Why the uncanny valley?

Discussion in 'Biology & Genetics' started by aaqucnaona, Sep 23, 2012.

  1. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

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    It has long been a curiosity that our more distant primate cousins survive (if barely) while our closer ones, Neanderthal, et. al., are extinct. Was Homo sapiens threatened by the too-clever, too-similar relatives? When we get freaked out by robots or CGI characters that look and act a bit too human [the uncanny valley], is that awaking the ancient fear? Did we hunt them down and kill them off before they could out-compete us? It is a dark shadow in our species' dawning, and an answer we will perhaps never know.
    Or were they breed into our lineages? Is there any period of recent period of change that suggests this?

    What is the evidence for and against each?

    Case in point and also an interesting example of our capabilities - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhVu2hxm07E&feature=related
     
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  3. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

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    Perhaps a virus infected both and the stronger one survived.
     
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  5. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

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    Quoting the OP "What is the evidence for and against each?"
    Any reaction to the android?
     
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  7. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    Absorption is the most probable cause of the disappearance of Neanderthal man http://http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8660940.stm and may also apply to other early variants. This does not, of course, rule out the possibility of genocide, since it's common in such wars to retain female and juvenile captives.

    The fear of androids, i have encountered only in science fiction and don't know how deep a psychological root-structure it derives from. Xenophobia in general fluctuates with economic and political circumstances, as does racial and religious intolerance. I imagine the same conditions would apply to tolerance of non-humans.
     
  8. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    It's not easy to commit genocide with Stone Age weapons. With flint knives, spearpoints and arrowheads, and no armor, fighting was much more of a one-on-one activity, and both sides had these weapons. It wasn't until the Bronze Age that the first "weapons of mass destruction" could be invented.

    Anthropologists have suggested that even today a Neanderthal wouldn't look much stranger than a person from a distant country. In the Stone Age, when travel was limited to walking speed, inbreeding was much more common and you probably wouldn't have to go more than a few hundred miles to find other Homo sapiens that looked quite a bit different from your own tribe.

    So, Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear novels notwithstanding, it's not at all clear that our ancestors would have regarded Neanderthals as non-human.

    In her defense (I love those books although we had to wait waaay too long for the end of the series), she started writing them in the 1970s. We've learned an awful lot of new information about the Paleolithic Era and both Neanderthals and the sapiens of that time since then. Perhaps the most important discovery is that the Neanderthal brain had a speech center, so there was no need for them to be limited to sign language, which would surely have made them appear inferior to members of our species.

    As for why there might be a conflict between our two species, when that isn't so much of a problem between us and any other species of primate: All of the other primates are herbivores. They have the longer intestine of a grazer, which allows food to remain in the body longer, so that cellulose can be broken down by a rich bacterial culture. With our short guts, humans are obligate carnivores--at least until the rather recent invention of cooking, which also makes cellulose digestible. So the other apes and the monkeys and other primates were not competing with us for food.
     
  9. Buddha12 Valued Senior Member

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    The evidence , to me, is that we know viruses have been around for eons and affect every living thing somehow. So like when smallpox hit the human race many people were killed but many others survived. So some sort of virus hit evveryone when they both existed and only the one type survived.
     
  10. elte Valued Senior Member

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    I think it's possible that the Cro-Magnons somehow outcompeted the Neanderthals. That could have enabled a population boom for the Cros, crowding out the Neands, at the mildest, and permitting the Cros to actively kill, with the advantage of numbers, at the harshest.
     
  11. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    I suspect the uncanny valley is essentially about the usual human reaction to fakeness, and that it appears in other areas as well, not just toward androids.

    For example, consider three plagiates of a famous art work: a very poor plagiate, one that is obviously a plagiate; one that is so good that it is barely possible to distinguish it from the original; and one where one isn't sure whether it is a plagiate or not, but suspects it to be. The last one will seem most uncanny, at least to people who are into art.

    Or, consider the reaction that the average person would have to a police officer impersonator: a very poor impersonation would be obviously an impersonation, and wouldn't provoke much revulsion, if at all; a very good impersonation would elicit awe and even admiration; it's the one inbetween that is eery.

    I suspect the uncanny valley when it comes to androids is because they trigger a very basic, very necessary sense for recognizing fakeness (in the way that specialized fields, such as art or being able to tell a real official from an impersonator are not that basic, even if sometimes important) - "Is this a human, or not?" being the operative question.
     
  12. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    I've always felt afraid of life-form-like robots and dolls. That's why I took an interest in this topic.
     
