“Oculus what?”

He shouted across a room full of nothingness but deranged gamers. He didn’t get it.

Why were young people wearing heavy contraptions covering their eyes and ears?

And making all sorts of movements like retards?

Ahoi, it looked like a silent disco. No decibel of music though. Just people kicking to conga.

On the other side, bits and bytes moved in pulses; pixel by pixel, frame by frame; in moments of magic that became elixirs.

Life anew.

In 3D. Ephemera kept moving back and forth. They were living in the future. A virtual world. And now reality.

A virtual reality.

From frisky AI chatbots, to robotic exoskeletons, and a virtual being. This scenario perfectly fits a sci-fi movie script.


The alarms about the emasculation of humans by robots have never been nuanced than they are today. Because, clearly, what seemed like impossibilities in the erstwhile days of H.G Wells’ fictional essays and texts are coming to a sudden reality.

When you talk about the contemporary tech scene: deeply intelligent robots sit at the core.

Algorithms that threaten to travel in time: driverless cars, AI chatbots, smart this smart that. It’s all baked into some form of utopia.

The Internet of Things has got everyone speaking in hushed tones. It probably looks like this: a smart toothbrush that you use everyday senses a minor cavity and reports to your dentist ASAP. He sends prescription via your smartphone in real-time. The same way you would do while chatting with a confidant via whatsapp. You don’t know where the nearest pharmacy is, so you ask Siri to give you directions to which she dutifully does.

Ok Google!

Start car!

You send vocal instructions to your car which auto-magically rides you to wherever. You don’t steer the wheel at all. It’s as if Jesus is behind it by default. It’s an electric vehicle and that means that it’s eco-friendly too. Schweeet!

You’re an envy for many. For that, many people really want to keep up with you. They want to keep up with the Joneses family. They associate you with that neighbour that has twice as much — and better — as they do have. They want to keep up with the Kardashians as well. The family famous for being famous. Heck, they just want to keep up with anything, whether it’s a fad or not, a need or want. As long as it’s dot io. Heaven knows what their next tastes will be like.

Cool kids!

But what usually happens is within the odds. “We were promised flying cars but we got 140 characters instead.” Peter Thiel, legendary Silicon Valley V.C, once remarked with such irony, and candor. The phrase quintessentially defines what is going on in the tech scene world over. Despite the hype — whether creepy or exciting — there is so much than meets the eye.

On one end are overtly paranoid people who are scared of their jobs being cobbled up by diligent and uber-efficient machines and robots. Then on the other end are individuals deeply engrossed in virtual reality: from virtual currency to virtual loyalty programmes and by extension to virtual lives. I hope maybe, and just maybe, the humanoid will be man’s best friend. And we won’t have to dance to the tunes of our own making.

Cover Image, Creating Kampala 100 years in the future | Kirsten Zirngil

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