The Uncanny Valley of the Pussycat Dolls

Van Mensvoort
November 6th 2009

pussycat_dolls_530.jpg

Make no mistake, you're not looking at the latest Barbie line: These are the The Pussycat Dolls. Formerly an LA stripper show burlesque show, now upgraded to be pop music sensation and the new face of female empowerment. With virtually every race and hair color represented, the collection of women seemed to have stepped straight out of an adolescent boy's fantasy.

Yet, their polished perfection also has a certain unheimlich quality: The lips, the breasts, the heavily done faces, the oh-so-perfect noses, the shiny skins, the 'sculpted' bodies. Too perfect to be human: this cannot be trusted.

large-lars_530.jpgScreenshot from the movie Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

Could the female pop group perhaps be the latest manufacture of Abyss creations, the Californian company known from Real Doll life-size silicone sex doll mannequin advertised as "the state-of-the-art for life-like human body simulation"?

The name 'Pussycat Dolls' certainly adds to the suspect, but then again their hit singles with titles like 'BUTTONS' and 'BEEP' point more in the direction of a robotics project. Perhaps professor Hiroshi Ishiguro, after his so-so attempts to create a robotic schoolteacher and doppelganger of himself, now exceeded himself with this sexy machinery? Not sure, as the comparisons go on...

robotic_schoolteacher_530.jpgHiroshi Ishiguro's robotic schoolteacher.

matrix_pussycats_530.jpg Purely coincidental yet striking similarities with the software 'agents' from the Matrix (1999).

bladerunner_pussycat_530.jpgIn the Fake for Real series: Replicant Pris from Bladerunner (1982) vs Pussycat Lead singer Nicole Scherzinger (1978).

Now seriously. Of course these pop singers aren't replicants, silicone dolls, or robots of any kind. The women are human like you and me. Their only problem is they are so slick – advanced if you like – that mediocre humans (like you and me) start mistaking them for something else.

THE UNCANNY VALLEY: ALMOST BUT NOT QUITE HUMAN

From humanoid robotics research we know the uncanny valley hypothesis, which holds that "when reproductions of humans look and act almost like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers."

The concept was introduced by Japanese humanoid robotics researcher Masahiro Mori in 1970 and is often linked to Ernst Jentsch's concept of "The Uncanny" on which Sigmund Freud – the founder of psychoanalyses – famously elaborated in an essay titled "Das Unheimliche".

There can be various, possibly overlapping causes, for a phenomenon to fall into uncanny valley, which vary from evolved or learned circuits for early face perception to culturally-shared psychological constructs. People's cultural backgrounds may also have an considerable influence on how phenomena are perceived with respect to the uncanny valley.

As uncanny phenomena are familiar, yet strange, they often creates cognitive dissonance within the observer due to the paradoxical nature of being attracted to, yet repulsed by an object at the same time.

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Uncanny Valley scheme. Do over-enhanced people boomerang in the valley? (source Wikipedia).

uncanny_cgi_doll_530.jpgAn interactive CGI woman, created with motionportrait animation software, slips straight into the uncanny valley.

ENHANCED HUMANS: BOOMERANGED INTO THE UNCANNY VALLEY

Although the term uncanny valley is typically associated with humanoid robotic research and computer graphics that aim to reproduce a human-like figure artificially, a similar effect might occur when actual humans begin to modify/improve their bodies with beauty, muscle strength, eyesight, or cognition, up to a level that they are not clearly recognizable as humans anymore.

As long as these enhancements remain within a perceived norm of human behavior, a negative reaction is unlikely, but once individuals supplant normal human variety, some disgust can be expected among the humans – that may feel they are 'leaping behind'. We call the phenomenon of actual humans being mistaken for non-humans the "boomeranged uncanny valley effect". The pussycats dolls, with their doll-like hyperbeauty, surely fit the description.

Now some guys might object these pussycat women are simply splendidly desirable objects and that you would have sex with them any time. Certainly from an evolutionary perspective, the sexual attraction of an upgraded woman is rather obvious. Makes us wonder though, whether Neanderthals also had the hots for homo-sapiens.

More on human-transhuman relationships later on...

pussycat_dolls_530_2.jpg

Related: Objects of desire, Software that ranks female beauty, French Hyperbodies, Virtual MissPhotoshop Beauties, Natural Breasts, Hyperbreasts, Beauty kit for little girls. Thanks for the inspiration: Culture Kitchen.

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shona
Posted 03/12/2010 – 18:51

ever heard of photoshop?these 'people' dont look like how they are portrayed and fantasising about impregnating them on the principal of their airbrushed bodies and unearned fame shows the shallow level to which men will sink.

systmh
Posted 11/11/2009 – 14:01

@Two Worlds:
Here's a spoiler... You won't touch them either.

Two Worlds
Posted 06/11/2009 – 19:48

Ahaha, a bunch of nerds 'spergin out about women that they will never touch.
Whatever. I would have sex with all of these white womens.

Should men be able to give birth to children?


Koert van Mensvoort: Is the artificial womb frankenstein-like symbol of (male) engineers trying to steal the magical womb from women? Or… is it a feminist project and needed to reach through equality between the sexes? I personally lean towards the latter. To me it feels like progress if a girl can tell a guy to carry the womb for a change.

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