What’s The Difference Between Romney And A Robot?

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 2 2011 @ 12:09pm


We can relate to a robot. A reader writes:

Your description of Mitt today – "Romney looks so studiedly presidential he's coming out the other side as un-presidential." – reminds me of the uncanny valley, which is a principle of robotics and by extension computer graphics that asserts that when human replicas look and act almost, but not perfectly, like actual human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers.

Perhaps there's a presidential uncanny valley, and Mitt's smack at the bottom of it.

From Wiki:

The uncanny valley may "be symptomatic of entities that elicit a model of a human other but do not measure up to it." If an entity looks sufficiently nonhuman, its human characteristics will be noticeable, generating empathy. However, if the entity looks almost human, it will elicit our model of a human other and its detailed normative expectations. The nonhuman characteristics will be noticeable, giving the human viewer a sense of strangeness. In other words, a robot stuck inside the uncanny valley is no longer being judged by the standards of a robot doing a passable job at pretending to be human, but is instead being judged by the standards of a human doing a terrible job at acting like a normal person. This has been linked to perceptual uncertainty and the theory of predictive coding.

From the above chart, by Masahiro Mori, Romney looks as if he is probing zombie territory. I think zombies have a more solid identity myself.