In September Deliveroo raised $385m at a $2bn valuation. The morning of Codefiers 002 (17/11/17) at the once again lovely citizenM with its magnificent Thames views out in full morning sunshine, financial daily City Am pronounced on its front page that Deliveroo was now the UK's most valuable tech company. This presented the perfect segway to the recent Deliveroo claim that it has as one of its objective to make 'Cooking a hobby.'
A company that is less than 5 years old is bold and now financially emboldened enough to aim to reduce cooking to a mere pastime. Could an activity which is hardwired into our cultural, social and biological make up. Shaped and formed by time honoured ritual and custom, preparing and cook food for oneself, one's family and friends become a lifestyle choice and hobby? We had seen and examined this before in Codefiers 001 with Airbnb's equally bold pronouncement that if you've stayed someone in someone's home in a city for just one night you've 'lived there'. Indeed part of Codefiers raison d'etre was to provide some push back to the Kool Aid marketing gonzospeak that has allowed the platforms that have used codification to creep into every aspect of lives without us first questioning their validity, value or underlying values.
Before we spit out our collective sunday roast, grab our forks and dismiss this out of hand, let’s examine the context. Is it so absurd if you have never grown up with the family rituals of eating together and you now live in shared accommodation with 4-5 people and no dining table or area, to think that cooking could become a hobby? Is the idea of living somewhere for a night different if you’re empowered, via Airbnb, to create global network of people that you can maintain via social networks after the event and therefore can return to and 'live in' again over the years? Powered by algorithms that you can fire up and utilise whenever you want as opposed to travelling.
Is Deliveroo even a delivery business? Perhaps the real game and what's underpinning their superhigh valuation, is that they are acquiring order-by-order granular information on the local food patterns. This in turn de-risks start up costs of starting a new food venture - from location, to supply chain and staffing levels and finally could make our eventual local neighbourhoods more culinary diverse, entrepreneurial and successful. It’s possible.
Core to the nature of being a 'Codefier', is that this isn't a binary argument. Indeed it is the binary nature of Codification, reducing people to mere ‘users’, that seems to be the source of a lot of the dissonance and disfunction and the 'blandification' of risk and outliers. This disguises a key underlying reality that deeper human experience is still linked to being able to engage 1:1 with the source of the things you deeply care about and value. To bring this literally to life we need to thank Meredith Whitely from Food At Heart who helped us start the event with a 'chocolate meditation'. With 2 tiny squares of chocolate Meredith was able to open us up to the need for pause before we eat and in doing so reveal the possibility of our own palettes. This highlighted, that when we do not respect the food we eat, we literally reduce the return and richness it can offer us. When we wipe clean ritual and community from our eating practice we nullify the social and custom functions of food. When our food source is an app and a helmet wearing biker we lose the ability to access the journey of our food outside its GPS progress. These are the trade-offs that again Codefiers 002 brought to the fore.
It was then up to Nick Francis of Speak It films to scare the bejeezus out of us by introducing us to ideas behind, implicit and explicit in Netflix data, the first AI trailer and short film, Adobe's VoCo and Synthetic Obama. Essentially this means that with 10's of minutes of capturing audio or video of any person, you can now manipulate the visuals and sound to make that person say what you like...so it looks real. All of which adds up to a world where we'll be nostalgically longing for the days of 'Fake News' as an age where we could trust what we heard! As Nick said, in an age of 'connectivity' we've never been more disconnected to everything including perhaps now the very notion of what is 'true'. Of course every edit or editorial decision was a choice and even a sleight of hand that reinforced a constructed worldview but if there is no cost or integrity to constructing that view and its all concocted out at whim does this fundamentally shake what we can rely on, share and orientate around?
What is the role of the chef or journalist in these scenarios above? Do the people that we 'trust' actually increase in value? Do we 'blandify' (the word of the event!) out the human anomalies that push change, enable risks and have traditionally provided diversity, progress and colour. As Simon King from JLA said in an observation post the first Codefiers event 001, the problem with 20th Century economics was that in order to 'predict' economic activity, it relied on the cornerstone idea that 'man' was 'Homo Economicus' a rational economic agent. This was always problematic and flawed because human irrationality always crept in throwing modeling and predictions out the window. However perhaps what we're seeing through codification, algorithms and ai etc. is that Home Economicus can now be made ever more 'predictable' and behaviours more pliable and that this is a much more efficient way of organising capital. Indeed from this logic and in this world, cooking can become a hobby, ex-Presidents can be simulated and you have probably lived in 20 odd countries. Who knew so much could be overturned in such a short trajectory and that time honoured notions, traditions, patterns, rituals and customs, the ‘stickiness’ indeed that is the very fabric of life, that has stood the test of time, might not stand the imminent force of Deliveroo's promised stock price. Such is the pervasive impact of the new data tastemakers.