We began creating the Aerochromics clothing by developing a speculative world which would help us explore how objects could help our global pollution problem.
Speculating on the future - imagining an outcome facilitated by existing technologies still to be fully leveraged, thinking about the future arc of culture and fashion or the potential destiny of our social and political selves - is both an enterprise of science fiction (in the manner of Jules Verne) and of moral prediction (exemplified by Orwell's 1984). At its core, it is also a satire of human nature which - not unlike Jonathon Swift's Gulliver's Travels - depicts a world characterized by objects and events the likelihood of whose future presence makes us think twice about the state of our world in the here and now.
It is unlikely - to the point of being impossible - that any prediction of a future outcome will be accurate or its formulator clairvoyant. Prognostication of this sort is simply asking, "What if...?" By positing an end implied by the current state of things, speculations on the future challenge us to reflect on our actions, thoughts, behaviors as the means to that hypothetical end. These predictions, comical though they may be, create the context for serious and critical examination of who we are now and what we have the capacity to become.
The Aerochromic clothing line is one of several imagined accessories to a connected future which presented itself in the course of our speculations on what tomorrow could bring.
INtroduction to our world
Like mold in a petri dish, the development of human society has always been conditioned by the physical properties of the world it has inhabited. In periods prior to our own, those properties were primarily resources, features of the environment which facilitated human life. In our own time, however, it is increasingly the case that the physical environment is one we have created with the detritus of our previous existence. Now more than ever, trash and pollution are the environmental features that determine the economic and political forms that human society has taken.
The risks to humanity are so great that we are compelled to live in smaller and smaller areas protected from rising pollution by new technologies and products devised with the sole purpose to contain its advance. This irony has spawned hatred towards new technology. The world's axiom now is to make do with the primitive objects already at our disposal.
The largest side effect of the pollution is that it has transformed weather patterns into unpredictable weather anomalies. Due to our inability to maintain healthy pollution levels in the past, these storm patterns have gotten so large that we now must live with them instead of fixing them. Fixing the pollution problem was lost a long time ago. These are just three examples of such anomalies.
Combustion Clouds = Large clouds as big as continents filled with dense combustible particles such as aluminum that could spark and cause an explosion. These clouds are not directly lethal but when they ignite they will surely burn you alive. If you were lucky enough to not die from the initial blast you will surely suffocate from the absence of oxygen due to the blast.
Toxic Plumes = A large vaporous mass filled with harmful gases. They are hard to predict where they will go or how they will split up and fuse. They are typically lethal and invisible to the naked eye. Due to this they require constant monitoring.
Bacteria Patches = Similar to the devastating underwater algae blooms, there will be similar bacteria blooms in the air. Large clouds of bacteria, thriving off of the pockets of pollution. This bacteria will bloom rapidly and then die, choking the air with their remains. They are not inherently lethal but they make it impossible to see. Another down side to the bacteria patches is that many types of these bacteria will soak up all the oxygen in the air which makes it almost impossible to breathe.
The Nomadic Lifestyle
Our collective response to the circumstances of this detritus has been to divide the world according to the binary definitions of hazardous and non-hazardous. Whole professions have emerged which deal singularly with the material conditions of the first. These are the "hazmat" experts. But the world these experts navigate is not clearly segregated: hazardous and non-hazardous sites exist along a spectrum between the two environmental extremes. Moreover, the conditions which we associate with one or the other can migrate physically as evidence by the "plumes" of polluted air or water which travel both below and above the surface of the earth. The toxicity of their contents can vary from merely sickening to deadly. But they define the geography of habitability as accurately as a steep and rocky slope, an arid climate or a fertile river valley. To be trapped in the trajectory of a plume is to endure a lethal outcome. We all have become nomads forced to flee our homes and communities in the face of an advancing environmental threat.
The potential for environmental crisis anywhere and at anytime threatens nation-states as much as it does communities. Our previous economic systems have been overturned by the capacity for environmental change brought about by the vagrant pollution. Even the specific borders maintained by countries for over centuries are no longer necessary.
The standard for currency is now data, specifically data on pollutants movements. Every object, is a thing from the past that has been modified slightly to monitor its surroundings, from one’s refrigerator to one's car, everything monitors for potential hazards.
Each object uploads its pollution data to the data sphere which can only be accessed by people who also have uploaded content. Everyone has become data gatherers in order to take part in the up-to-date information on pollutant movements. The more objects you have collecting information the more wealth and access you receive.
"You get what you upload"
The better the collected data is; the more income you can generate. However venturing far outside the city limits is a risky endeavor. There are only a few wanderers who live off of traveling far distances to collect weather and pollution data.
If a connected object detects an extremely hazardous environment, it will automatically call the closest evacuation team.
Our relationship with the outside world has changed. Previously “going outside” meant being healthy, active, sporty. Now “going outside” means braving the elements, risky behavior and possible harm. The facades of buildings ultimately do not need to be refined since few will go outside and actually look at them.
High density dwellings have become the norm. Pressured by population increases, more and more people have been forced to live in the transition zones between hazardous and non-hazardous which has forced them to adapt to their new surroundings.
A strong social hierarchy has been established due to our decreased resources. The wealthier you are the greater access you have to non-hazardous areas in the highly populated metropolises.
Buildings designed as barriers not merely to the "weather" but to the plumes of pollution are scattered everywhere. Air recyclers are required to recondition the "good" air of the inside to keep it from being tainted by the polluted air outside. The buildings themselves are essentially bubbles in the environment. Features such as the porch or veranda which merged inside and outside have been replaced by an impenetrable barrier like the wall of a cell defining the difference between inside and outside. Houses have acquired new shapes as the cultural identity of the house has changed and a new typology emerges which is closer to a balloon than a pavilion.
The Human body
Purchasing replacement lungs have become a black market trade. It is typical for many people to even take one of their lungs out to either give to a family member in need or sell it on the black market for large sums of money.
Everyone has some level of asthma and the chronic cough is prolific. Designers have developed daily use masks that are now just another part of one's wardrobe. Seeing another person's face has almost become taboo.
Human sight has also been greatly reduced given that certain types of air pollution makes it impossible to see more than a few feet ahead. We have been forced to incorporate heat detection equipment to capture visual fields and forms of sonar to establish surrounding topography.
Aerochromics - A Solution
The above paints a picture of a dystopian future – one that we can avoid if we start building the tools to fight climate change now.
By allowing Aerochromics to react to the environment and create a new manner of sensory perception, the clothing not only becomes the data backbone of the connected world we envision but also the natural interface into this connected space. Our envisioned connected world will give us a more comprehensive understanding of how we are changing our planet, so that we can build more effective tools needed to end climate change and pollution.
Our goal is to have Aerochromics become a sixth sense for the user. To not have this technology as an appendage but intrinsically part of the the daily user. No more will technology, such as phones and computers, get in the way once everything is connected and communicating in real time.