[PODCAST] Originally coined by Masahiro Mori in 1970, the term “uncanny valley” describes our strange revulsion toward things that appear nearly human, but not quite right. This revulsion usually involves robots, but can also include computer animations and some medical conditions.
DIRECT LINK to MP3 of this Episode: https://tinyurl.com/SDP92
THE UNCANNY VALLEY AND ANIMATED MOVIES
There’s a big difference between two popular animated movies released in 2004. The Incredibles portrays characters with intentionally angular and exaggerated features that leave no doubt to the viewer that they are watching cartoon characters. However, audiences packed with children cringed while watching The Polar Express with its dead-eyed people and an uncomfortable dark-tinge to the demeanor of the conductor – not to mention the unsettling message of the movie to carelessly hand over faith to complete strangers. The movie slipped into the uncanny valley and wasted a stellar performance by Tom Hanks on a movie that’s perhaps better heard than viewed.
Dr. Perrodin shares a discussion he had with a friend that explored the matter of transhumanism, or the international philosophical movement that advocates for the transformation of the human condition by developing and making widely available sophisticated technologies to greatly enhance human intellect and physiology. An example might be contact lenses that allow people to record what is happening around them or even bio-engineering to increase intelligence. What are the security implications, for example, of people being able to record everything in their vicinity without awareness or consent of others?
This teen has a million social media followers – an impressive feat, considering that she is a fictional person managed by a team of engineers, marketers and dreamers. Dr. Perrodin argues that Lil Miquela has crossed the uncanny valley – especially for children with perceptual or intellectual disabilities convinced that she is an authentic person.
IMPLICATIONS OF AVATAR REALISM
Elections and marketing are immediate areas where avatar realism will substantially impact “the way things have been done” in the world. It’s completely possible to tailor an appealing realistic avatar that is a mouthpiece for political agendas or brands. While this arguably happens with people, the accountability of an avatar won’t be as susceptible to shaming and people will be less interested in applying pressure to the persons programming the avatars.
SCHOOL SAFETY AND MANIPULATIVE AVATARS – THE NEW RISK TO CHILD GROOMING
Dr. Perrodin expresses concern that CGI avatars will eventually fall into the hands of child groomers and provide a means by which to develop a more comprehensive profile for online bait profiles. He urges schools and parents to make children aware and skeptical of potential realistic avatars. Dr. Perrodin notes that well over half of people “friended” on social media are never met in person – and this practice has made it easier for skilled avatar engineers to jump the uncanny valley as few people seek to validate or authenticate sources.
SCARILY REALISTIC ‘DEEP VIDEO PORTRAITS’ & FAKE NEWS – ANYONE COULD BE FALSELY PRESENTED
Finally, Dr. Perrodin mentions a new technology that allows the user to edit facial movements of persons to match dubbed voices. While not yet perfected or available at the retail level, such technology could be deployed to make it appear that anyone gave a certain speech or made certain comments. This is a novelty if you want to watch yourself giving a State of the Union address through some basic uploaded video. However, what if this software was used to make it appear that you made inappropriate comments? If a 30-second video clip of this fabricated presentation went viral, it could result in permanent personal and career ruin. Is it even possible to protect yourself against this method of character attack?
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Dr. Perrodin’s “Safety Doc Podcast” negotiates school and community safety. To be informed about industrial safety, please contact Appalachian State University Professor Dr. Timothy Ludwig, PhD, at www.safety-doc.com
Lil Miquala article mentioned in this episode: https://www.thecut.com/2018/05/lil-miquela-digital-avatar-instagram-influencer.html
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