Our Uncanny Valley

Somewhere in the wilderness out west, my daughter and I found the valley that the creator of the video game The Clones was said to have based the layout of his game on.  The story went that while on vacation, and while ruminating on different project deadlines that he was facing back at work, he had climbed to the peak of one of the mountains surrounding the valley.  When he had reached the summit, he turned back and looked out over the green fields below, and in that whipping wind and the panoramic curve of the Earth, the whole idea for a video game simulating people and life hit him just like that.

Staring out from that same summit, I had a similar inspiration.  I stretched my hand out over the land and explained it all to my daughter.  We would buy up the whole area, and we would create a real world community based on the game.  We’d cut some kind of deal with the company that held the license to the game.  We’d set up the roads just as they were in the neighborhoods of the game, and we’d sell off all the individual parcels of land.  People could come and build any kind of crazy houses they wanted to.  The streets would all be named after references to the game.  There could be shops and thoroughfares where people could buy themed merchandise and furnishings for their homes just like those featured in the game.

I stared out, nodding with satisfaction as if I could already see it all under construction below.  But my daughter was still confused about the whole idea.  She wasn’t sure why anyone would go for it, why they would want to come live here.  I just shrugged as we turned to head back down the path that had led us to the summit and I told her, “There comes a point with any simulation, if you take it to one extreme or another, where it eventually coincides with reality.”


11 thoughts on “Our Uncanny Valley

  1. I like the aura of plausibility that pervades this dream, which extends to the obvious objection raised by your daughter. But then you give a plausible-sounding answer, compelling the reader to do a reality check in search of flaws.

    A bit like the audience reaction to a stage magician.

    And then again the story might not be a dream. It could be a true anecdote of parental lying to a curious child aged up to maybe seven. Not just Santa Claus but spontaneous lies. We see how open they are to new knowledge, and it's hard to resist making something up.


  2. Regarding the “obvious objection”, the funny thing is that when I told her about the dream later that same day, she basically made the same point (although she put it a little differently. She said something like, “Well, that's what people already do everywhere.”)


  3. And all I could say then was, “yeah, that's pretty much what you said in the dream.”

    She got a kick out of that.

    (And, of course, one could argue that I too was basically giving A version of the same response ;D )


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