Friday, April 08, 2011

The uncanny valley and complex systems

In two weeks I will make akeynote speech at the "Science: image in action", the 7th International workshop data analysis in astronomy at the Ettore Majorana Foundation and Centre for Scientific Culture in Erice, Italy.
The title of my talk is "Reality, models and Representations: the case of Galaxies, Intelligence and Avatars." I will present three different case studies: the modeling of colliding galaxies in astronomical research, the modeling and simulation of human intelligence in computer science, the creation of digital avatars in computer graphics. I will clarify the relationships between reality, models and representations using a semiotic approach based on the classical triangle of references. I will show that visual representation is as important as the modeling and that there is no possible equivalence between the real phenomena and its model and representation for complex systems.
The main reason is a “complexity barrier” between the real phenomenon and its synthetic counterpart. This barrier is due to the huge difference in terms of quantitative and qualitative complexity. In addition, I think that the “uncanny valley” problem, originally formulated by M. Mori (see figure) for humanoid robots, can be generalized to all modeling and simulation of complex systems. The importance of details in visual representations and behaviors increases exponentially when it becomes close to the one of a real phenomena. In other words, if a very small detail can transform an empathic avatar into a monster, it can also substantially decreases the benefits of a model and its representation.

1 comment:

Ventrella said...

What a fascinating observation - I have always suspected that the uncanny valley phenomenon has larger implications beyond human representation, but this is the first time I've heard the concept applied in such a general term. Thank you for this insight!

By the way - my new book explores the uncanny valley as well: www.virtualbodylanguage.com
-Jeffrey Ventrella