2020: No Place for Robots - Mori Masahiro

Source: The Asia-Pacific Journal | Japan Focus Volume 18 | Issue 23 | Number 4 | Article ID 5521 | Dec 01, 2020
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No Place for Robots: Reassessing the Bukimi no Tani (“Uncanny Valley”)

Jennifer Robertson

Over the past decade, the concept of the “uncanny valley” (bukimi no tani) coined by roboticist Mori Masahiro (b. 1927), has appeared in over ten thousand (Englishlanguage) articles and chapters, Briefly, the concept presumes that the scary surprise of realizing that, say, a flesh-and-blood human was actually a zombie will send one tumbling into a valley of existential queasiness. As an application, this effect was hypothesized by Mori as grounds for avoiding the design and manufacture of humanlike robots or androids. In this edited and augmented excerpt from chapter 6 (Cyborg-Ableism beyond the Uncanny [Valley]) of my book, Robo Sapiens Japanicus: Robots, Gender, Family, and the Japanese Nation (2018), I interrogate the ‘uncanny valley” hypothesis, which has been accorded an almost “natural-law”-like status. I critically examine Mori’s original 1970 essay in Japanese and draw attention to some of the problems posed both by translating bukimi as “uncanny” and by treating the “uncanny valley” as a selfevident truism. ....

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