Living in the Uncanny Valley

I sit here overlooking the alley as I write, and for the last half-hour there has been a steady “clop, clop, clop, clop” as someone carries things from garage to dumpster, and goes back for another load.  Think about that.  What kind of shoe makes a “clop, clop, clop”?  Someone is wearing WHITE PUMPS to clean out her garage.

I shouldn’t really say “her”, though.  I don’t know whether these beings have gender in their original form.  This is the point in the movie where a space alien living among us, or some android, cylon, or whatever, trying to pass for human, gives itself away with some glaring mistake in mimicking human behavior.

You don’t find this unsettling?

Ok, I’ll admit that ONE alien wearing the wrong shoes doesn’t quite make an invasion, but there’s much more.

cateaupotablesmallThink of what they add to every weather forecast that involves heat nowadays.  They tell everybody to drink water and stay in the shade or in air conditioning.

Surely, that settles it.  As far as I can observe, every organism on this planet drinks water one way or another, and those of us with nervous systems have a little reminder we call “thirst” telling us when to do so.  We also like to stay in the shade, and in air conditioning, if available, when it’s hot.  No one needs to be told this, except, maybe, those creatures that are trying to appear human but don’t have the same built-in responses the rest of us have.  They have enough control over the mass media that they use it to remind their buddies how to keep up the act.

Still not getting that creepy feeling?

You’re probably familiar with the “uncanny valley” hypothesis.  Read about it here, if you’re not:

uncannyrobotsmallThe short version:  As something (particularly a robot) appears more “human”, people get more comfortable with it, up to a certain point where it’s “sorta human but not quite”, and it can creep people out.  It helps to explain how a kitten, which is not at all human, can be “cute”, while an ugly human is not.

metropolisrobotIt’s thought to be, maybe, something hardwired into our brains with an evolutionary advantage that makes us avoid people with diseases.  I know there’s a certain perception of “inappropriateness” that makes me avoid crazy people, and it can be difficult to put one’s finger on.

Autistics are thought to have much less of an “uncanny valley” reaction than the rest of us.  Ok, I know I’m not autistic now, since this kept me awake for a while when I was a kid:

shattwilightgremlin(Recognizing rubber masks through an old-time tv was a skill that might take a kid a while to acquire back then.)

But let’s get back to my point…

I started observing “uncanny”, or faux human, behavior long ago.  The earliest I remember might be “designer jeans” in the 1970s.  Suddenly, what had always been nothing but cheap, durable, extremely casual work clothes became an object of “fashion”.  “People” paid prices I don’t want to think about to have them cut too tight to move in.  wearing-elephantsmallYou could say the whole “fashion” industry has been alien-controlled for a long time, but this was the first big blow to humanity that I noticed coming from that quarter.

Not long after that, I had a job delivering furniture, and thus saw the ins and outs of many dwellings in the area, and the furniture that people ordered to fill them.  Stick with me here.  I WILL get around to politics eventually.

The dwellings were mostly built in the 1960s and 70s, the later ones progressively made of cheaper, flimsier materials.  As time went on, the builders had “conserved” space, giving an illusion of “luxury” by making more, smaller rooms on the same land area.  This allowed something to be sold as a “three bedroom two bath” condo, with less land involved.  Then there was making doorways and hallways narrower, which a furniture delivery guy naturally notices.  So the point is, dwellings were no longer built to be lived in, but to be sold for a quick buck and forgotten.

A good many of the people living in these places were inscrutable.  They would order a nine-foot sofa, not just to fit in an eight-foot space, but one that we had to haul in through a window (with much work to remove and replace the glass) because the narrow, twisty hallways and offset doorways didn’t allow any other way.

And they would not tip the guys doing it.  They thought this was normal.  Clearly, these were beings unaccustomed to being limited to our usual three spacial dimensions.

becausewesmartMaybe they shifted a dimension or something to make it fit after we left.  But they’d probably have to shift things back whenever a real human came to visit or they’d give themselves away, as demonstrated below.

