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Double trouble or twice as nice?

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On Friday 5 July, South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, was the first world leader to be in two places at once. Is this the beginning of a bold new era in politics – and more?

While actual Cyril was speaking in northern Johannesburg, Hologram Cyril appeared at the Rustenburg Civic Centre. Appropriately, his keynote speech was for the 4th Industrial Revolution SA – Digital Economy Summit.

Neat trick

For a state president or global entrepreneur, the ability to be in more than one place at a time is quite a handy life hack and, right now, they are the only ones who can afford the technology to make it possible.

But the rapidly developing 5G-enabled phones will enable double acts like Cyril’s. Vodaphone and Verizon have already made hologram phone calls in real time, and every communications company is in the 5G race. We are heading for a future where everything is connected, cities are smart, our appliances have conversations about us, 80% of the workforce under 40 are in IT, and almost anyone with a 5G phone has the ability to do what Cyril did.

On the upside

Holograms would be great for people who need to attend lots of meetings, and don’t have the time to drive between them. And there are some jobs that could easily be done by holograms – think of hotel concierges, psychologists, teachers and sales reps (although the original human would have to be working somewhere at the same time). It would be great for complaints desks, eliminating any possibility of physical violence, and it would enable cops to direct traffic in the rain without getting wet, getting run over, or having a cappuccino thrown at them.

Atul and Ajay Gupta, who are so afraid to enter South Africa, can certainly afford to appear in court as their hologram selves. But knowing the Gupta brothers, when found guilty, they would probably want their holograms to do the jail time, so that does not really work. On a more serious note, it could save a lot of money in any court system if witnesses could testify without having to travel to another town, country, or even continent as is the case now. Come to think of it, having a physical lawyer in court is almost so last year. A hologram would do the job perfectly, but it would probably charge double. Traffic would be non-existent as real, old-fashioned flesh-and-blood people no longer need to leave the house very often – just send your hologram to wherever you are supposed to be.

On the downside

In this present-day world, there are millions of good and clever digital geniuses creating apps, hacks, tricks and magic to make our life easier. Sadly, is seems there are even more madly intelligent black hats lurking in dark corners, posing as good people, or appearing quite ordinary and doing dark stuff as a side hustle. They will find a way to con, scam and torment us, making our holograms strip while we give a presentation, or turn the Pope into Kim Jong-un while he is addressing the Conference of Humanitarians against Nuclear Weapons. The possibilities are infinite.

May the gods preserve us from The Donald, who has the money to buy everything needed to project himself all over the place. He is probably asking Apple right now to spy on Huawei to get the benefit of the very latest in Holograms for Twitter. And someone warn Queen Elizabeth: The Donald took quite a fancy to her, and he could move a hologram of himself into Buckingham Palace quite soon. One wonders if even this advanced hologram technology will be able to effectively reproduce the exact orange skin tone for him.

Just a thought

Are we getting too clever for our own good?

Not so long ago, in the era before smartphones, clever kettles and screens with a tendency to overthink everything, human beings lived a three-dimensional life out in the world, connected when, how and with whom they wanted to. Time was not the most sought-after commodity; we had enough of it. Sometimes it passed too quickly, often it dragged, but we knew that was just part of the rhythm of life, and we had the power to dictate how we balanced it. We spent time outdoors and indoors, working and playing, together and solo.

Then time became an issue, screens demanded our attention, and our three-dimensional real life became more and more focused on a two-dimensional world, partly to entertain us, but also to make our lives (theoretically) easier. We were so enchanted by this that we used all of our time to make it better, faster, wilder and effortless. But that was not good enough – we craved all this, but with more realism, hence the development of virtual reality, augmented reality, and – now in all its 3-D glory – hologram people.

At last our technology has evolved to give a three-dimensional life experience.

Uhmm. Isn’t that what we had before?

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