utility and uniqueness

Granny Smith - that’s a controversial choice. What do you think of the Cosmic Crisp®?

— my manager, seeing me in the break-room

They’re apple varieties. Granny Smith is available everywhere in the United States. Cosmic Crisp® is less available, the name protected and marketed.

Here’s the thing: different apples for different ends is possible, right? Eating out of hand may warrant different desirable characteristics than baking a pie or pressing cider. The names are just marketing, right?

In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan talks about the apple in the United States. Succinctly, from an interview on the same subject,

They saved the seed and planted those. And what happens when you plant apples from seed is you get all different kinds of apples. Every single seed in an apple produces a different variety, most of which are useless.

You pick an apple from a tree and eat it — it’s great: good texture, flavor, the skin is not too soft as to lead to bruising but not so tough to make eating it unpleasant. You desire another apple like this, in the future. To grow another apple tree with that apple is impossible. The seeds will make new apples, every seed a wonder of extreme heterozygosity. It is an evolutionary adaptation. To get an identical apple, you cut a branch from the existing tree and graft it onto another tree. All Granny Smith apples, or any other variety, are offspring of one tree.

I will happily eat the GS — it is readily available, a good balance of sweet and acidic, crunchy, with a pleasant texture. All of these qualities though are high-middling and not outstanding. There are crisper apples, tarter apples, sweeter apples, better-textured apples. There are some smaller varietals in Wisconsin that hit higher marks in most or all of these categories.

It comes down to economics and demand - demand is higher for “standard” varietals because you can find them everywhere and they are the same level of quality. It is the same impulse that drove fast food to success - a burger from the Golden Arches is the same quality and ingredients everywhere in he United States. It’s safe1 to choose because you know it will not be a surprise in any way. You can find the same varieties everywhere because they maximize the curves of desirable qualities and transportability — they hit the sweet-spot.

The Cosmic Crisp® is offensive. I described it to my manager as dumb from a capitalist standpoint because it’s an apple, at most you can sell it for $1-2 and dumb from an anti-capitalist POV because it is food and making food more expensive by trademark, gene copywriting, and marketing is immoral. But it offends me in a slightly different way.

They aren’t selling the Cosmic Crisp® apple — they are selling access to it. You must write the name with the registered trademark symbol, to grow it requires a license, etc. It’s the same garbage that I see the social media people doing and the EA people. Their goal is to create revenue and monetize everything, which ultimately is about control. The Boring company was never about mass transit, it was about derailing public transit initiatives, which leads to more individual car owners. Facebook and other social media is about monetizing networks — relationships — serving ads beside you family photos until everyone is locked in to some degree.

Plus the hubris of selecting a few genes and thinking you own a thing then. I wonder about the pronatalists who have chosen their child’s genes (to some small degree). When little Titus grows up and experiences failure for the first time despite his genetic “superiority”, what happens to his mental state? Does it fracture and lead to self-harm or externalize and lead to fascism?

Every apple grown from seed is unique and we short-circuit that for uniformity from a particular and biased point-of-view — sounds a bit like eugenics to me…

  1. conservative