Monday, October 28, 2013

To See You Staring Back at You

The Uncanny Valley
The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers.

The "valley" refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of humans as subjects move toward a healthy, natural human likeness described in a function of a subject's aesthetic acceptability.

Mori Uncanny Valley Chart
Hypothesized emotional response of human subjects is plotted against anthropomorphism of a robot, following Mori's statements. The uncanny valley is the region of negative emotional response towards robots that seem "almost human". Movement amplifies the emotional response. (MacDorman, 2005)

There is nothing more intriguing than the repulsive: A car-crash, a rotting corpse, a deformed human - of the mental proclivity, particularly. The Uncanny Valley, however, is in another class of revulsion. It rides that fine line, the liminal zone of quasi- quantum- existence, the seat of all things aesthetic, where the tension between beauty and ugly is in not-exactly equilibrium-enough to stay that way, vacillating about its target. Am I irresistibly enthralled, or alarmingly frightened? None, and both; a flickering Necker cube of decision.

Perhaps the power with which the Uncanny Valley toggles our hedonic switch comes from our tendency, or is it our need, to seek ourselves in things that seem like us, in order that we might create ourselves, in our own image. We give animals emotions, we imagine dialogue between the sun and the wind; but most of all, we see ourselves in others. And that is how we make our selves.

Were it not for others, we would not be able to know ourselves. Something about sympathetic mirror neurons, collemulation, or mimetic desire. Catch-up on the mirrorbox. And the source is in the eyes, the windows to see through. But the story is worse than this. Were it not for those windows, we would not be able to create ourselves.

Look into the eyes of a robot, not just any robot, but one that falls just-so into the Valley. What do you really see?

You see yourself in those eyes, because you are human, and that is what we do. But you are afraid. One day, it may be you. All of you. And then what?

Do you want to be the robot, or are you afraid? You can't decide. It is against your program, rather, it has yet to be written. When something of such human-ness exposes itself to you, opening its reservoir of self-ness, you cannot resist. How does it look, the world through those eyes? Is it you? Could it be?

Never? We'll see.

 less creepy
source Anouk Wolse

In 1970 the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori published a short paper in the journal Energy where he conjured the term bukimi no tani, or "uncanny valley".

"Understanding the uncanny is neither an entirely subjective nor objective endeavor. Study it long enough, and eventually it makes a study out of you.
-Samuel Weber, professor of philosophy and literature at the European Graduate School

-via: Into the Uncanny Valley
Joe Kloc, Seed Magazine, November 7, 2013

On the Psychology of the Uncanny 
Ernst Jentsch, Translated by Roy Sellars, 1906, pdf

Among all the psychical uncertainties that can become a cause for the uncanny feeling to  arise, there is one in particular that is able to develop a fairly regular, powerful and very general  effect: namely, doubt as to whether an apparently living being really is animate and, conversely,  doubt as to whether a lifeless object may not in fact be animate – and more precisely, when this  doubt only makes itself felt obscurely in one’s consciousness. The mood lasts until these doubts  are resolved and then usually makes way for another kind of feeling. [partly citing Freud's "The Uncanny", p226]

"The Aesthetic of the Real"
Incidentally, it is of considerable interest to see in this example how true art, in wise moderation, avoids the absolute and complete imitation of  nature and living beings, well knowing that such an imitation can easily produce uneasiness: the  existence of a polychrome sculpture in wood and stone does not alter this fact in the least, and nor  does the possibility of somewhat preventing such unpleasant side-effects if this kind of representation is nevertheless chosen.

"Time-Released Self-Induced Psychosis"
The child of nature populates his environment with demons; small children speak in all seriousness to a chair, to their spoon, to an old rag, and so on, hitting out full of anger at lifeless things in order to punish them. Even in highly cultivated Greece, a dryad still lived in every tree. It is therefore not astonishing if that which man himself semi-consciously projected into things from his own being now begins again to terrify him in those very things, or that he is not always capable of exorcising the spirits which were created out of his own head from that very head.

"Latent Animation"
The horror which a dead body (especially a human one), a death’s head, skeletons and similar things cause can also be explained to a great extent by the fact that thoughts of a latent animate state always lie so close to these things. Such a thought may often push its way into consciousness so that it is itself capable of giving the lie to appearance, thereby again setting the
preconditions for the psychical conflict that has been described.

Conclusion: Certainty and Uncertainty
The human desire for the intellectual mastery of one’s environment is a strong one. Intellectual certainty provides psychical shelter in the struggle for existence. However it came to  be, it signifies a defensive position against the assault of hostile forces, and the lack of such  certainty is equivalent to lack of cover in the episodes of that never-ending war of the human and  organic world for the sake of which the strongest and most impregnable bastions of science were  erected.


Robots: Is the uncanny valley real?
Rose Eveleth, 2013 Sept 02
Transference is a phenomenon characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another.
Ramachandran vs. The Mirrorbox
Nov 2012

Uncanny Valley Not So Uncanny for Lonely People
Sep 2014

Webcam sex with fake girl Sweetie leads to sentence
BBC News, Oct 2014
[interesting, in direct relation to above - is 'Sweetie' more believable because of the [potentially] 'lonely' people interacting with her]

Realistic robot faces aren't enough – we need emotion to put us at ease with androids, Jun 2015

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