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Author Topic: EP242: The Love Quest of Smidgen the Snack Cake  (Read 39373 times)

MacArthurBug

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Reply #25 on: May 31, 2010, 04:25:38 PM
I caught a case of the giggles listening to the near lewd descriptions. As someone who has been extremely overweight I was saddened by a future a blush too close to what seems to be coming. Where tech will push marketing a friggin' snack cake to entice dieters into giving in. OR "Seaweed crunches" (that sounds disgusting BTW) that give guilt but must not be very convincing 'cause she still would rather "kill" them then eat them. But dieters are still sold "Fads" that don't work. How sad. 

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CryptoMe

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Reply #26 on: May 31, 2010, 05:55:29 PM
I think that human behavior is way less complex than we imagine. And everyday science gives more and more tools  to the marketers and politicians who use them to bend society toward their goals; money for the marketeers and control for the political elites.

Some posts have criticized this story for being impossible, implausible and unlikely and etc. but I think we need to consider stories like this in the same way you'd view stories like Gulliver's Travels or the movie Brazil. Exaggeration to emphasis or illustrate the author's POV.

I absolutely agree that this story is a hyperbole meant to bring our attention to the fact that manipulation by marketers is happening, right now. But, I don't think this means that the situation is hopeless.

I believe that we as consumers need to be way more careful, aware, and thoughtful about our purchases. I myself don't buy anything, even a small snack cake (though the story did make me really, really want one ;)), without serious thought - e.g. Am I really hungry? Can I wait to get home and eat something healthier? Of course I'm worth it, but is this *really* the best way to reward myself? etc. I don't think that we as a society do that enough, and that is what we should be doing.

Are marketers evil? Some of them, sure! But ultimately the decision is ours. To simply rail against the marketers and blame everything on them is, in my opinion, abdicating responsibility for our own actions. And once you do that, everyone *but you* has the power.



MarcKS

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Reply #27 on: May 31, 2010, 08:40:25 PM
I've got to say that regardless of scientific implausibility I found that this story made me want to think... The author also made me feel sorry for the woman, which only made her suicide more horrific.  The author wanted to display a dystopia where marketing has taken over the consumers life and without the suicide I don't think the message would have come across as clearly.


On the subject of scientific implausibility.  While there may be some logical inconsistencies such as the lack of an AI to prevent her suicide... cost shouldn't really be considered as a reason for implausibility.  A sci-fi story written in the 50's where everyone carried around a wireless cellphone would have seemed just as implausible... especially on the basis of cost.



Ectobahn

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Reply #28 on: May 31, 2010, 08:48:16 PM
I enjoyed the exaggerations for satirical purposes. The suicide itself did strike me as a bit strong, but entirely in keeping with the whole story.

The ending with the dog seemed superfluous, until I thought about it. I assume it was meant to emphasise the artificiality of the desires at play by showing them trivially and meaninglessly satisfied. Where did the dog come from though? Did I miss an earlier mention, or are we just to assume it belongs to Linda's discoverer?

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Scattercat

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Reply #29 on: May 31, 2010, 08:50:22 PM
The dog/cat/squirrel IS Linda's discoverer.

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Talia

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Reply #30 on: May 31, 2010, 09:37:18 PM
Oh man, this story was awesome. I feel kind of bad for those who couldn't enjoy it for whatever reason. And yes, its got a very "Drabblecast"-y feel - its just that delightfully weird. :) The eroticism was hilarious and disturbing, which is always a fun combo. :)

I do think we are moving towards a society where advertising is becoming not only more prevalent but also more innovatively utilized. This is kinda an extreme reflection of that. It brings to mind, actually, an EP episode (an EP ep? heheh) from a  while back where advertisers were doing things like shooting people with darts to spread their message. Both examples are extreme, but at least are suggestive of where marketing is (or could be) leaning towards.

Regardless of the marketing commentary, I just really loved the concept of a sentient snack cake. How great is that?? I'm having a hard time anyone could not love such a tale. Even just based on the awesome concept alone :p

Five thumbs up.



eytanz

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Reply #31 on: May 31, 2010, 09:48:43 PM
I finished the story earlier today. I felt it improved a *lot* once Linda finally bought the snack cake and took it home. Before that, it was just impossible for me to muster enough suspension of disbelief to actually get involved. But once the cake and the woman started interacting, the absurdity of the situation won me over.



