Machines have become an indispensable tool for humans, to the point that some of them have become practically another extremity of our organisms, both literally and metaphorically if we refer to our indispensable mobile phone.
Some of them already reproduce our anatomy, physiognomy and behaviour with a sinister realism, perhaps to make them more familiar and attractive to us. However, they can cause the opposite effect.
The negative sensation generated by a robot due to its similarity with us in appearance and behaviour is known as the “uncanny valley effect”. The architect of this hypothesis was Professor Masahiro Mori and in order to understand it we have to analyse the following graph:
The less resemblance a robot has to us, the less empathy we feel towards that machine. We treat it as a mere object, giving it relative importance, but never the same as the one we might feel for another person.
When this technology progressively acquires an aspect and behavior more similar to ours, we feel more sympathy for it.
However, there is a turning point when the anthropomorphism of the machine produces rejection. Although it resembles us to a large extent, something tells us that it is not completely human. It would be the same sensation generated by zombies: primary anthropomorphic and repulsive beings.
However, that valley is surmountable. When our differences continue to shrink and the machine is almost indistinguishable from a human being, the affinity we feel for it soars to the same level we would feel for a healthy person. Perhaps at that point we would treat them as equals…