Robama and the Pod People
... Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori's idea of the "uncanny valley" ... asserts that people can feel comfortable with robots as long as they're not too human. Mori learned that when robots become too real we experience an "unsettling sense of revulsion." The "valley" in question is a dip in a proposed graph of the positivity of human reaction as a function of a robot's human likeness.
In his latest column "Obama in the Valley," Charles Blow deploys the idea of the all-too-creepy robot in political matters.I have often thought that there must be an uncanny valley of politics, a point at which particular politicians rouse our discomfort because there’s something about them that people connect with, but there’s something else about them — intangible, unbelievable and not relatable — that produces a sense of unease. It can be found in the “Artificial Intelligence” of Michele Bachmann and her pull-the-string-in-the-middle-of-my-back compulsion to repeat the same red-meat responses no matter the question. It’s the Buzz Lightyear-come-to-life bravado of Rick Perry, complete with delusions of grandeur and accomplishment. And it’s pretty much everything about the mechanical “I, Republican” Mitt Romney.When we put our hope in Obama in 2008, we did so because we saw a person relating to us as people rather than votes on the tally. His genius on the stump was to express recognition of the dangerous position us "regular folk" are in, and promise to work for us, as a person in government who'd be on our side.
What's happened since his election is akin to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The person who promised to don his comfortable shoes to walk the picket line with us, suddenly won't take our calls. The person who inveighed against the "revolving door" between lawmakers and Washington lobbyists has filled his cabinet with Washington lobbyists. And the person we thought would stop the banks from stealing our homes, our retirements and our savings has been disturbingly silent and maddeningly passive on reigning in Wall Street.
Now we see a president who is so different from the Obama of 2008 that it's almost creepy. What happened to the Obama we voted for? Charles Blow sees this too:But one person I never thought would fall into this valley was Barack Obama, the charismatic candidate who electrified the electorate in 2008 and whom many saw as the fulfillment of the dream of the even-more-electrifying Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Yet here Obama is, down in the valley, struggling to connect with the American people and failing, increasingly coming across as dispassionate to some and outright revolting to others.Only pod-people think you can motivate the masses with talk of free trade agreements and further weakening the social safety net with deficit reduction. Free trade and deficit reduction is the language of pod people, of career pols talking to other career pols. It's not the language of leadership, and it's definitely not what the crisis our time calls for.