Yargling

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Reply #32 on: June 01, 2010, 07:25:19 AM
For people who complain about the 'unbelieveable' use of rearrangement, bioengineering, or hovercarts, you seem to have forgotten; THIS IS SCI-FI! Why is any of this less believeable than FTL or off world colonization? As far as our current technology goes, Off world colonization is unuseably expensive and FTL might be physically impossible. BUT IT'S SCI-FI. It doesn't have to be reasonable.

I enjoyed the exaggerations for satirical purposes. The suicide itself did strike me as a bit strong, but entirely in keeping with the whole story.

The ending with the dog seemed superfluous, until I thought about it. I assume it was meant to emphasise the artificiality of the desires at play by showing them trivially and meaninglessly satisfied. Where did the dog come from though? Did I miss an earlier mention, or are we just to assume it belongs to Linda's discoverer?

Indeedie about the story - it exaggerates current technology trends to their logical extreme; a sort of cautiary tale about the dangers of letting marketers have unrestricted powers. As for the suicide... frankly, I found it a believeable conclusion.

And the dog was designed to show how manipulative and paper thin the desires of the cake were - how its desires were wholly created by the manufacturers. Not sure where it came from, could have been Linda's, could have been her finder.



eytanz

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Reply #33 on: June 01, 2010, 08:09:12 AM
For people who complain about the 'unbelieveable' use of rearrangement, bioengineering, or hovercarts, you seem to have forgotten; THIS IS SCI-FI! Why is any of this less believeable than FTL or off world colonization? As far as our current technology goes, Off world colonization is unuseably expensive and FTL might be physically impossible. BUT IT'S SCI-FI. It doesn't have to be reasonable.

There is a big difference between "impossible but practical" and "implausibly impractical". You can't give nonsensical plots a free pass because it's science fiction. FTL travel may be impossible as far as we know, but we can all imagine the consequences of what would happen if it were real. The technology and science in this story is certainly equally, if not more, possible. The questions is - if we had the technology, would it be used like this? Some of what is described in this story would certainly come to pass, but most of it would never exist, even if the technology was readily available.

Sure, there are plenty of uses for the absurd in literature - science fiction or not. But absurdism and science fiction are not the same thing.

And most importantly, regardless of everything else - there is a big difference between the general possibilities in a genre and individual reactions to a story. Sure, it's possible to write good science fiction with entirely implausible premises. If it's done well, then it wouldn't bother the readers. If the readers are bothered, it means that, for them at least, the story didn't do so well. It's not the fault of the readers, it's the fault of the story.



Talia

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Reply #34 on: June 01, 2010, 12:24:45 PM
It was my perception it was meant to be more of an asburdist piece, alabeit with a sci-fi bent. Which is probably why I loved it so very much - absurdist stuff is exactly my cup of self-promoting, intelligent tea :p

Quote
"but most of it would never exist, even if the technology was readily available. "

What makes you think that? My personal opinion of marketers is sufficiently low enough to assume they'd go to any lengths to sell their product. :P




eytanz

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Reply #35 on: June 01, 2010, 01:25:18 PM

Quote
"but most of it would never exist, even if the technology was readily available. "

What makes you think that? My personal opinion of marketers is sufficiently low enough to assume they'd go to any lengths to sell their product. :P



Because I believe that most of the behavior of the products presented here would be counter-productive. First, marketing can change human behavior, but it can't change human nature. Rather, it is designed to exploit human nature to maximize returns. People have been shown, throughout history, to react better to marketing when it's non-obtrusive. Snack cakes places at specific points in the store where they are judged to be most attractive? I can see that. Snack cakes talking to customers, even after they are purchased, and products jumping into customer trollies? That's just drawing attention to the marketing.

Second, as I mentioned in my earlier post, it seems that for a lot of the details in this story - the quick reshelfing, the hover-trollies, etc. - the economy just won't work; if you spend more on marketing the snack cake than it costs, you are wasting money. If this was an expensive luxury item, I may feel differently, but if you've managed to create the impression that buying a snack cake is a big decision, then you've already lost the marketing battle.

Third, marketing is about generating habits, not selling individual items. Everything in this story is putting a lot of effort into selling one snack cake, and once the snack cake is sold, it starts putting a lot of effort into getting eaten. If this was anywhere realistic, once it was sold it would start making the customer want to buy more snack cakes. The customer already paid for it, the effort should be in getting the customer to pay more money.

