Tera: A Thought From the Uncanny Valley

Imagine a mad scientist took a chunk of elements that could make up a human being, and constructed a robot that almost resembled a woman, a friend, a soulmate. A being that could ultimately complete the scientist and be that missing piece to an obsolete puzzle. After a series of fails he flips the switch and the robot works! She talks, she walks, she answers questions she even asks questions! He calls her Tera. The rouge idea of playing god and personal match maker is far from original, and intimately idealistic, and unfortunately this result is nothing short of disturbing. So, what went wrong? The body parts are all where they’re supposed to be. The extremities are always difficult to master so the scientist can’t beat himself up about that, after all the body of the opposite sex was never his main focus. We raise our gaze to the head, bingo! The hair, a bit too dry and artificial. The head and neck, a bit too disorientating with its movement; and the eyes, far too large, and lifeless. I welcome you to the Uncanny Valley. First coined in 1970 by Masahiro Mori the term Uncanny Valley describes our interesting revulsion toward objects that seem nearly human but aren’t quite right. Typically reserved for humanoid robots, and computer animations. I take you back to the scientist, who was filled with sheer joy until he seen Tera in action. Tera can hold deep extended conversations with him, Tera can express her supreme curiosity of the world around her, Tera even seems to love the scientist for him, something he never experienced before. This all seems like fairytale fuel, but the fact is, this doesn’t work. There’s something about Tera’s face that chills the scientist’s spine. The unnatural, robotic animations her mouth makes when she speaks, the animatronic way she walks, and the soul piercing eye contact she makes reminds him that Tera lacks just that, a soul. The scientist has to ask himself, what is it that makes one human? Is it an innate ability to speak and be understood? Is it a way of picking up on the emotions of others and being able to see through lies and charades? Is a specific look that absolutely, positively has to resemble something that is undoubtedly human? A reference point when things get to confusing and unfamiliar? A combination of all the above? The truth is a soul is less of a physical object, and more a philosophical idea that gets its meaning from the scientist himself. I suppose the real question is, are any of us really human?

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