The furniture delivery gig didn’t last long, but I still noticed very odd behavior as time went on into the 80s and 90s.  Most shocking was the proliferation of crap:  the cutesy pillows, the souvenirs, “authentic reproduction” curios, the useless antiques, the quickly-forgotten appliances, athletic gear, hobby tools, and of course, the clothes!

Myself, I was cheap.  I lived in a very small place for 13 years and thought carefully about space before adding anything to it.  When I visited people with “normal”-size dwellings, I noticed that, with many of them, as space increased incrementally, furniture and random crap increased exponentially.  With an 11 and a half shoe size, I barely had a place to stand when visiting some of these “people”.  Garages were no longer used for cars, but mostly as storage for crap that was rarely, if ever, used, but not thrown away.  Surely, no one actually lived this way.  They must do a dimensional shift to put it all away as soon as I leave.

foundmatchingsockYes, it was the same planet, with some of the same
people I had known when I was young, but the piles of
crap had grown like an all-conquering fungus, while
the cost of having a place to put it skyrocketed.

And these dwellings, for which people either mortgaged their lives, and their children’s lives, or paid ridiculous rent, were they enjoyed?  Of course not.  When I asked someone what they did over the weekend, the cheery response was often:  “I went to… (Vegas, Palm Springs, the beach, Hawaii, wherever).”

cylonhalfdressed“Fun” was defined as “getting out of that place where you stored the things you thought you needed so badly that you went deeply in debt just to have a place to put them”.

This is the true meaning of “inappropriate”:  not the way a manager berating an employee uses it; as a catch-all “I don’t like that”; but behavior that simply does not suit the situation.

The alien in the white pumps, if truly cleaning out a garage, might have just learned one lesson in passing for “human”.

“Hey, Mudge, you’re a political blogger.  Get back on track, already!”
…I hear you say.

Ok, I’m getting there.  The aliens clearly understand that we wear clothing, drink water, and buy things, but have little sense of why.  The hot weather advice shows that they have much influence in the media.  It’s pretty safe to assume that they control our political system too, especially in the U.S. They know that we vote to elect people to office, but don’t know why:  They don’t know the effect it’s supposed to produce.  Most of our elections look like they were designed by someone who had heard of democracy but never seen it.

ObamaRomneyyesnosmallAlien influence is especially visible whenever a “third” party candidate is mentioned (rarely) in the media.  The conversation is all about “How dare you try to draw votes away from the lesser evil?”, rather than how screwed up our elections are that this should even be a concern.  That humans are capable of changing their laws and institutions never occurs to them.  It never occurs to them that humans found ways to avoid that “lesser evil or spoiler” effect long ago.

So, for the benefit of the aliens who increasingly control us, I’ve compiled some materials to explain what elections are supposed to look like here:

This is not rocket science.  Creatures who can manipulate another dimension to make a sofa fit surely can understand the videos if they just pay attention.

Look through the collection and get back to me with any questions.  I’d really like to hear about the planet, or parallel universe, or whatever you come from, too.

Real humans are also welcome to contribute to my collection.  I’m mainly interested in the easy, elementary lessons, since the aliens clearly have much to learn.

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6 Responses to Living in the Uncanny Valley

  1. But how do you tell the “real humans” from the aliens? 😐

  2. The True Kahuna says:

    Phillip K Dick, in his book “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”, called it “kipple”. That would be the deuterius, flotsam, jetsam, or whatever-sam left over after society just sort of fades away. It’s the end result of some wierd drive to accumulate “stuff”. Until one’s world is totally kipple-ized and one (or all of society) simply hasn’t the energy anymore to stay ahead of the clutter.

    Then again Phillip Dick was a pretty depressing dude…

    So I see your point and raise you a “new” GP mission (albeit tongue firmly in cheek): to de-kipple-ize the processes of governance by exposing, yet accepting the so-called aliens? After all, if someone wants to clean the garage in white pumps, who are we to judge? Might even be fun to watch.

  3. Pingback: Alien contact, and some more clues for them. | kitchenmudge

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