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A symphony, delivered

Published on July 18, 2012 by mz

This is the first in a series of Sci-Fi Scaffolds: brief science fiction inspired stories extrapolating on emerging technologies in order to create plausible scenarios for the near future.


Gleaning toward the far end of the bedroom, you spot the parcel. Unremarkable in size, like yesterday’s and all of those before it, a parcel adorned only by today’s date. Inside, an elaborate outfit concocted for today’s schedule: A pair of branded purplish blue jeans sewn to your size, a tight-fitting black faux-cotton shirt (yesterday you tweeted about longing for them), a weather-padded green-tinted leather jacket because a cold front is bringing autumn around earlier than expected. Sneakers with elaborate polygonal dark gray camo-print and a matching scarf. Socks and underwear are packed: high-quality, millimetrically crafted to your shape.

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You don’t remember missing a wardrobe. The reliable daily parcels freed up much valuable space in the flat and the mental bandwidth of having to decide what to wear.

When the newest Valley billions were being made from efficient shipping of socks, shampoo and soda to time-pressed bachelors, the retail industry finally paid attention. T-shirts-as-a-Service. Vegetables-as-a-Service. Sneakers-as-a-Service. Subscriptions were low-tech, but with swarms of autonomous, road-ready, shoebox-sized drones hauling boxes from remote warehouses to your doorstep overnight, everything changed. Until then, transport had been a remnant of the post-industrial landscape. Manned by underpaid drivers following computerized schedules and placemarks on a map.

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The cloud had caught up with the real.

After solving small-scale transport, efforts were put into automating production and disassembly of fabric and plastics. From-scratch ad-hoc manufacturing of individual pieces of garment with their multitude of intricately sewn materials was deemed too complex, so brainpower was invested into autonomously disassembling, chemically cleaning and repurposing clothes.

A solution driven from rapidly accelerating fashion cycles asymptoting towards the limits of discernment. Years ago, the fast-forwarding revolutions had made trends last only weeks, and had pushed fast fashion manufacturers into a corner of tight margins. But fine-controlled robotic needles driven by software pattern detection, trend dispersion algorithms and unflinching artificial eyes scaled the loops down to breakthrough overnight sensations for unwitting consumers at the end of the pipeline silently trusting the contents of their dutifully delivered parcels.

The death of the wardrobe had also made luggage redundant. Much like the old habit of preemptively locating Wi-Fi hotspots, you’d now confirm your destination was serviced by the physical embodiment of the Cloud. Not giving second thought to weather conditions, regional nanotrends or even the length of your trip meant replacing the agency of aesthetics and practicality for increasing convenience.

You still paid for speed and exclusivity in your garment selection, but instead of scouring crowded high-street outlets you gave in to a Nairobi whizkid who’d written a clever algo factoring in trending colors in São Paulo’s Itaim neighborhood while correlating your friends public garment history before packing that low-cut orange-red dress.

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Or you’d opt out from the trend-nonsense altogether and employ an open-source algo for extrapolating near-term fabric availability based on the cotton commodity boom of last month, delivering you only perfectly fitting outfits dyed gray & black for pennies a day.

You gave no more consideration about your daily outfit than whether the watts powering your tablet were sourced from a wind farm in Flanders or a solar array in Kinshasa. You trusted a system, carefully attuned to your budget, expectations and personality. You told the system what it needed to know, and the system tapped into signals spread deep throughout the fabric of reality to deliver goods you barely knew you wanted. Of course you’d trust it.


[Illustrations by the very talented Julia Scheele]