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uncanny valley

a mysterious feeling


uncanny valley = uncanny valley = Akzeptanzlücke, bezeichnet Unheimlichkeit (bei menschenähnlichen Robotern) ----- unheimliches Tal; Gruselgraben



“What does it mean to be human? When a robot asks that question, it might elicit feelings of unease—indeed, when artificial beings start acting or looking a little too human, you might experience the UNCANNY VALLEY phenomenon.”

Natalia Mesa — National Geographic ‘The uncanny valley, explained: Why you might find AI creepy (29th September 2023)

“GPT-4 and the  UNCANNY VALLEY – AI at an Inflection Point. Are we at a point where GPT-4 demonstrates that we now have an AI engine where an AI program can converse and communicate with another human being without being detected as a machine?”

May-Ann Lim — Fair Tech Institute (11th May 2023)

Did you

uncanny valley
noun phrase

- used to refer to the unpleasant feeling that some people have when they see robots (= machines that can carry out actions automatically), or pictures of a human being created by a computer, that appear very similar to a living human

Cambridge Dictionary


Originally Scottish and northern English, “uncanny” first appeared in the 1590s in the sense of mischievous (spitzbübisch). By the late 18th century the meaning had become associated with mystery and the supernatural.

English also has the word canny, but canny and uncanny should not be interpreted as opposites. Canny, which first appeared in English in the 16th century, means “clever”, “shrewd”, or “prudent” — as in “a canny lawyer” or “a canny investment”.


As technology advances, and robots and prosthetics become more humanlike in appearance, our response to them seems to follow an odd pattern. Making them too lifelike makes us uncomfortable. This discomfort is called the “uncanny valley” — a gulf between moderate affinity for humanlike robots and a revulsion for replicas that come too close to the real thing for comfort.

This feeling is amplified by movement. Immobile humanoid mannequins seem benign enough. Set them in motion, and they instantly become disturbing. Experiments that animated an android's smile made it seem sinister rather than joyful; paradoxically, the more lifelike the motion, the more unnatural it stands out.

Is the goal to create androids indistinguishable from humans? Probably not. The ideal may be intelligent machines that are clearly artificial, but to which we can relate. As we progress, the uncanny valley should help us intuitively shape technology to be comfortable, helpful versions of ourselves — similar but distinct — machines we recognize as different and still able to enjoy.

If you’re intrigued by this concept, check out The Uncanny Valley by Masahiro Mori


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“We can expect the UNCANNY VALLEY experience to be quite commonplace when AI agents become our personal assistants.”

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