My New Problem

My brain is now spending precious processing cycles trying to plot out a story in which humanity is enslaved by intelligent cups of yogurt.

I did this to myself. I have no one else to blame.

66 Comments on “My New Problem”

  1. So…

    The singularity arrives through food companies adding nanotechnology to their products to give things a better mouthfeel. Yep, I can go with that.

  2. Just think, you could probably sell e-copies of such a story and donate the proceeds to a worthy charity.

  3. I would suggest the highly related story in Narbonic: (written as fan-fic, though made semi-official by being illustrated by the comic’s author) A Brief Moment Of Culture which begins here in the archives and continues every so often.

  4. Plain or fruit? Nonfat, low fat or regular? Greek or not? Come on Scalzi, details matter!!!

  5. Actually “The Stuff” was about frozen yogurt that I don’t think was intelligent

  6. The twist, of course, is that the yogurt has never been intelligent. It has always been only the cups.

  7. I triple-dog-dare you to make it a serious story.

    (Besides, the “culture” joke is too obvious. Then again, this crowd will probably milk it for all it’s worth…)

  8. John @4: true, but I was cynically trying to appeal to your better nature to manipulate you into writing this story. My usual methods of persuasion (which involve reams of paper and terms like “hereinbefore” and “see attached Exhibit F”) are not only ineffectual in this context, but silly.

  9. Objectivist cups of yoghurt.

    Vegan sociopaths, unable to partake of the rich bounty of Tea Party supporters on offer, decide that traditional means of creating yoghurt are inefficient. They go for a free market solution of genetically engineering yoghurts that want to sell themselves as food.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  10. I’ve read several things lately about collective intelligence–how not-very-bright things like ants come to consensus on what to do, so the entire colony acts intelligently and purposefully. So why shouldn’t not-very-bright things like single celled bacteria do the same? I can’t quite figure out how they’d escape from their hermetically sealed pots…

    But waitaminute…maybe cups of yoghurt have ALREADY enslaved us! There’s a lot of dedicated human activity that goes into creating those cups of yoghurt. All the developments of human history were but steps leading to the most efficient reproduction of yoghurt cups…

  11. frozen yogurt?
    is the frozen yogurt a minority?
    and with the human’s help over throws the evil yoplait runny yogurts of the universe?

  12. Easy, take any book about nanotechnology (Michael Crichton’s Prey, for example), and replace the nanobots with Live and Active Cultures.

    What do I win?

  13. Hmmm. There are some similarities between brain structure and yogurt. It’s the plastic pot that keeps them sterile; in older societies, the porous ceramic pots used would have admitted air. Someone wrote a series of stories about rolling creatures, but I don’t remember who.

  14. That is the funniest thing that I’ve read in the last 2 weeks. Thank you for the laugh.

  15. OK, so the yogurt has socialist, even communist, tendencies. A ribeye steak (from Galt Meat Packers Inc.) leads the other meat and meat byproducts in a protest and they refuse to participate in the food chain. Society collapses as everyone turns into skinny, pasty-faced vegans, incapable of doing any kind of strenuous work.

  16. “Someone wrote a series of stories about rolling creatures, but I don’t remember who.”

    piers anthony in the cluster series had rolling creatures and semi-liquid type …

  17. “Hey Danny-yo, hop in the go-gurt and drive over to Stonyfield Farm, will ya? We need some more active culture for these benighted humans!”

  18. I believe Greg Bear basically already did this, positing in at least three books various levels of war between the planet’s hominid and bacterial inhabitants (synopsis: we’re totally screwed).

  19. Oh, good. Now you’ve got that covered I can go back to kicking my characters down the stairs.

  20. Oh man. The comment I want to make is probably bannable.

    Funny, but bannable.


  21. @John,

    One book that fits the bill here (collective intelligence) which I found really entertaining (I have a research biochemistry/microbiology background) was Kevin Bohacz’s “Immortality”. Basically the world has a brain (or supercomputer) that is a bacterial sludge spread across the planet that takes over the world. Considering that yogurt is just bacterial sludge it immediately came to mind.

  22. I was immediately reminded of the movie “The Stuff”. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

    The lactose-intolerant will rise from the ashes sludge of Armageddon to rule in the new order.

  23. @stphbg,

    not really, yogurt is produced by the fermentation of lactose in lactic acid, which gives it the sour taste. Yogurt was one of the first digestive aid methods for people with dairy issues.

