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Meet Dahir Semenov, the inventor behind a strange, dream-like world

The Russian engineer speaks to Honi about his inventions, investors, and internet trolls.

Dahir Insaat

An apartment building is on fire. The blaze bursts from windows and balconies high above the street. Below it, you can see city streets gridlocked for miles. You begin to hear sirens, and suddenly from around a corner, it appears. A fire truck on two legs, balancing just above traffic. It pulls up to the building, steadies itself, and its telescopic legs push the silver and red truck up to the level of the fire.

You may not know it, but it’s very likely that you have encountered the work of Dahir Insaat. Like clockwork, the construction company’s highly-produced CGI videos appear almost weekly on viral video pages like ‘NowThis’ or ‘WhatTheFuture’ as visions for a utopian (or dystopian) near-future. Focusing recently on concepts for gyroscopic transport, Dahir’s most infamous videos include an unmanned ‘Battle Quadcopter’, depicted destroying air forces bases, battleships, and mansion compounds.

Dahir Insaat (Turkish for Dahir Construction) is based in Istanbul and has been run by Russian inventor Dahir Semenov and his wife since 2006. When I asked Semenov where he found inspiration for the company’s far-fetched projects, he told me that he “cannot say at all how it happens”, but that once he arrives on a new concept, he “cannot find peace until [he formulates] an engineering fit to implement the solution”. Despite some of the concepts seeming impossible, Semenov says he only publishes a new design “when I’m sure that the solution found is technically feasible, and there is not a single barrier to not realise [it]”.

The process of transforming his imaginings into physical realities is an uphill battle. Semenov estimates that he could build a working prototype for each of his twenty current projects with an investment of $26.5 million.

Semenov argues that “it is impossible that in a world where dozens of investment funds operate hundreds of billions of dollars … there is not even one … who will say ‘I’m going to invest in his ideas, I like it.’” Semenov argues it would be a worthwhile investment, estimating potential revenue for his collection at the measly sum of $5 trillion. “Some woe billionaires at the wedding of their children spend larger sums than I need to master all my projects.”

Let the people that claim such things sit down and attempt to create anything in the field of engineering.

Despite being only active for a few years, Dahir Insaat’s videos are quickly achieving cult status online. Reportedly made for the firm by web content company Alconost, there are seemingly endless case studies and CGI prototypes, many accompanied by a booming American-accented narration. In an intriguing twist, a now-deleted blog post on a gaming site claims that the company’s website is home to a “post-apocalyptic science-fiction web-series” which “takes place in the distant future” where lush greenery has reclaimed the Earth after thousands of years of nuclear war, and “the first long-term nuclear shelters have begun to unseal”. The post claims that the “implications of the first season are obvious to any observant viewer”; the Russian Federation and Istanbul are the only two remaining enclaves of human life, and Semenov is pitching his schemes directly to Putin in an effort to hold “every Russian citizen hostage simultaneously”.

I asked Semenov about the blog post.

The post was referenced in the Youtube description of some of the company’s videos. Semenov noted that it was included accidentally, which corresponds with the keyword-based, multilingual word-mash that make up the video descriptions for the firm’s other videos. After speaking to him, he quickly removed the reference from his own channel.

Some critics have accused Semenov of being a patent-troll, someone who copyrights and patents ideas with the aim of licensing the concepts to others, and no intention of building them themselves. He responded that “these are all children’s tales . There are no patent trolls, just like there can not be musical trolls, or trolls of artists.… Let the people that claim such things sit down and attempt to create anything in the field of engineering.” He attributes this to wider trends of online commentary. “There used to be literary critics and critics in the cinema, but now critics of other people’s ideas have arisen when he does not know the subject at all, but he has an opinion.”

The proof is in Semenov’s work. Facebook photo albums show that he has begun to construct buildings using his modular techniques. Semenov is undoubtedly creative, but his business acumen is sharp. He tells me that he is “in correspondence with several very large companies,” and doesn’t rule out that his catalogue may be bought entirely by “a very large Chinese innovative company”. He lists Samsung and Siemens as his dream investors, “the two most competent companies in the world”.

Dahir Insaat may seem like a fansical YouTube content mill, but the true story is even more interesting: these inventions are the dreams of a man who wants to do whatever he can to change the world.