Image Uncanny ValleyCredit: Wikimedia Commons

Story after story has been depicted in movies about artificial intelligence looking exactly like humans. In all of the beginning scenes, the human protagonist will cringe at the presence of the artificial life and continues to discredit the robot as not having real human attributes. Yet as the film progresses the plucky little robot wins over our hearts and we all learn a valuable lesson.

Unfortunately this is not a true to life depiction. The Uncanny Valley is the theory as a robot looks more and more like a human it becomes more endearing to us, until it reach a certain threshold. Once it reaches this threshold it quickly begins to repulse us.

Masahiro Mori hypothesised that when a robot takes on too much of a likeness to a human, that the observer feels sickened by the sight. When a robot looks more like an actual robot, then the emotional responses of a human return to caring and sympathetic. The scale of these emotional responses compared against robots that look more and more human has been termed the "Uncanny Valley". Simply put, once artificial intelligence too closely resembles a person, we instinctively have a negative response.

Why do we experience the Uncanny Valley?

With this unexpected stumbling block on the road to progress, researchers have come up with various theories as we why we experience this phenomenon.

We Feel Attraction 

The close resemblance of the machine to a human will drive our instincts to see it as a potential mate. Then we notice that the small visual and social cues that are not measuring up to what we would expect to find in another person.

We Feel Fear

It is normal for a human to feel fear and mistrust things we do not fully understand, and technology is far from an exception. Therefore, humans will put up walls to keep from personal connection due to their fear of being harmed.

They Do Not Meet Our Expectations

If a robot looks like a robot, humans expect them to act like a robot. However, if a robot looks like a human we subconsciously expect it to behave as one, and judge it accordingly.

Do They Have a Soul?

Robots bring crisis to individuals of faith. If the robot can appear, think and reason like a human, does it have a soul? It is hard for these humans to decide how to treat a robot, thus causing internal conflict within themselves.

The Future of Artificial Intelligence

As new technologies evolve, we are finding out that it is a natural tendency of humans to feel negative toward artificial intelligence that looks too much like a human. If science progresses to what many science fiction writer's depict, and robots are walking around with very human like features, society will have a major adjustment to make. As with all cultural changes, there will be groups of people who never accept the change and will only lash out in fear and violence. Some groups will be ambivalent and care very little either way. Yet still other groups will rally around and support artificial intelligence and promote its progress.

How do you feel about the Uncanny Valley?