3/100: We Are Not Robots
Andaza, Automation, Food
I’ve written about cooking before and I believe that making food is an incredibly entrepreneurial endeavor. If you haven’t read that little piece, to recap: both my parents are excellent cooks and my Dad was a chef upon arriving to Canada from India.
When it came time for me to fend for myself in the kitchen during college, I’d ask for recipes of my favorite Indian dishes from my parents. In my mind, a recipe was a precise formula of what was needed to make a dish magical. With a recipe - you could create the exact dish you wanted. However, in Indian home cooking - recipes in this sense were not common. The formulation of a dish was a fluid, trial and error process, not fixed in any one way. As I was learning to cook and craving the dishes of my childhood, this was hard for me to grasp.
“What do you mean there is no recipe!?” I’d ask.
“Sometimes, you just know. Use your eye and improvise as you go.”
Interestingly, there was a word in the Hindi/Urdu language to describe this sixth sense of knowing exactly how much of a spice to put, or how much chicken is needed, or the perfect ratio of onions to tomatoes. The word was: “andaza”
Part of me feels that this concept, and more-so the skill of human Andaza is being lost.
This past week while browsing through one of my favorite publications, RestofWorld which publishes tech stories from across the globe, I stumbled upon a great article that sat at the intersection of all this andaza, cooking, and tech:
The article examines the explosion of automated ghost kitchens in India. This was most notably due to the fact that the pandemic left many urban restaurant workers with no choice but to return to their home villages and the simultaneous increase in demand for food delivery during lockdown. Automation served a need and solved a problem.
Automation tech is quite beautiful. It provides the opportunity to free ourselves from certain activities and indulge in potentially more meaningful ones. However, as I notice the proliferation of automation in some unique arts - such as the cooking of my beloved biryani, I can’t help but ask the question: will the human ability of andaza die?
At the other end, it is worth noting that the gap between what humans can do and what robots can do is slowly shrinking. As an investor, I see this as an incredible opportunity in the world’s manufacturing, food, health, and agritech spaces. There are most certainly realms of the industrial/tech world which will benefit from computers being able to mimic humans - but as this process is unfolding, there is a reciprocal point of view that I see manifesting, which can be quite damaging to human consciousness: human’s are simultaneously trying to become like computers.
I encountered this dilemma as I embarked on this 100 day challenge, which I started just one day before flying to New York, and then back to London. In between, I maintained my commitment I had to writing, doing so when I could on my phone or a loose piece of paper. In the end though, I was unable to sit and curate my nice thematic pictures and click publish on Substack. I felt the pressure that I wasn’t honoring my commitment, at least in public.
“Will my readers think I gave up on the 100 day journey just 2 days in?”
In reality - no. At least I hope not.
Similar to the dishes with no recipes, we humans must rely on having andaza - the expert taste and intuition of when to improvise, when to push forth with systematic commitment and deadlines - and when to be easy.
All this to say…
We are not robots.
That is Day 3, let me know your thoughts and drop a like if any of this resonated.
Random Cooking article on Andaza from 2017 via Sumayya Usmani
A lifetime of Systems Thinking via Russell Ackoff
Video: Biryani Making Robot