Uncanny Valley

September 20, 2008 at 11:00 am (Miscellaneous Meta) ()

So I recently read Rene Girard’s Violence and the Sacred, which among other things (ie. mindblowing) asserts that violence occurs when things become the same and distinction is lost between individuals or concepts (or types of violence).

Is this the basis of the controversy surrounding things like the uncanny valley, cloning, etc.? As well all those sci-fi/fantasy conflicts about species or creatures that are almost, but not quite, human (ie. elves). Conflict arises over these things because things are becoming too similar to us, to human beings–but they’re not close enough. We’re sending mixed signals; we want to make things that imitate life, or more specifically imitate us, and we want that because we see it as the pinnacle of our scientific(/magical, for the fictional contexts) achievement. But when things start getting too similar, we panic, we feel that our identity as The Humans is being lost and the distinction between Us and Them is starting to erode. We want things to be different from us. Conflict arises because we’ve already designated to those other beings (or proponents of those other beings, as is the case with robots and computer characters) that being human-like is desirable, but now we’re saying don’t be too human. Conflict and violence breaks out. WE NEED SACRIFICE TO END IT!

Okay, maybe not that last bit. But still.


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