Fourth, the way manufacturer consolidation works today, each manufacturer generates a large range of products. If a customer is on a diet, the snack cake would be a far better money generating object if it was telling Linda to buy its cousin, the equally delicious low calory snack cake next door, and indeed switching to its related line of diet products; diets are a source of greater income for food companies, not less.

And so forth and so on.

This story not only takes some aspects of our current consumerism society to extremes, it also ignores equally important aspects of consumerism. The system that it describes would never take place, because it depends on a large expenditure of effort for moderate returns, while the economy is moving towards lower expenditure of effort and greater returns.



Talia

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Reply #36 on: June 01, 2010, 01:36:50 PM

Quote
"but most of it would never exist, even if the technology was readily available. "

What makes you think that? My personal opinion of marketers is sufficiently low enough to assume they'd go to any lengths to sell their product. :P



the economy just won't work; if you spend more on marketing the snack cake than it costs, you are wasting money. If this was an expensive luxury item, I may feel differently, but if you've managed to create the impression that buying a snack cake is a big decision, then you've already lost the marketing battle.

Now I don't have much in the way of responses to your post (I feel if I spend too much time analyzing the story it will rip all the joy out of it for me, so I'll take a pass), but I will say in regards to this point, you just don't know how much money they invested in it. Perhaps at this point in time these AI's are a piece of cake (heheheh) to make. But you don't know how far in the future this is, or where technology is at that point, so assuming its super expensive would be based on today's economic situation and thus a somewhat flawed argument.



eytanz

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Reply #37 on: June 01, 2010, 01:47:14 PM

Quote
"but most of it would never exist, even if the technology was readily available. "

What makes you think that? My personal opinion of marketers is sufficiently low enough to assume they'd go to any lengths to sell their product. :P



the economy just won't work; if you spend more on marketing the snack cake than it costs, you are wasting money. If this was an expensive luxury item, I may feel differently, but if you've managed to create the impression that buying a snack cake is a big decision, then you've already lost the marketing battle.

Now I don't have much in the way of responses to your post (I feel if I spend too much time analyzing the story it will rip all the joy out of it for me, so I'll take a pass), but I will say in regards to this point, you just don't know how much money they invested in it. Perhaps at this point in time these AI's are a piece of cake (heheheh) to make. But you don't know how far in the future this is, or where technology is at that point, so assuming its super expensive would be based on today's economic situation and thus a somewhat flawed argument.

True (though presumably by the point we can create cheap edible AIs and hovercars, we could create cheap weight-loss therapies; but that's just speculation on my behalf) but that's not the point I was trying to convey. The point was that everything in this story is making the decision to buy a snack cake more obtrusive and important. Note that the woman went into a store and bought just one. It doesn't matter how expensive AI is; it would still be more effective if it is designed to make someone walk into a shop and buy dozens of snack cakes, and that is best done by making the decision to buy them as innocuous as possible, the opposite of what this story does.

I should also say, I'm picking on this point because you asked me, and because the structure of the story made me think of it. I realize that the story isn't trying to be plausible. It is more interested in getting the snack cake to behave like a bad lover. As such, it's a fun story - as I pointed above, once the characters actually strated interacting, I started enjoying it quite a lot. However, I just don't think that that is a particularly good paradigm to use to sell snack cakes. It might be a good way to sell sex robots, but snack cakes, by their nature, are designed to be mass-consumed, and lovers are not, and that contrast is problematic for this story.



Talia

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Reply #38 on: June 01, 2010, 01:49:29 PM



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Reply #39 on: June 01, 2010, 02:27:20 PM
She "suicided" precisely to exert the only aspect of will and self-determination left to her. The parasitic marketeers in the future the story is set in have so many tools in their box  from the behavioral sciences blended with other technologies that the human beings really don't have "free will" anymore. (If they ever did.). That short, sharp shock was the author's exclamation point to bring the reader/listener back to reality if they  get too caught up in the marketing and behavioral science technologies described.(I know I did.) At least that's how I see anyhow.



Listener

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Reply #40 on: June 01, 2010, 03:38:26 PM
Quote
"but most of it would never exist, even if the technology was readily available. "

What makes you think that? My personal opinion of marketers is sufficiently low enough to assume they'd go to any lengths to sell their product. :P



Clients also want things they don't need. My job offers an amazing product that will help you get people to click on the ads you run on our site... but the salespeople love it so much they pretty much strongarm everyone into buying it. Then it's up to the people who sit on the other side of the wall from me to figure out how to make the product improve the ad. Usually they can't because -- let's be honest -- how does knowing the weather outside affect your consumption of (for example) snack cakes? "Hey, it's raining outside, eat a Smidgen!"

