At last year’s annual “PROJECT” scientific expo in Russia, organizers showed off what they claimed was Russia’s “most advanced robot,” named Boris. Boris wowed expo attendees by conversing with hosts, liberally handing out fist bumps, and even dancing on stage to “Skibidi” by Little Big, Russia’s answer to “Gangnam Style.” Absurdist K-pop dance hits aren’t the only thing being ripped off, though: it turns out Boris was just some guy in a suit. Whoops.
Not to be outdone, the 38th Annual Technology Exhibition in the Ghanaian capital of Accra rolled out its own questionable displays of allegedly “advanced” technology. The exhibition featured the usual variety of telecom tech and social media apps, but the main event was without a doubt a parade sponsored by the Apostle Dr. Kwadwo Safo Kantanka, owner of Ghana’s first car maker Kantanka Automobile and frequent maker of dubious claims. At the Technology Exhibition, Kantanka showed off what was alleged to be the most advanced military technology in Ghana: soldiers wearing powered exoskeletons and a massive, heavily-armed personnel carrier. The personnel carrier seemed like it could hold up alright to small arms fire for a few minutes, but as for the cyborg supersoldiers, well, just check it out for yourself.
Those guys wouldn’t even make it into the top ten at a cosplay convention. That one dude’s “hydraulic cable” is just hanging off his leg and is obviously empty split loom tubing, and as a cosplayer myself, I know a spray painted motorcycle helmet when I see one. Part of me wants to laugh, the other part just feels embarrassed for the poor guys who had to wear those costumes in the Ghanaian heat. I have to wonder, though: what did the exhibition attendees think?
The whole parade reminds me of several times I got paid to impersonate fake business executives at grand opening spectacles in China. Everyone watching knew it wasn't real and that I was probably just American off the street, yet somehow a collective delusion would take over and everyone would agree that yes, this 20-something unshaven white guy must be the real Fitzgerald Prescott, VP of Far East operations for the Cass Hotel Management group. Champagne would be poured, pictures would be taken, charters would be signed, then we'd all empty out into the streets and wonder what we just saw. Isn't that how all reality works, though? We all agree we see the same things every day when in fact we have no idea how subjective our perception may be.
At any rate, this isn’t the first time Kantanka has showed off laughable props and tried to pass them off as advanced defense tech. Check out this bottle-rocket shooting “Kantanka armored car” from the 2013 Technology Exhibition. Still, Kantanka stands by their exoskeletons, even publishing a piece titled “Ghanaians Shame Blogger JB Klutse over His 5 Stupid Questions About Kantanka’s Exoskeleton” on their company’s “Newsroom” page in response to online criticism of the whole charade. Ouch.
While it's fun to laugh at these silly costumes and wonder how anyone could have possibly tried to pass them off as real, this story only really highlights just how unequal the modern battlefield has become. With the world's superpowers boasting technology that makes anyone else's look like bad cosplay, it's no wonder that terrorism and asymmetrical warfare has become the new norm. Just wait until the real cyborg supersoldiers start marching through city streets.