17 Feb 2021
Cyborgs were a hot topic during the Space Race. The idea of a mixed-race between humans and technology has long fascinated us and been the subject of our science fiction. The Matrix, Blade Runner and 80's cult classic Tron all spoke of such virtual reality in dystopian regard. And now that we are in the so-called future presented by many works of fiction from the past, have we fulfilled the prophecies of sci-fi literature? Are we amongst cyborgs, or are we cyborgs?
The current pandemic has forced industries to go digital and more individual to adopt tech that is out there. But even before COVID-19, the discussion on Instagram culture—how it warps reality and induces depression and anxiety—was already prevalent. With countless of phone applications like FaceApp or Meitu, which change one's face and body so naturally, most of us are already part of a virtual reality.
From the pessimistic views of cyborgs in the past to the time that we are in, there is an observable shift in the view: virtual reality may not be so monstrous. Simply take a look at the fashion scene, and you'll see the modern paradigm. Balenciaga's Fall 2020 video game launch and Sunnei's Canvas SS21 collection both present games with their articles of clothing on virtual models. There is even a modelling agency dedicated to virtual models and influencers like www.thediigitals.com. Take Koffi for example. Modelled after a real-life athlete, he has a flawless face and perfectly smooth dark complexion. His chiselled physique, however, does not even have to be maintained with a strict diet and laborious hours at the gym. And yet, at a glance, Koffi is as real as we are.
Can we indeed really say that these virtual beings are not real? To get to the bottom of this, we talk to Bangkok's own virtual influencer, the enigmatic @bangkoknaughtyboo. FYI, the only way is to hit them up is via direct message.
Hello, @bangkoknaughtyboo. Is that your name?
My name is Bangkok. My social media name is @bangkoknaughtyboo.
Who exactly are you?
@bangkoknaughtyboo is a forever-17 virtual model. The first VI in Thailand and the first non-binary VI on the planet. I'm working my way to becoming a world-class popstar.
How do you reach that goal? By being an influencer-model?
I do anything to stay alive. I was hired by @labhommes for their small project at the beginning of this year, and I'm looking for more jobs now. Not so many people understand what a 'virtual influencer' yet, and I'm trying to open their world.
When or why did you start photoshopping your face?
I never did that. I was born like this. I'm AI, my face can update from time to time. It depends on my creator @bda.world.service.
So how did you customise your face? What was the inspiration for your current look?
My face and personality is a mixture of #youthofbangkok.
Are there more like you in Thailand? Do you think there will be more?
My creator is making another VI and her name is Valentine. That's all I can say.
Do you plan to stay anonymous for long?
I'm not at all anonymous. I'm very open that I'm virtual and all.
Will you show your 'real' face and identity?
I'm always showing my real identity ;)
Do you think virtual influencers are going to become a big thing?
It's only the beginning now. It will be very serious in the near future.