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The parenting challenge in post uncanny valley era

I showed a picture of a girl to Yvonne. Her response was "Who's that?" So, I said "No body".

It was a picture of a girl in a white shirt with a stripe tie. Her name is Saya. She looked like an ordinal highschool girl, except that she was modeled with Maya, a 3D computer graphics modeling software. At a glance, I thought it was hard to tell that she was a computer graphics person, so I had expected Yvonne to ask me, "Who's that?" And she did.

Modeling a realistic person like Saya takes hours of work by skilled computer artists. It would look unnatural if she moves and talks. But I have a feeling that the uncanny valley 1 is being rapidly overcome. There is also an unprecedented advancement in Artificial Intelligence and man-machine interaction through spoken natural language. All integrated together, I bet there will a day in our life time when we have hard time telling machine and human apart on computer screen...and perhaps off the screen, too? 2

It will be hard especially for young children to tell such difference. Today, we talk about the digital native generation. We will probably be talking an AI native generation one day. As a brand new parent with a lot of imaginations, I have to wonder if my baby one day insists that her best friend is a non-human character. How would react to such a strange idea as the person from the old world. How should I response wisely as a parent? Would it be the best if I admit that AI character is a character? But what if an innocent looking young character appears in front of my daughter and manipulates her with a clever AI logic to try some dangerous drug? What if she decides to marry the character?

Perhaps for Japanese people, the concern is not totally of science fiction. There was a groom who invited his ex-girlfriend to his wedding. That already sounds like a terrible idea, but the ex-girlfriend is a virtual girlfriend in a Nintendo DS dating game (The bride reportedly ended up "killing" her by smashing his DS with a hammer at the wedding 3.) In another wedding, a male invitee was said to have insisted that he'd bring his "2D" girlfriend (again in DS) and that she'd participate in the bouquet toss

As the technology really overcomes the uncanny valley at all levels and the virtual characters looking so real, the concern will soon be not just for the anime addicted few.

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Original post: Oct. 14, 2015 | Last updated: Oct. 14, 2015

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