Beyond the Uncanny Valley of the Dolls (Talk)
Beyond the Uncanny Valley of the Dolls
Talk by Ken Goldberg, UC Berkeley "I want to be a robot." - Andy Warhol

In 1919, a year before the word “robot” was coined, Sigmund Freud
published an influential essay, Das Unheimliche, later translated into
English as “The Uncanny”.  The essay and the concept of the Uncanny
are familiar to literary theorists and art historians, who have
charted its the literary and theatrical origins of the concept through
works by ETA Hoffman, Mary Shelley, Karel Capek, and Isaac Asimov, its
rich history in psychoanalysis, aesthetics, and philosophy, from
Jensch to Freud to to Heidegger to Derrida to Cixous to what Martin
Jay described as the “master trope” of the 1990’s.

However, the Uncanny remains esoteric and unfamiliar to engineers and
the public.  They are familiar with the Uncanny Valley, a related but
distinct concept that originated in 1970.  I'll describe the Uncanny
in plain language, trace its origins back to Descartes and medieval
automata, and show how relates to our contemporary human fear and
fascination with a broad variety of technologies from AI to cosmetics
to robots to Siri to Google Glass to zombies.

In my own art and research, I'm interested in mortality and the
boundary between what is alive and what is life-like.  I'll present a
series of short films and artworks that explores this boundary,
including the Telegarden (1995-2004), an online installation that let
participants tend a living garden using an industrial robot via the


Ken Goldberg