This & That: April 4, 2023
Some thoughts on the uncanny valley.
Hi there readers,
In this edition of the newsletter, I have some more thoughts on AI and the phenomenon known as the “uncanny valley.” I also share the Anderberg family’s favorite reads of March, and, as always, some great links.
Let’s get right to it!
Something I’m Thinking About: Speeding Up and Slowing Down
Being in the tech industry means I’m professionally obligated to stay on top of the latest and greatest in software and technology. In the last couple months that’s meant reading about and experimenting with so-called “generative AI” programs like ChatGPT and Dall-E.
There’s no denying that they’re impressive tools, and even kinda fun to play around with. But the more I learn about AI, the more I want to retreat away from tech (in my personal life, to be clear).
There’s a phenomenon called the uncanny valley which states that the closer technology gets to having human qualities — or simply appearing to have human qualities — the creepier and more disconcerting it gets.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the uncanny valley in recent months, which has pushed me to a deeper appreciation of the messy, complicated things that makes humans human: conversations that don’t go anywhere, time spent inefficiently, trying new things and failing, testing out stupid ideas. Even something intangible like deep empathy or raw emotion isn’t possible at the hands — servers? — of AI.
The more our networks and society speed up, the further I’m pulled in the other direction — to slow down and resist the companies and programs that are grabbing more and more of our autonomy and humanity.