Seeming autonomy, technology and the uncanny valley

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This paper extends Mori’s (IEEE Robot Autom Mag 19:98–100, 2012) uncanny valley-hypothesis to include technologies that fail its basic criterion that uncanniness arises when the subject experiences a discrepancy in a machine’s human likeness. In so doing, the paper considers Mori’s hypothesis about the uncanny valley as an instance of what Heidegger calls the ‘challenging revealing’ nature of modern technology. It introduces seeming autonomy and heteronomy as phenomenological categories that ground human being-in-the-world including our experience of things and people. It is suggested that this categorical distinction is more foundational than Heidegger’s existential structures and phenomenological categories. Having introduced this novel phenomenological distinction, the paper considers the limits of Mori’s hypothesis by drawing on an example from science fiction that showcases that uncanniness need not only be caused by machines that resemble human beings. In so doing, it explores how the seeming autonomy-heteronomy distinction clarifies (at least some of) the uncanniness that can arise when humans encounter advanced technology which is irreducible to the anthropocentrism that shapes Mori’s original hypothesis.
Original languageEnglish
JournalAI & Society: Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Communication
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2020


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