Adam Ruins the Future

Nov 25 2017

In this episode, Adam explains how unregulated food expiration dates leads to waste, why your 401(k) won’t be enough to support your retirement and how the future is unpredictable. Here are his sources.


"According to food safety experts, eggs can be eaten three to five weeks past the sell-by date."

Dana Gunders. Waste-Free Kitchen Handbook: A Guide to Eating Well and Saving Money By Wasting Less Food. Chronicle Books, 2015.

"And if food isn't handled properly, it can actually go bad before the date on the label. Even something as simple as leaving it out on the counter too long or setting your fridge at the wrong temperature can cut shelf life short."

"Refrigeration and Food Safety." Food Safety and Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture, May 2010.

"These dates just don't tell you that much. Instead, you need to check your food for signs of spoilage, like changes in smell, color, or texture."

"Food Product Dating." Food Safety and Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 14 Dec 2016.

"Milk is a really neat exception. Even after it 'spoils' it's still totally safe to drink."

Emily Broad Leib. "Is that Milk Past Its 'Sell By' Date? Drink It Anyway." The Los Angeles Times, 11 Feb 2016.

"With the exception of baby food, the federal government actually doesn’t require date labeling of any kind."

"Did You Know that a Store Can Sell Food Past the Expiration Date?" U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 28 Apr 2017.

"Every state has their own rules. In fact, nine states have no date labeling regulations at all."

Emily Broad Leib, Juliana Ferro, Annika Nielsen, Grace Nosek, and Jason Qu. "The Dating Game: How Confusing Food Date Labels Lead to Food Waste in America." The Natural Resources Defense Council, Sep 2013.

"One survey found that 83% of Americans have prematurely thrown out food based on the sell-by date."

"U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends." Food Marketing Institute, 2015.

"In the old days, if a company had a retirement plan, it was a pension."

"History of Pension Plans." Employee Benefit Research Institute, Mar 1998.

"For workers that had pensions, this was actually a pretty great deal, but in the '80s and '90s more and more companies started switching to 401(k)s, a shiny, new financial product that gave workers an incentive to save more of their own money for retirement."

Scott Tong. "Father of Modern 401(k) Says It Fails Many Americans." Marketplace, 13 Jun 2013.

"401(k)s have tons of hidden fees, and it's pretty easy to make a bad investment."

Robert Hiltonsmith. "The Retirement Savings Drain: Hidden & Excessive Costs of 401(k)s." Demos, 29 May 2012.

"People on the brink of retiring were screwed even if they had done everything right."

"The Impact of the Recent Financial Crisis on 401(k) Account Balances." Employee Benefit Research Institute, Feb 2009.

"Experts say you should save at least 10 or even 15%."

Timothy Martin. "The Champions of the 401(k) Lament the Revolution They Started." The Wall Street Journal, 2 Jan 2017.

"52% of American households are at risk of not having enough money to maintain their standard of living when they retire."

"The National Retirement Risk Index." Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, 2017.

"And nearly half of Americans ages 32 to 61 have no retirement savings at all."

Monique Morrissey. "The State of American Retirement." Economic Policy Institute, 3 Mar 2016.

"10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 every day, and we have no good plan in place for how we're going to take care of them."

"Baby Boomers Retire." Pew Research Center, 29 Dec 2010.

"Before the car was invented 19th-century sci-fi writers imagined people would get around like this."

"Frank Reade Library No. 14." Falvey Memorial Library, Villanova University, 5 Oct 1892.

"At the 1964 World's Fair, IBM passed over their computers to showcase what they thought would be the truly revolutionary modern technology: the electric typewriter."

David Kestenbaum. "Typewriters, Underwater Hotels and Picturephones: The Future, as Seen from 1964," Planet Money. NPR, 21 Aug 2014.

"Remember Google Glass? In 2012, Google hyped it up before they'd even finished testing it. They lined up celebrity endorsements, a Time Magazine profile, even a 12-page spread in Vogue."

Nick Bilton. "Why Google Glass Broke." The New York Times, 4 Feb 2015.

"There's psychological research that shows that when we try to imagine our future, we only picture a couple of details."

"You vs. Future You; or Why We're Bad at Predicting Our Own Happiness," Hidden Brain. NPR, 23 Aug 2016.

"In one study, researchers compared how much people believed they changed in the last 10 years to how much they predicted they were going to change in the next 10 years. But even though most people believed they were different in the past, they still didn't think they'd change much in the future."

Jordi Quoidbach, Daniel T. Gilbert, and Timothy D. Wilson. "The End of History Illusion." Science, 4 Jan 2013.

"You can use another person who's had a similar experience as your guide. It's a psychological method called surrogation."

Daniel T. Gilbert, Matthew A. Killingsworth, Rebecca N. Eyre, and Timothy D. Wilson. "The Surprising Power of Neighborly Advice." Science, 20 Mar 2009.

For More on This Topic

Act One: We're wasting perfectly-good food while millions go hungry. In 2015, 42.2 million Americans lived in food-insecure households, including over 13 million children:

Act Two: 401(k)s were never meant to be our primary retirement system, but it was difficult for anyone to see the downsides because the advantages were oversold:

Act Three: In 1957, Monsanto's "House of the Future" predicted how Americans would live in the distant future — 1986. It looked a lot like 1957, but with a lot more plastic: