For a Matrix-type future I want to feed people via solid food. This is to keep all their internal organs working properly.

The idea is to feed them an endless kebab that is held together along its length with a string. They aren't aware of this as they are living in a fantasy simulated world.

There is no need to chew the kebab as it is digestible as is.

Waste is expelled in the normal way and happens autonomously although it may be arranged to coincide with bowel movements in the simulated world.

The string supporting the kebab is continuously pulled at a slow rate through the digestive system to allow digestion to take place.


Will the string that is threaded through the gut from mouth to anus actually be practicable or will it interfere with anything along the way? Are there any other drawbacks? Is there an easy way to balance the feed-through speed with the amount of nutrition per unit length of string?


The string is on a never-ending loop so it is cleaned in disinfectant before it comes around again to the mouth once more coated in kebabulite.

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    $\begingroup$ Is there a reason not to IV feed? (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parenteral_nutrition) $\endgroup$
    – NofP
    Dec 31, 2018 at 11:48
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    $\begingroup$ I think a lot of SF scenarios presuppose that idea but, having read the article it doesn't look ideal. I think the death rate would be high. As the article states, "considered to be the highest risk pharmaceutical preparation available as the products cannot undergo any form of terminal sterilization" Also, reading further down, the patients experience intense hunger despite receiving sufficient nutrition. This sensation might leak through into their experience of the virtual world. $\endgroup$ Dec 31, 2018 at 12:05

5 Answers 5


The bowels are not straight: they have several U turns in their abdominal deployment.

If you pull a wire it will tend to straighten up. If the wire is in the bowels, it means some unpleasant stress and almost sure intestinal cuts, unless you place some fixed pulleys.

Bowel movements take care of moving the food from start to end. Just feed the slurry into the esophagus, the rest will be taken care by nature.

  • $\begingroup$ If I just pipe the stuff in there's a real danger of choking. I can't afford expensive monitoring equipment. However if the movement is continuous by keeping the string moving then, even if it doesn't get fully digested, at least there won't be a build-up. $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2018 at 17:11
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    $\begingroup$ Look up "ng tube" or "og tube". Basically, shove a feeding tube through the victim's nose and down into their stomach. Problem solved. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Dec 30, 2018 at 17:22
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    $\begingroup$ @chasly and the kebab mechanism is going to regulate the intake... how, exactly, other than preventing the subject from throwing up by obstructing the passage? $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2018 at 19:42
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    $\begingroup$ @chasly that's not really the way eating too much works, they'd just get fat (the digestive processes would strip any food off the string very early on in the process) $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2018 at 22:59
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    $\begingroup$ If the food passes through too fast to be digested, it will come out undigested, leaving your victims without nutrition. $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2018 at 23:31

There are all kinds of ugly here.

  • If your string isn't digestable (or digestable in the time allotted for pulling the kebab through the body), it will decay, leading to bacteria and infection and a whole lot of ugly.

  • One assumes the body wants to breathe, but a kebab being pulled through the body pretty much guarantees that breathing either won't occur or that fluid will enter the lungs. Fluid in the lungs is a whole lot of ugly. Not breathing is a whole lot more ugly.

  • Metabolism is neither uniform nor linear. Part of the process of digestion is to store energy, not simply convert it. In other words, the body will expect the kebab to periodically stop moving. If it stops moving while food is still in the esophagus, the gag reflex will be invoked and the body will choke. As you can imagine, choking is a whole lot of ugly.

  • And heaven help you if your matrix personality decided to start a religious fast. Oh, yeah. A whole lota ugly.

  • I'm going to ignore the fact that the string is passing through orifaces that are expected to open and close at specific times, allowing the potential for material to pass when and where it shouldn't. I'm doing so because I can believe that despite being uncomfortable (and probably leading itself to gagging, see above), the body's fluids would likely keep the orifices sealed even with the string passing through. But, it would look ugly, so there's a whole lotta ugly here, too.

  • Finally, I upvoted L.Dutch's answer (and you should, too) because the nature of a string is to be pulled straight and there's enough squishy in the body that it would try really hard to do so. Add to that the fact that a moving string (or wire or anything else) has the inconvenient nature of cutting through things and the amount of ugly just went off the chart.

I don't see the use of an endless kebab as practical. It would be more believable to have the body enter a semi-concious state associated with the act of eating in the Matrix and have it ingest the proverbial protein cubes while the mind believes it's enjoying a juicy steak.


Try to swallow and breathe at the same time and you will see where the problem is. The people would at least all need a tracheostomy, so you can basically put a lid on the wind pipe so food and saliva cannot get into the lungs (this is not something theoretical, I am currently sitting next to my wife who lives with exactly that arrangement ever since a doctor screwed up during surgery).

Unless you are writing a satirical or humorous novel you should probably not invent grotesque solutions for problems that have practical solutions in the real world (but then I don't know what you are writing, and that kind of detail certainly sets a certain tone).

  • $\begingroup$ I'm certainly not trying to make fun of any individual. My mother died of bowel cancer and had a colostomy bag for quite a while. I just found myself wondering about the practical implications of the science-fiction cliché of people in suspended animation. Incidentally I have health problems myself and I'd rather laugh about them than get depressed! Better a single than a double whammy. $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2018 at 21:59
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    $\begingroup$ I am not offended, even if I may have sounded like it. I just don't think this is a very practical idea. $\endgroup$
    – user412
    Dec 30, 2018 at 22:08

This seems a bit like an X/Y problem.

Lets break down the actual problem

1) you need to get food into a person who isn't concious

2) you need this dumb and sensor free

3) You need to feed people at a given rate.

4) you don't want them to need to chew it.

Basically - you're wanting to pump pre-masticated food into a person at a given rate. As a benevolent evil machine intelligence... this seems fairly simple.

You don't want the end user choking - while not typically a good long term solution, you are talking about a feeding tube - though I suppose you could simply bypass the parts of the digestive systems you don't need. What you're looking for something preprocessed so it goes through the system, is optimally digested, and comes out the other end.

So basically you want mush. Mush in one end, mush out the other. Stick tubes in either end for delivery and collection. Optimise the texture of the mush so its less likely to get stuck, add a one way valve that stops if the end user gets clogged up and you don't need string. You might even be able to get the end user to chew in suspended animation and use a simple mask and some electro-stimulated muscle movements to get them to eat 'normally' avoiding the fuss of a stomach tube

  • $\begingroup$ I think you nailed it that this is an XY problem, but misjudged what the X is. It seems more like the OP just wants to satisfy some Human Centipede-like fantasy/fetish. :-) $\endgroup$ Dec 31, 2018 at 18:55

Why don’t you just run a tube down to the stomach? Waste is processed automatically by the body as usual, and the tubes can be removed, disinfected, and reinserted during a normal daily maintenance procedure that needs to be done anyway to keep the body from getting sores, etc.


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