Big data has been hellbent on revolutionizing every industry from fashion to exercise to automobile construction, and now it's turned its beady digital eye to cooking! Researchers at IBM have created a program that can generate creative, entirely new recipes by way of an algorithm and a massive database of recipes and gastronomic information.
Pick a key ingredient, choose the type of cuisine you want to cook (Mexican, Indian, Chinese, etc.) and the type of dish (quiche, casserole, salad, etc.), then watch as it invents an entirely novel recipe that challenges traditional food pairings.
The cognitive capabilities of the program result from a combination of algorithms that accurately mimic creativity when designing a recipe. First, a genetic algorithm mutates and hybridizes food types, pairings, and processes in accordance with the food pairing principle, which dictates that foods sharing a common flavor molecule pair well together. Then the recipe optimizes the Bayesian Surprisal, a mathematical tools that quantifies the element of surprise. It dictates that a greater element of surprise can be achieved by maximizing the contrast between existing beliefs about food combinations and the beliefs introduced by the new recipe.
There's no doubt that the ability to generate countless recipes that are mathematically GUARANTEED to taste good will reform the food development industry. Schools will also certainly benefit. It’s always been a challenge to find foods that are nutritious but also satisfy the taste buds, and this program will allow schools to do just that in an efficient, cost-effective manner.
However, the societal implications of this program are harrowing indeed. Food and cooking are integral aspects of our culture and have been based off of creativity, inspiration, and ancestry for as long as humans have existed. We still safeguard recipes that have been passed down for generations, a reminder of our history and a way to remember our roots. If we allow computers to take over such a crucial part of our cultural identity, then we will essentially be relegating ourselves to a computer culture.
We must understand that there's a fine line between developments that make our lives better and those that could potentially lead us down a slippery slope toward technological over-dependence. A recipe-generating program may seem innocent enough, but in reality it's the development of computational creativity on the quest to create cognitive systems that is mildly unnerving.
And with that, dear readers, I wish you a wonderful week and a good night's sleep!