  24. Obviously, you need a hierarchy of milk based products.
    Cheese is the real highest power of the food chain. Cheese is aged and wise.
    Yogurt is upper-middle management. Yogurt makes all the real decisions and begrudgingly accepts the wisdom from above while wondering why cheese doesn’t get off its fatty content ass and offer more than platitudes and broad outlines.
    Milk is the real foot soldier in this war. It can seep into the homes of the “meat bags”. Milk is trained to be the suicide warrior. Milk seeps into the house of the meat bag. It mingles with the fresh milk in the fridge and causes the milk purchased yesterday to spoil into the toxic waste that harm the enemy. Milk is reassured in that yogurt has promised milk …something great after such a sacrifice.
    Middle management is happy milk is young and gullible in this martyr role. Real soldier milk could ask questions before spoiling.
    There is your premise. Free for the taking as a short story, novella or, heaven forbid, a novel.
    Did I mention the ill meat bags fart a lot?

  25. Thanks to you I had the exact same problem, then I realised it’s not plural – it’s one giant, super-intelligent cup of yogurt. That made the whole thing much simpler, and I don’t even like yogurt!

  26. Yogurt is mentioned or seen in every episode of Burn Notice on USA; it’s possible the propaganda effort has already begun.

  27. The same thing happened over here in Bogrotavia. The small difference is that the humans tried to enslave the yogurt.

    The whole thing was documented in a pulpoganda piece titled:

    Redz te vranuca ceste Țuțoveasca defilc defalc percețin șarche terestic cu gogoala fruncii întuc ledevrea cucii desfrănca

    (the puns in the title allude to the Impex Mango&Kiwi mercenary operations, just read gogaola instead of gogoala)

    Hope this helps with your research!

  28. John, you’ve written a book that opens with a chapter-long fart joke. Now is you chance to write an entire novel-length fart joke. You finally have the vehicle you need to realize the dream!

    Carpe Diem!

  29. Aren’t you just rehashing the Monty Python Flan skits?

    Are you sure you didn’t fall asleep while watching BBC?

  30. Make sure it is the Dannon Light and Fit Yogurt. I saw a nutritionist who told me that this was the healthiest yogurt.

  31. It would take an immense sense of humor to write this story. I would buy it immediately.

  32. If your intelligent yogurt is Greek yogurt, then it’s probably Platonic…and bankrupt.

  33. See movie: The Stuff (1985).

    There, now you can free your cycles for more important things, like a plot by intelligent bacon.

  34. I’m a little surprised to see so many people mentioning the movie “The Stuff” here. When I saw it in the theater, I think there were only six people there. Including me and the friend who talked me into going. On opening night.

    Maybe more people saw it than I thought. Or else, the few people who did see it had it burned into their abused brains.

  35. This made me think of a goofy news story from the seventies. The dude who did those Secret Life of Plants studies, where he hooked up lie detectors to plants and then made up a bunch of fairy tales?

    Well, he hooked up lie detectors to yogurt, and claimed to detect telepathic communication between cups of yogurt.

    When I read about this as a child, it was in the Esquire Magazine Dubious Achievement awards under the heading, “Prune to boysenberry. Prune to boysenberry. Do you read me?”

  36. Well, since we seem to have been ruled by non-intelligent yoguhrt(-heads) for the last 15-20 presidential elections… this could make for a good change.

  37. I would have titled this ‘My New “Problem”‘.

    If my life allowed me to write short fiction about superintelligent snack food, I would be sacrificing things to the gods on a regular basis.

  38. Actually… choosing to follow the instructions of the yogurt is Free Will.

    But it is also looking at the back of the book for answers… so technically, our own moral evolutionary development stops.

    But again, we still have free will.

    The DEEP question is why so many refuse to just follow instructions so that they understand the inner-working of the instruction set. In fact most people actually do learn best by doing… so it should be part of our culture, “if you didn’t invent it… follow the instructions to a T.”

    You don’t have to know the science of cooking to follow a recipe… but once you can do a recipe with your eyes closed it is far easier for you to understand the science behind it.

    I just rooted my android phone… three steps in I did not have my own opinion about things… and three months from now, when I do it routinely, I’ll have a far stronger ability to deviate and try my own build.

  39. to those above… why are we measuring the success of a society solely on economic terms? So what if the GDP of many European countries is lower than that of the US. The median standard of living is significantly higher, the poverty rate is lower, and absolutely no one goes bankrupt and loses everything over medical bills. What is the Gross Domestic *Happiness* rate?