Turn it up – temperature control and the human experience

Temperature is like logistics: when everything is right, you don’t notice it. It affects our performance, and our daily experience. And yet it has only been since the 1980s that air conditioners have become a standard fixture in homes as well as office buildings. The 99% Invisible episode on the advent of air conditioners provides a clear example of what separates us from the monkeys – despite what Stephen Dubner might say – namely, that we can modify our environment to our preferred specifications to an insane degree now (pun intended).

Not only can we make our stationary spaces as comfortable as possible, but more an more we can control our personal environment as we travel, with the advent of performance fabrics. I’m not just talking GOR-TEX and the Colombia Omni Heat boot. I’m talking about Stanford’s reversible fabric innovation that can warm and cool. The inventor, Yi Cui, was slightly horrified at the green house implications of our American life style and posed the question: rather than changing a whole building, can we localize temperature control to a single person. He invented an answer. Not yet wearable, but when it gets there, we may be able to experience comfort everywhere we go, without so many negative externalizes. Right now, I’m wearing a hoodie because I’m freezing in my open office. But tomorrow, I will choose my Performance Hoodie (TM) to maximize value for my employer. It’s a win-win – my work will be better than if I micro dosed on LSD*, and office overhead costs will drop with lower energy bills. It will be the real deal.

*This reference is not an endorsement of taking illegal drugs. I mean, even Steve Jobs said you should, but I can’t endorse it.

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