  13. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    Interesting. Then you might know about the psychological roots. Is this related to fear of clowns? And those ventriloquist's dummies? They seem to be iconic nightmare-fodder. Are we afraid they'll supplant us in Momma's affections?

    I watched 'Bicentennial Man' again. He and Data and AI have this in common: they aspire to humanity - in other words, to be less than they are and more like us.
    I believe that makes the characters sympathetic: even though they are obviously superior, we have something unique and universally desired. We are the genuine article and therefore, best.
    Sooooo - we're merely jealous of our specialness?
     
  14. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    The evidence for Neanderthal interbreeding with humans is very limited, the percentage of Neanderthal genetics that a supposedly survived today in modern humans is so low that its possibly only a genetic coincidence of a few similar sequences and that Neanderthal was never bred with or that hybrid offspring were not viable.

    Machines "wanting" to be like humans is merely wishful and self aggrandizing thinking on our part, humans have long wanted to be like machines: immortal, physically and mentally superior.

    The Uncanny valley is a well documented phenomena, androids will need to be either not human enough to provoke the reaction or so human that we could not tell the difference. Keep androids naked with inhuman "skin color" and a limited face, or go full out to develop/evolve one that fake human perfectly, down to quirks and ticks. I think the latter will eventually happen, the possible demand from say the sex industry to develop such a thing will be to strong.

    There is also a third weird option in my opinion: keep androids that look Cartoony or like animals (furies). Cartoons and so call "Disney eyes" character designs seem to engender even more sympathy from humans then actually humans do to each other, such entities are seen a cute and lovable... but this is taking a really weird twist that grosses me out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTXO7KGHtjI of course this is the Japanese but they may be pointing the way to the future.
     
  15. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    I once told another grad student that I didn't like other primates. She immediately became ecstatic. I was an example of competitive displacement. Later, when I was out hunting chimps for sadistic sport, I thought that was a bit extreme.

    But is this really so uncommon in the Mammalia? There's only so many canids, so many felids. We probably did hunt them a little, and compete with them a little. Suggests that all species have similar anxieties. Lions kill hyenas, hyenas kill lion cubs. I don't think they eat them. So there you go. Humans probably expanded out a little more widely and remembered a little too well where the Neanderthals were; earlier human lineages probably did the same.

    Fraggle mentions the cheap weapons they had: this is a point. You might then infer that we out-competed rather than murdered them all. But then again, we were killing all kinds of other animals with them, too. Wiped out all the mammals bigger than a few tons in North America with the same gear. People have a weapon better than the rest of the Mammalia: our brains. We could probably remember if an area had been "cleared" of other primate species and probably saw them as a persistent, imminent threat rather than an incident one, like lions stumbling on hyenas. I'd say at least 50:50 competition: genocide, leaning toward genocide.
     
  16. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    I don't know, I can only speculate based on my own private experience.


    I've always hated and feared them. I never understood this almost violent invitation to pretended happiness.


    I don't think so. Clowns seem to be the first experience of the uncanny.

    Add to this that small children are usually quite able to read the actual state of a person (whether a person is happy, sad, angry etc.), and the fact that many people who play clowns are quite miserable and try to hide it, and that even some clowns themselves present a happy/sad mixture (a laughing face and a tear painted on the cheek) - this is a recipe for confusion.


    Jealousy wouldn't explain the intense fear and aversion that some people feel toward a certain type of androids.
     
  17. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    Priests and doctors in their disguises, intending harm even as they promise benefit... Parents saying, in effect: "Be happy or I'll hurt you" ... Confusion, obfuscation, forgery and deceit.
    Maybe the underlying problem is deceit. We need to be able to trust our senses - nobody better mess with out perception of reality!
     
  18. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    How do religious figures enter into the extinction of earlier hominids?
     
  19. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    They don't. I'd already dealt with the hominids; have long since gone on to androids perceived as counterfeit humans, human feelings toward.
     
  20. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

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    Do the androids have religion?
     
  21. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    Good question, I guess we won't know until if and when someone makes a sentient android.

    But yes I'm also curious into how religion works into this?
     
  22. Jeeves Valued Senior Member

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    Sigh! It was just an example of people in costumes who might confuse and frighten a child, as clowns do and androids might. How come nobody picked on the doctors? Guess i should have gone with emergency teams in haz-mat suits.
     
  23. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    The following seems a bit misleading.
    I think that a lot of more primitive primates have become extinct. The most you can say is that currently, there are a lot of different primates which have no technology & only one which has technology & that the Neanderthals & some others now extinct had potential for technology.
     

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