Making a valley out of a ditch

typed for your pleasure on 26 January 2011, at 7.21 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Reinforced Bio-drug use 72mm’ by Masonna vs Speedranch

Back in November, ‘Shouting etc etc’ had a spike in visits due to the piece on Sidore and I on Asylum’s website. Then it dropped off for a few days, but then it accelerated again, only I couldn’t suss where the second wave of referrals was coming from. That is, until I received a comment from a reader, who had explained that Cracked.com had linked to me, in a roundabout way. They had a story, which referenced the edited version of Meghan Laslocky’s article on Salon.com, which links to (what’s left of) my wife’s vanity site, ‘Kitten with a Whip!’, and that, obviously, is linked to me.
So what was Cracked going on about? ‘5 Creepy Ways Humans Are Plunging Into the Uncanny Valley’. Coming in at number five? RealDolls. Yeah, you can doubtless hear my eyes rolling from wherever you happen to be reading this.

Longtime readers are painfully aware that I have issues with the supposed issues that people have with the so-called uncanny valley. For one, noted roboticist David Hanson, who is the closest person the United states has to Japanese roboticist and creator of the Actroid series of Gynoids, Hiroshi Ishiguro, doesn’t take much stock in that school of thought, either. ‘The “uncanny valley” is a theory, but people treat it like science’, he’s quoted as saying, and I’m inclined to agree with him.
Just to remind you: basically, the whole ‘uncanny valley’ thing is a hypothesis developed by roboticist Masahiro Mori around 1970, which states that the closer the appearance of something approaches that of an Organik being, the more likely it is to drastically affect the emotions of those who see it, usually in a negative fashion. Here’s the oft-used visual aid:

The closer a robot gets in appearance, movement, and behaviour to Organik life, the more most people find it unsettling. Which I personally view as being contradictory and nonsensical, but hey.
That’s a brief summary of the uncanny valley hypothesis; you can check out the 12″ extended dance remix over on Wikipedia.

It’s been often argued that the reason why a lot of Organiks are averse to Synthetiks is because they’re either expressionless and emotionless, or the emotions they display are false. I’ve always maintained that if Organiks already understand that a Synthetik human is an artificial one, hence the distinction between ‘Organik’ and ‘Synthetik’ (more on that later), then there shouldn’t be an issue. If a person of reasonable intelligence — yes yes, the numbers are dwindling rapidly, I know — is already aware that the being they’ve encountered is affictitious, then their reaction should be at the most slightly startled, as opposed to the over-the-top feelings detractors claim to have of revulsion.
As regards to the lack of facial expression that a number of current Synthetiks possess, the respective R&D departments are working on it. Humanoid robotics admittedly still has a bit of a ways to go, but in the past decade, it’s come a long way. That’s what’s known as progress. General society seems to have this enormously unrealistic (ha ha) expectation that any Androids and Gynoids that emerge from a lab are going to be completely indistinguishable from Organik humans, and unless they are, society will loudly decry the in-between stages. Despite realism obviously being the goal, that’s simply not going to occur right out of the gate. That’s as if someone in the mid-Eighties, upon seeing those huge brick-style cellphones, decided they still weren’t good enough because they couldn’t watch MTV on the tiny LED screen. I know, I know, ‘what’s MTV’. But again, anyone with a modicum of intelligence would be able to overlook the aesthetic and mobile shortcomings that an artificial human may have, as long as those shortcomings aren’t entirely drastic.
And regarding the programmes that a Synthetik would eventually have that would resemble emotions; again, if you already know the person is a robot, then your suspension of disbelief should theoretically kick in and solve the problem. Besides, Organik humans lie all the time! Why don’t more people have issues with that fact?

Body language interpretation is another factor in the uncanny valley scenario. Those who subscribe to that ‘theory’ cite that their feelings of creepiness (I hate that word) stem from the way current Androids and Gynoids move — again, as the mechanical technology is still being developed, it’s somewhat stilted and jerky. It has been argued that biological humans find less-than-fluid movement to be unpleasant due to centuries of conditioning: if we encounter a person that moves in an unfamiliar manner, alarms go off in our brains saying SOMETHING IS WRONG WITH THIS PERSON AVOID AVOID. However, using that line of thought, why don’t most people recoil in horror when they see someone that has Parkinson’s disease? Or cerebral palsy? Or those prone to epileptic seizures? Well, in less-enlightened times, people did, and pronounced them possessed, or worse. Just as an intelligent society can interpret a person afflicted with a syndrome or disorder as not something to run in fear from, by that logic, someone observing a contemporary Android or Gynoid should be able to say to themselves, ‘ah, that’s more than likely a Synthetik’.
Organik humans can parse the body language of non-human beings, if they’re open-minded, and are given enough time to do so. We’ve discovered that if a cat purrs, and a dog wags his tail, they are more than likely content. We’ve also discovered that different species don’t necessarily display the same emotions in the same fashion — if you see a cat wagging his tail, chances are he ain’t exactly happy, as another example. Now if humans can read, with some degree of certainty, the body language of animals, then there should be no reason Organiks shouldn’t be able to learn the body language of Synthetiks. Especially when, technically speaking, the body language of a humanoid robot would be specifically designed to mimic that of an Organik, and be therefore easier to understand than that of an animal.

