Tag Archives: uncanny valley

Operator’s Manual for Hillary Clinton PotUS Unit, Mark II: An Excerpt

A Note: All those wishing to write letters to Robotical Presidential, Inc. complaining that people are always judging Hillary Clinton’s appearance because she’s a woman, be aware that the purpose of this excerpt is to demonstrate and assess her operational realism solely in her capacity as a politician. That even those lovely jowls on Chris Christie don’t make him look as much like a bunraku puppet as Hillary Clinton is not a reflection of either of their looks, but rather a reflection of Clinton’s exceedingly well-programmed politician expressions and cutting-edge artificial intelligence providing her with the general cognizance not to become too emotional in public. Conversely, Christie’s psychotic tirades make it apparent that he is exceedingly human. Thirty-five years ago, this would’ve been an Operator’s Manual for a Ronald Reagan PotUS Unit (also Mark II, incidentally).

8. Uncanny Valley and Your Clinton Unit

When operating your Hillary Clinton PotUS Unit Mk. II robot, it is important to note that Clinton-bot’s various modes are accompanied by expressions that convey varying levels of realism. The more emotional or otherwise-stirred-up a crowd is, the more susceptible they are to comments delivered in spite of robotic expressions, audible distortion, or visible discharge of mechanical fluids.

Boot System Malfunction: Please note that Hillary Clinton PotUS Unit Mk. II bots still contain a minor design flaw of the prior Hillary Clinton PotUS Unit Mk. I and Senatorial Unit bots. If, when booting up your Hillary Clinton PotUS Unit Mk. II, you engage the activation mechanism too quickly, Clinton-bot’s enthusiasm circuits will receive excess stimulation. You can most quickly identify issues of this sort should you be greeted after turning on your Clinton-bot with an expression not dissimilar to this:

Should your Clinton-bot begin acting erratically–eschewing pantsuits, talking about Barry Goldwater, or reminding you that Abraham Lincoln was a Republican–consult your nearest shotgun in order to engage the “active shutdown” method. By no means should your Clinton-bot be used as a sex-bot, although your Clinton-bot doesn’t really mind if you use a proper sex-bot as a sex-bot in the next room while your Mk. II is activated.

Folksy Back-Home Type: Though not a distinct mode with its own unique library of expressions as it was on our renowned Palin-bots, Clinton-bot’s shameless adoption of her “true” accent when campaigning the South demonstrated to us that this feature was an important-enough element of the PotUS Unit Mk. I to justify bringing back in our Mk. II units.

Now we can get on to the modes proper.

Enough is Enough mode: With all the authenticity of a Turkey Italiano Melt from Subway, your Clinton-bot will fiercely scorn her most threatening adversaries with complaints about disingenuity and the vagueness of policy proposals slightly less vague than Clinton-bot’s own. Though Clinton-bot’s policy parameters can be updated with the most recent polling from Pew Research, we recommend avoiding the “policy” elements of Clinton-bot’s functionality.

Advantages: Clinton bot es un robot muy fiable y puede hacer muchas cosas excelentes . Para obtener instrucciones en francés, por favor refiérase a la sección 17.3 en el manual “G”, que se encuentra en el tercer disco en el segundo aglutinante de instrucción proporcionada con el bot Clinton.

Disadvantages: Watch in horror as Clinton-bot cries “Shame on you!” for reasons you could never quite grasp at black politicians threatening her foretold ascension to the Presidency. Clinton-bot’s movements in this mode appear cold and mechanical, so it should be used when there is a podium for cover. Clinton-bot has been known to engage fins not unlike a Dilophosaurus before similarly shooting acid at observers when highly-agitated while in this mode.

Capitalization Mode: Clinton-bot takes advantage of ham-handed opposition attempts to impugn her integrity, causing area-of-effect Democratic victories in off-year elections. 

Advantages: In addition to the area-of-effect, Republicans fail to notice actual shortcomings by Clinton-bot for another three turns (this effect is stackable). Mana pool is fully restored immediately, Clinton-bot takes a turn in place of her next opponent’s turn. 91-98% chance of supporter applause and subsequent statistical buffs.

Disadvantages: Republicans still hate Clinton-bot for imagined and outright-slanderous reasons. Media continues airing their grievances with minimal accountability.

Hell Hath No Hillary Like a Hillary Scorned: The most-realistic and possibly even the only outright-genuine of Clinton-bot’s expressions. Denoted on the graph by red, the color of passion and of hatred. Best summarized by the quote “He’s a hard dog to keep on the porch.”

