In the Christian tradition, bilocation—the ability to be in two or more places simultaneously—is a miraculous power often attributed to saints. Certain traditions within Judaism (and presumably other religious traditions) describe a similar power, Kefitzat Haderech, which is presumably where Frank Herbert got the idea for the Bene Gesserit messiah of the Dune series, the “Kwisatz Haderach” (translated in the books as “the shortening of the way”).
Anyway, all of the above came to mind as I read John Tierney’s New York Times column, “3-D Avatars Could Put You in Two Places at Once.” Tierney quotes a pair of psychologists, Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson, who believe that a confluence of three different technological developments heralds certain “paradigm-shifting” advances in virtual reality conferencing. He lists those three developments as being “the Microsoft Kinect tracking system for the Xbox, the Nintendo 3DS gaming device, and the triumph on ‘Jeopardy!’ of I.B.M.’s Watson computer.”
I think it’s safe to say that we’re still a ways off from the full fruition of this technology, but the notion of miraculous bilocation at least suggests a metric for telling us when it has arrived. Arthur C. Clarke’s Third Law states that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”; in other words, when it is essentially impossible to distinguish miraculous bilocation from the mundane variety, the technology will have been perfected. Until then, Gehm’s corollary to Clarke’s Law will continue to apply: “Any technology distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced.”