Last week I wrote about a fashion project called Scary Beautiful, a pair of backwards high heels that make the wearer shuffle awkwardly, hunched over and disconcerting. The line the designer used – “what exists beyond perfection” – got me thinking about the far future, and the potential that clothing really could take a turn toward the inconvenient.
The thought is that as humanity progresses, as technology makes things easier and easier – assuming we don’t kill ourselves first – eventually people will start to get bored. This is pretty sci-fi, but I don’t think it’s beyond the scope of possibility. If we can develop fusion power, we may well wind up with access to nearly limitless energy. Once we’re there, it’s not a big leap to start effortlessly synthesizing commodities, even food. Entertainment will keep progressing, but eventually, without having to work much or at all, and constantly overstimulated by information, we’ll wind up bored and aimless.
So where then? If we ever get to this place – and it’s a huge if for sure – I propose that people will start to experiment with inconvenience and even discomfort. In a world of efficiency and effortlessness, the only real novelty is exactly what all of our technology has helped us overcome: hardship. So maybe in three or four hundred years, many people will be walking around in bizarre and impractical outfits, trying out the curious experience of having to struggle. Anti-ergonomics will be a massive industry and Herman Miller will be fresh out of luck.
Maybe this experimentation with inefficiency will even extend to the built environment. Buildings could start to get more complicated and awkward, with half-levels and sloping floors. This could be especially true if people in the future start spending a significant amount of time in a digital landscape. If that’s the case, we wouldn’t necessarily call any one environment or building “home,” we could occupy many at once, and switch between them effortlessly. You could have different kinds of spaces – comfortable, sleek, old-fashioned, and inconvenient, where cabinets don’t have handles and the refrigerator is on the ceiling – just for the novelty of it.
I’m obviously just riffing on speculation at this point, but I think its fun to think about the possibility that in the future, people might have needs and desires that differ radically from the ones we incorporate into our fashion and architecture today. Technology is changing things pretty dramatically, and it’s not going to stop any time soon! What do you think, does the idea of recreational inconvenience seem possible, or crazy?