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Uncanny valley parts 1-3 - The Ex-Communicator

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December 4th, 2008


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12:28 pm - Uncanny valley parts 1-3
I am posting my story The Uncanny Valley to reddwarfslash. It's a long, slow and waffly story, and not much has happened yet. Also the people on the community don't know who I am of course, so heaven knows what they make of this drawn out peculiar thing I'm inflicting on them.

The story is about the problem of two people touching, when one of them is literally intangible. And the premise is that the computer simulation of human touch is horrifying, because of the concept of the uncanny valley.

Wikipedia on The Uncanny Valley.

The uncanny valley is a hypothesis that when robots and other facsimiles of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers. The "valley" in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot's life-likeness... as a robot is made more humanlike in its appearance and motion, the emotional response from a human being to the robot will become increasingly positive and empathic, until a point is reached beyond which the response quickly becomes that of strong repulsion. This area of repulsive response aroused by a robot with appearance and motion between a "barely-human" and "fully human"entity is called the uncanny valley.


In 'Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers' Lister, working as a taxi driver on Mimas, takes Rimmer to a robotic brothel. It's the first time the two meet. Something about loathing of the human, and desire for robotic non-life, bound up with a loneliness and longing for real human contact, in a man permanently cut off from any such thing.

part one
'I've never had much need for human contact,’ said Rimmer, ‘My family had no time for all that hippy touchy-feely stuff, thank god. My mother preferred as she said to “leave the scut-work to scutters”. You know - scut work - changing nappies, wiping noses, kissing her children.’
‘Kissing?’ said Lister incredulously.
‘Well, hugging.’
‘Hugging? said Lister.
‘Well, not so much hugging as “carrying”’. Until I learned to walk and wipe my own nose.’
‘This explains a lot, Rimmer.’

part two
Rimmer leaped to his feet as if he'd been electrocuted. His face was distorted unattractively into a rictus of fear and disgust. 'What are you doing to me you blithering idiot?'
'Patting you on the back.'
'It felt like a smegging machine was assaulting me. Haven't you been listening to a word I've been saying? You're doing this on purpose aren't you?'
'I'm just trying to help, man.'
'Well don't.'

part three
(see here)
'You're not used to the booze, man. You have to work up to these things. Peterson's had years of practice: nothing to be ashamed of.'
'Nothing to be ashamed of? You took a digital photo of my cock, Lister. And digitally added a mouth and eyes.' (these had been added above and below the startlingly shaped, flaccid, 'nose') 'I didn't even realise you'd done it until I saw the picture posted on the Shipnet bulletin board with the caption "Missing Persons: have you seen this man - believed to be a French movie star"!'

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