The ‘uncanny valley’ is a term used in robotics. It refers to the fact that when humans are shown perfectly humanoid features, they feel calm and happy. This indicates that the viewer can relate to the humanoid specimen. The specimen can be understood. Whether the humanoid features are actually human or robotic, doesn’t matter. The same feelings are also elicited, when the viewer sees a robot that is obviously a robot. However, when shown a robot that is ‘almost’ human, the viewer enters the ‘uncanny valley’. In the uncanny valley, viewers experience revulsion, dislike, fear and other iterations of distaste.
Reading this article and then this one, I thought about all the women I’ve seen recently. The ones with their flattened nasolabial folds*, their artificially wide eyes, filled cheeks, tattooed eyebrows and lips. When I meet these women, I have to try not to stare. I’m not revolted, I’m just…disconcerted. I find myself wondering what to say to them, which is strange because I can talk to anyone.
It occurs to me now, that these women, may well be humans who’ve inadvertently entered the ‘uncanny valley’. Consider the face below. Not entirely dissimilar, right? Which one is more expressive?
So here’s the next question: will the current tide of Botox, Restilin, implants and surgery, actually flatten the ‘uncanny valley’? Will we become so used to looking at ‘almost human’ faces on humans, that they’ll no longer worry us when they appear on robots? If so, are we going to replace models, newsreaders and others in visual industries, with robots?
Is this just my writer’s mind making unrealistic leaps, or is it likely? Who knows what dreams/nightmares may come!
*nasolabial folds are the cheek lines that run between nose and the corner of the mouth