A data-stuffed turkey on your Thanksgiving table

In a digitalized world, even your Thanksgiving meal is driven by data. It’s not science fiction: here's the proof

Roast Turkey

"Roast Turkey" by M. Rehemtulla (CC BY 2.0)

Credit: M. Rehemtulla

Data is present everywhere in our lives. Even a time-honored tradition like your Thanksgiving meal isn't immune from data. It's actually all the opposite.

Many of the ingredients that make up the traditional Thanksgiving meal are of course grown or raised on farms. Your turkey has been fed grain and various other nutrients, themselves grown and transformed by farmers and the agro-industry. The corn and sweet potatoes sidings, and that beautiful pumpkin you bought to bake dessert, grow in fields near you or at the other end of the country. Do you think that soil, water, and fertilizers are sufficient to grow your meal? Think again: Data makes your meal grow.

Thanks to research based on gigantic amounts of farming performance data, crops are now engineered to be resistant to diseases and parasites, and to maximize yield. Weather predictions, soil chemical composition, and farming techniques inform the sowing and harvest timing, and the types of fertilizers needed. There is little room left for guesswork or empirical farming: The entire process of producing fresh food has been fully digitalized.

You are then marketed this meal. Because you are a person of habits, and because you have been volunteering so much data for years, your supermarket knows how long in advance you are buying the turkey. And so they make sure you stay faithful to them by sending the proper coupons, discounts and reminders. Maybe this year they developed new tools, such as a turkey chooser app for your phone: enter details about your guests, and the app tells you which turkey to pick and sends an instant coupon (then you can uninstall the app until next year).

Cooking is next. On your tablet, you browse hundreds of recipes, trying to find one your family has not tasted before. Google helps you there, knowing your browsing and search history. If any of your guests has food allergies, finding a suitable recipe is easier than ever.

Your guests reach your house thanks to data. Navigation systems and traffic conditions are of course inherently data-driven, but so are modern cars, with hundreds of sensors that monitor permanently critical parameters and driving conditions.

Around the table, there is less catching up to do than before since everybody is permanently connected via social networks. But, chances are, someone you know has been a victim of data theft or some other digital fraud -- that will make for a good data-oriented discussion.

After that feast, there are other key data-driven activities to consider. The first one is how to burn all these calories you have ingested. Entering them in your fitness app is not enough: you are going to need several runs, stints at the gym, or walks around the block. Luckily, your fitness tracker keeps track of these and tells you how you're doing against your goal. And your connected bathroom scale helps by reminding you every morning.

But before you can go and exercise on your own, you will probably watch a football game. This year, the Chicago Bears are playing the Detroit Lions, the Philadelphia Eagles are playing the Dallas Cowboys, and the Seattle Seahawks are playing the San Francisco 49ers. All these games will be driven by data, as are most modern sports.

Can someone pass the cranberry sauce and the data stuffing, please?

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