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from andrew

by on November 8, 2012

I find it interesting when reading about the definitions of the Uncanny and their different meanings. So far we have mainly discussed the uncanny as being something which is far from human and has an uncomfortable and almost scary presence about it because of its lack of humanness one might say. The German word Unheimlich means unhomely and not natural, yet Heimlich means belonging to the home and being homely. I find this striking as it is within the comfort of our own homes that the uncanny more often than not hits us, be it through gaming, films, television or even reading. The reason why I find the definition so interesting is because when we think of something belonging to us personally I don’t think we would necessarily want to associate it with something that is scary, grotesque or unnerving depending on what that something was; yet the continual point keeps on being raised about how far man will go in terms of advancing technology to a point where the creator is surpassed by the creation.

There is the question whether parts of the uncanny lie within each person: the ability to do scary, un-human things which society would deem to be uncomfortable or grotesque perhaps depending on what it is you could do. It is the potential for evil which is perhaps what is most unnerving because who knows what makes people tick or what lies beneath; the ability to be ‘evil’.

We have linked the uncanny to several things, especially the robotic advances in Japan and the re-borns yet we have never looked that closely at the people who created them and what makes them want to do that. There is something uncanny about them and the way they behave. Obviously man wishes to constantly better himself and that which he creates, but when the uncanny gets to such a point where we as humans are unable to distinguish man from machine, there is the issue of which is more uncomfortable to certain people. Humans can only be ‘programmed’ to such an extent in terms of learning, our personality traits, and our morals. Yet, when it gets to the point where artificial life is so perfect that humans begin to seem the uncanny ones what will the uncanny valley be except almost a failed attempt to bridge the gap between man and machine.

An example from a fantastic series I have been watching recently ‘The Walking Dead’ is the difference between man and zombie. In a recent episode there is research going in to whether there are still remnants of the original human left in the zombie after they turn. In the first two series we see many people lose close friends and family but it is the idea of the uncanny; in this case becoming a ‘walker’, which drives them to stay alive and keep fighting. In this sense the uncanny has been manipulated, because although it is grotesque and scary it is motivation to Rick and his crew to keep on living. Although a zombie is a very obvious case of the uncanny it is still closer to man than a robot is because although it has lost all form of ‘life’ in terms of living it, they are still biologically the same, but have the craving for BRAINSS instead of normal food. I find it most interesting that we are more scared of the technological advances of this day and age than we are of the threat of a zombie apocalypse, mainly because a zombie apocalypse won’t happen; yet this age old horror classic character, the zombie, has been surpassed itself by increasingly lifelike technology which is actually far less human.

The question is where will we draw the line if at all before we have made such advances to technology that the uncanny no longer exists. 

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