Advantages: Victim sympathy from the left.

Disadvantages: Victim-blaming from the right. Also that acid-spitting thing from earlier.

I must say, in reading this manual excerpt combined with other reviews I’ve seen for the Mk. II Clinton-bot, I feel that it seems Robotical Presidential, Inc. has fallen into the same bad habits of other technology companies, purveying new, cyclical editions of items that are of little improvement upon their predecessors and are even less durable. Additionally, this new and “improved” Clinton-bot’s much-touted “Capitalization” feature was used to poor effect in the latest Democratic debate when she invoked Nine Eleven to defend her ties to Wall Street. I was thinking I’d hang on to my Obama v1.1 (the more resigned 2012 upgrade; poor Bo didn’t get his own second version outright for the re-election), but as it is, an old, balding politicobot with rusted circuits has gone rogue in my home and taken up residence in the downstairs guest room. I’m not quite sure what his angle is, but he keeps hollering on and on about how we already live in a socialist country and demanding I stop trying to plug things into him and instead give him some food.

Kitsch and the Uncanny Valley

Driving along the main stretch of North Conway, New Hampshire this past weekend I passed a “theme hotel”. My girlfriend and I discussed tackiness. I’d transcribe our conversation here but I think a picture of the place will suffice.

Driving through the country I saw several of these types of buildings in tourist downs dotting the mid west. They resemble strip malls but strip malls of the simulacra of historical epochs instead of different little shops; the equivalent of one of those books for children with hundreds of small illustrations set on a timeline through history; probably as accurate, shiny, but pricier and you’re supposed to sleep in it. Facades that are frequently pressure-washed to make sure that their resemblance to faded ruins remains shiny and vivid. A contradiction. They’re unnerving to look at. But why is that?

Jean Baudrillard famously discusses an adjacent phenomena in Simulacra and Simulation and several other texts, perhaps most amusingly in reference to the little versions of towns and famous monuments that make up large portions of Disney World and Disney Land. He makes the argument that the Disney Land versions of these little towns, being the hyperreal averages of what these places exist as as physical occupied spaces and as imagined elsewheres are in fact more real than what they copied. I felt especially intrigued by these passages because the town where I grew up, Saratoga Springs, NY, was “remade” as the largest themed sub-resort in Disney World. I have written about Saratoga extensively and while most people know it as a resort town, I know it mostly for the collection of extremely unusual individuals who populate it in the off-season. I made a movie about it.

The Disney World version of Saratoga is especially strange for me because I know every inch of the actual town inside and out and while the Disney version retains some features it seems soulless and lacking. What makes it even more unnerving is the extent to which the actual town, especially at night when the streets are mostly deserted except where the bars are, already has the artificial feeling of a dollhouse and the eeriness this implies.

I’m sure most of our readers are probably familiar with the “uncanny valley”; the space in automated copies of people where they’re especially unnerving to look at, conveniently graphed here.

The poor replica, the kitsch object, festers discomfort in the observant individual for it’s inability to come across entirely as put-on or homage; the unreality of resort towns perhaps derives from something similar. What else is “bad” acting besides a backpeddling by a healthy human into the bunraku puppet/prothetic hand cliff?

And so a building that can’t convincingly come across as being such takes on a similar discomfort despite its actually being a building. Horror films will frequently take place in amusement parks along the fake “shops” that dot the stretch of midway. Marshall McLuhan compared the then contemporary urban environment, especially in a booming space like Manhattan, to an amusement park or boardwalk space; perhaps to symbolically drag the thing that was the real closer to the approximation, continuing the consummation of the two into a dialectic resolution, a cultural project that has been aggressively pursued for the last 60 years or so. It worked. When I got to NYC for college, Manhattan’s gentrified look and repeating stores did feel like a boardwalk.

The claims to “authenticity” in ruins no longer ring quite as true as they once did with the cultural capital now attached to urban exploration; the spaces become the sites of contradictory “authenticity tourism”. A cottage industry of looking at broken empty things has emerged. The kitsch-value of a Buc Ees suggests a level of authentic inauthenticity; the crassness breaks the hump back into being a striking example of naked primitive ambition that acquires a certain allure for its utter lack of restraint and subtlety.

Perhaps in the future there will be only boardwalks and ruins. What was once the “normal” will come to constitute the uncanny valley of architecture and urban planning.