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CryptoMe

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Reply #41 on: June 01, 2010, 06:48:42 PM
She "suicided" precisely to exert the only aspect of will and self-determination left to her. The parasitic marketeers in the future the story is set in have so many tools in their box  from the behavioral sciences blended with other technologies that the human beings really don't have "free will" anymore. (If they ever did.). That short, sharp shock was the author's exclamation point to bring the reader/listener back to reality if they  get too caught up in the marketing and behavioral science technologies described.(I know I did.) At least that's how I see anyhow.

I'm pretty sure there are tonnes of hotlines out there that will tell you suicide is never the only option left....
There are plenty of other options (don't eat the cake, flush it down the sink, go out for a walk, etc.). The problem is that these options are harder - because you need to make them every single minute of the day (talk to anyone in AA). But then, that is life, isn't it....

Blaming the evil marketers, scientists, genetics, whatever, for taking away your free will is a cop-out. The choice is *always* yours. Even choosing to cop-out is a choice that only you can make. Marketers, scientists, genetics, etc. can make some choices harder for you, but a hard choice doesn't equal no choice.



jhs

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Reply #42 on: June 02, 2010, 11:43:43 AM


This story is another look at Don Giovanni.  Smidgen shares the Don's difficulty seeing beyond his lust for seduction, and in the end is dragged off to hell by what I am sure was a rat. 

Clever science/engineering stuff, but I think the point is the seduction, and the destruction of the innocent.

jhs



tpi

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Reply #43 on: June 02, 2010, 01:51:50 PM
I don't understand why the store AI let the snack food package to get her.
Both the manufacturer profit and  the store markup are probably much higher for dieting products.  ;D
It would have been clearly more profitable to push her to those products.  :)



Listener

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Reply #44 on: June 02, 2010, 02:34:21 PM
I don't understand why the store AI let the snack food package to get her.
Both the manufacturer profit and  the store markup are probably much higher for dieting products.  ;D
It would have been clearly more profitable to push her to those products.  :)

And it still annoys the ever-living crap out of me that eating healthy costs so much more.

Because Smidgen had a limited AI, he was able to make himself look more attractive and direct Linda to the right aisle, despite the healthy food choices she knew she really wanted. Meanwhile the healthy food didn't have AI or other stuff that Smidgen did because it already cost a lot without it.

That's my guess.

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davedoty

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Reply #45 on: June 02, 2010, 02:56:11 PM
We know the Sea Sprite snacks have AI, because later in the story some of them try to talk Linda into eating them instead.

My practical guess is "conceit of the story."  If we want to look for in-story explanations anyway, I'd suggest either "they were hoping for a food binge after," or "the snack food company pays the store to have their AI privilege their products."



JackSpellman

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Reply #46 on: June 02, 2010, 03:15:45 PM
Terrific story about, I think, the hilarity of evil. I mean, the first-person narrator was a sociopathic snack cake. And what does it say that the snack cake had more free will than Linda?

And as funny as it was, it carried not insubstantial messages about marketing, consumer alienation, the pornification of food.

Also: excellent reading. I laughed out loud when the plankton chips attempted to talk Linda out of eating the Smidgen, and were sent down the disposal for their trouble. Made me think of Mr. Bill on Saturday Night Live.



panvega

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Reply #47 on: June 02, 2010, 08:05:21 PM
Wow... Just the typical story of some dude/snack-cake trying to manipulate a vulnerable woman, women constantly struggling against their appetites, women say "no" when they mean "yes," coercion and seduction, etc... Hasn't that story line gotten old already?  :-\



panvega

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Reply #48 on: June 02, 2010, 08:08:49 PM
This one's for no.  Lame doesn't begin to cover it. 

The utterly ludicrous concept of a sentient snack cake is made even worse by piling on every stupid cliche of a pickup/seduction story.  I'm up to where she's bought the cake and taken it home, and not even sure I want to continue.


Totally agree. How come no one else is ranting about that? Thanks for putting it out there.



FireTurtle

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Reply #49 on: June 02, 2010, 09:06:12 PM
I've just got to say, although this was not " Best. EP. Ever" it still made me laugh. And, I think the snack cake's lame attempts at seduction were appropriate for a snack cake. If this was Filet Mignon or expensive cheese I would expect a more "cultured" POV of the food. But honestly, I'd never expect a cheap morsel of sugary cake to have anything but the Worst Pickup Lines.

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