Superpresence

It has long been a dream of many to effect truly successful transmission of presence. For example, that was one of the central research goals of the MIT media lab when it was first founded back in 1986.

I think we are finally getting to the point where, in the coming few years, we will be able to beam a quite reasonable representation of one person’s physical presence into another person’s physical space. That will be very exciting, but it will raise more questions than it answers.

After we have taken for granted that you and I can have what feels like a fully embodied face-to-face conversation over distance, what comes next? We will inevitably turn to adding features.

there are many things you can do when you are looking at someone’s virtual being, rather than speaking to them in the flesh. For example, you might be able to read their body temperature, know what they had for breakfast, or be aware of their favorite color.

On a technical level, anything that can be done through a combination of sensors, local computation and the power of the Cloud is fair game.

Such powers of superpresence can be used for either good or evil. In one bad scenario, they could be used to help enable a police state, and to take away values that we cherish, including privacy.

Yet those same capabilities could be used to help promote empathy and understanding. Perhaps we will have an enhanced ability to see that a person is becoming visibly angry not because they feel belligerent but because they feel fear and are in need of reassurance.

As with all new capabilities, superpresence will be subject to Kranzberg’s first law of technology.

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