Saturday, October 29, 2011

Perfect Social Order (Shudder)

I recently tried to extend the idea of the uncanny valley to human development: now Nicholas Carr applies it to social order, saying that "Utopia is creepy."

Interesting. I suppose in the same way that a humanlike construct is appealingly like us until it is creepily too-close-but-too-far, a vision of some ideal society could also be appealingly pleasant until it becomes creepily too-far-from-known-reality.

This implies that there's a sort of knowable foundation for the behavior of human society in the same way that there's a sort of knowable foundation for individual human behavior and facial expressions; something that we can't really define, but recognize. And, of course, that we tend to recoil from close-but-imperfect copying of the function of a human society the way we recoil from close-but-imperfect copying of living facial expressions.

This is a little more abstract, since we can't actually look at any utopian societies and find them disturbing, while we can watch humanoid robot videos on YouTube, but I kind of like the idea.


jtfburgess said...

Sometimes I think that utopia fear is just the gap between two person's ideas of what perfection is, writ large. Andrea and I both use password algorithms for online accounts. It's basically a fixed function we perform on a variable block text which as its output has a strong gibberish looking password. We've found that even though we know eachother's algorithm, we invariably find them burdensome and weird. It's because that algorithm is a measure of how pseudo-randomness looks and feels from behind our own eyes. Other people's sensible function is weird because every brain is just a little different. If that holds true for a system that is taking order and making it seem chaotic, what about a system that is taking chaos and making it into order. No wonder people prefer to, or seem to prefer to read dystopian literature.

A'Llyn said...


And yes, I could see that the further you get into the fine points of a perfect society, the more the initially minor differences between each person's definition of perfection will start to look more and more disturbing...