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Tisha B'Av 5779: The Uncanny Valley

There is a fascinating theory in the field of artificial intelligence regarding how human beings respond to humanoid objects, depending on the degree of similarity of the object to an actual human. In 1970, a professor of robotics named Masahiro Mori hypothesized that the closer a robot or humanoid object came to resembling a real person, the more real human beings were drawn to it – and Mori’s experiments showed that this was the case, to a point. As soon as the likeness became so close it was almost impossible to differentiate, however, humans suddenly reported feeling afraid of or repulsed by the robot or AI being, and their neural activity demonstrated a significant decrease in affinity toward it. This sudden and significant change or dip in human’s attitudes toward non-human objects is known as the uncanny valley, due to this decrease is affinity occurring in response to the uncanny human-like qualities possessed by the object in question.