I recalled that scene when I read this article about orange juice over at Gizmodo. The TL;DR of the article is that our orange juice is artificially flavored to taste like orange juice. All the oxygen is removed from it for storage (which has the side-effect of removing the flavor) so flavor packets are added to the juice to return flavor. That's also why the flavor of a brand's juice can be so consistent despite the inconsistency of oranges and orange crops.
As a native Florida boy whose mother grew up around the orange groves, I was appalled. Mortified.
How soon will it be before kids grow up without ever knowing what actual orange juice really tastes like? What's to stop orange juice manufacturers from slowly changing the way juice really tastes, to the point where reality and what we've been trained to believe is OJ no longer gel? And if it goes on long enough, how will we even comprehend the concept of truth and fiction? If fake OJ is all we've ever known, couldn't it then be argued that fake OJ is the real truth? If you gave a kid from the future who had only ever had bottled OJ a glass of juice squeezed straight from the fruit, isn't it plausible that he might think the fresh juice was the fake? Would he be wrong?
And if all the oranges disappeared tomorrow, which flavor of orange juice would be considered the most real? The packet or the real orange?
That's what scares me about the digital revolution. Once we digitize everything—music, books, history, research—we lose the ability to tell the difference between truth and whitewashed the fiction they want us to believe is the truth.
Imagine you're reading Frankenstein on your Kindle. In the end, Dr. Frankenstein sails away and lives happily ever after. You think to yourself, "Self, I don't remember this book ending that way." So you borrow a friend's Kindle. It has the same ending. You look at the ebook editions owned by friends, teachers, your parents. They all end the same way. You begin to doubt yourself. You begin to think that maybe the happy ending was the truth all along and that you'd remembered it wrong. Because the truth is what's in front of you, right?
You try to find a non-digital source, but there are none. Books have become a casualty of the digital revolution. Huckleberry Finn never uses the "N" word. History books no longer mention anything negative about the countries in which they're printed. History is truly written by the victor. Our foibles are excised and cast into the digital black hole.
The flavor is sucked out of our digital archives and replaced with artificial information. Sweetened. Homogenized. Delicious.
We believe it because it's what we know.
And there is nothing left for us to compare it to.
Next time you pick up an ebook, ask yourself what orange juice really tastes like.