Proving once again that there’s no problem (that involves getting junk food into the mouths of the middle class) that technology can’t solve, there now exists a service to tell you exactly how to get the maximum calories out of any given amount of money spent at Taco Bell, on the off chance that you found a reason (inebriation, desperation, unfamiliarity with actual Mexican food) to spend money at Taco Bell.
The service, named TacoBell Disrupt in honor of this week’s TechCrunch Disrupt conference in New York, is pretty simple. Step One: Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with a dollar amount, sans dollar sign, as the subject line. Step Two: Wait (response times have varied from a few seconds up to a full day directly after the service was debuted). Step Three: Receive an itemized list, generated from the Taco Bell menu, of exactly how to spend the given amount of money to maximize caloric intake. Step Four: Find something to distract yourself from the gnawing realization that technology is slowly destroying human society. Something like, say, 3,000 calories worth of fried tortilla, chicken, and cheese.
The system, created by developer Kunal Batra during TechCrunch Disrupt’s traditional pre-conference Hackathon, is actually an application of a solution for what is known as the knapsack problem—or, perhaps, the “flimsy plastic bag full of grease problem”—a question in combinatorial optimization focused on how to get the most value for a certain cost. Although “most amount of heavily spiced meat slurry you can get for a dollar” probably stretches the concept of “value” to its breaking point.
As noted in this TechCrunch article talking about the debut, there’s a lot of potential in the idea of using technology to apply mathematical analysis to everyday spending decisions. But for now, TacoBell Disrupt is a simplistic, if morbidly interesting, system, focused only on the raw materials for (quasi) survival, and failing to take into account things like flavor, dietary preferences, or that “deal” you worked out with your brother’s best friend Todd, where you slip him five bucks and he lets you put your mouth under the meat slurry faucet for as long as you can hold your breath.