One fear that the uncanny valley elicits in a lot of people would be an existential one: for some observers, seeing an Android or a Gynoid — an affictitious person that behaves like and resembles a living Organik being — reminds them that unlike a Synthetik, their own lifespan is limited. Mass-produced Synthetiks also tap into the fear that biological humans are no longer ‘unique’, or ‘special’, or ‘the crown of creation’.
For one, these people are glossing over the fact that Entropy Prevails, no matter if you were born in a womb, or made in a factory. Presupposing that artificial people ‘can’t die’ is akin to thinking your car/microwave/computer will never break down. Granted, you can state that at least with a computer, if the hard drive’s undamaged, you can remove it and pop it into another tower, thereby extending its ‘lifespan’, and with more sophisticated robot technology. one would be able to do the same with an Android or Gynoid. I realise being able to perform that act alone kicks over a wastebin full of philosophical questions, but I’m doing my best to not visit Tangentburg, as I normally do. But I personally think the fact that someone could have a companion that would never become ill or die shouldn’t be a reminder of one’s mortality; instead, their longevity should be celebrated. You could perhaps view it like having children, or better yet, progeny, that go on to do things long after you’re gone, although I’m more than certain there would be some technosexuals that would prefer their afficititious partners go to the grave with them *cough cough*. The Synthetik creations of humankind would continue advancing our ideas and work when our own bodies have given up on us.

As I see it, eventually humanoid robots that look and act sufficiently like biological humans will be treated very similarly to biological humans. There’ll be some provisions, of course, but as the technology continues to develop, the hope is that humanoid robots will be classed as human, albeit a Synthetik human, as opposed to the good ol’ fashioned Organik humans that you’ve doubtless encountered at one time or another. The exact spelling of the term will undoubtedly change; I hold no illusions in that regard. But intelligent members of future generations that are lucky enough to be able to interact with artificial humans on a day-to-day basis will come to regard them as human, but will still need to differentiate them from flesh-and-blood people for the sake of practicality.

Under normal circumstances, it could reasonably be argued that I have a cynical outlook on society; I don’t refer to myself as a pessimist, but the label’s not completely wide off the mark. The one thing that I’m definitely optimistic about, however, is the inevitable arrival of Synthetik people. ‘Uncanny valley’ or not, their presence will occupy some much-needed spaces in commerce, exploration, arts and sciences, and day-to-day living. Quite honestly, believing in the uncanny valley makes about as much sense as being afraid of one’s own shadow, and I think that the more often that Organiks are exposed to and interact with Synthetiks, then those immature phobias will gradually disappear.


Top, HRP-4C Miim; bottom, Actroid Sara. The future’s looking good

‘If a robot appears in every way to possess consciousness, then in my opinion, we should accept that it does’
— David Levy, author and futurist

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Ironically enough, we don’t even have cable!

typed for your pleasure on 21 January 2011, at 12.59 am

Sdtrk: ‘New rose’ by the Damned

People! Peoplepeoplepeople. My sources tell me that the cable channel TLC will be airing the episode of ‘My Strange Addiction‘ that Sidore and I will be appearing in on Wednesday, 26 January, at 9 and 11pm EST (Earth Standard Time). Doubtless you’ve seen the trailer by now: it’ll be the one where my hair looks like shite, as it was hot in our flat, thanks to the film crew’s insistence on not having the noise of fans or an airconditioner unit be picked up by the lavalier. *grits teeth* Thankfully, Shi-chan was exceptionally gorgeous — this will be the television debut of her stunning new body, so there’s that to look forward to.

Also, it’s always fantastic when things like this occur:

[12:01:23 AM] MontiLee : Someone on my facebook thought Sidore was organic who made herself up as a Doll. She’s read about her but didn’t make the connection with you until after MSA aired previews of next week’s show.

You can’t see us from where you are — at least not until the 26th — but we’re smiling and nodding approvingly

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‘You said you wrote a page about me / In your diary’

typed for your pleasure on 14 January 2011, at 8.06 pm

Sdtrk: ‘Valerie’ by Broadcast

It is with great sadness we announce that Trish Keenan from Broadcast passed away at 9am this morning in hospital. She died from complications with pneumonia after battling the illness for two weeks in intensive care.

Our thoughts go out to James, Martin, her friends and her family and we request that the public respect their wishes for privacy at this time.

This is an untimely tragic loss and we will miss Trish dearly – a unique voice, an extraordinary talent and a beautiful human being. Rest in Peace.
Warp records, 14 January 2011

1997 was when I first learned of Broadcast; their debut Cd ‘Work and non work’ had come out on the Drag city label. I’d read about them somewhere — can’t recall where, but it was a case of ‘if you like Stereolab, you might also like Broadcast’, recommendation and similarity being the way I find a good number of groups. ‘Work and non work’ was really a compilation of their first three 7″ releases; the three-year wait until ‘The noise made by people’, their first proper release, would be excruciating, as I found myself listening to ‘Work and non work’ far more than I thought I ever would, and was eager to hear new material.

The comparison to Stereolab is actually a bit tenuous — sure, both groups traffic in retro-Sixties-sounding music, but whereas Stereolab’s basis draws from motorik, tropicalia, and easy listening, Broadcast took their influences from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, avant-garde pop groups, and Eastern European film soundtracks. Admittedly, one of Trish’s favourite films was the dreamlike Czechoslovakian entry ‘Valerie and her week of wonders‘, and having seen it for the first time a couple of years ago, it totally made sense why she loved it, and why both Jaromil Jireš’ direction and Luboš Fišer’s soundtrack were such a heavy influence on their sound. Stereolab overall are brighter and poppier, but Broadcast projected a mood akin to a year-long autumn. Their music and images complemented each other, but the thing that tied it all together was Trish’s voice — vulnerable, but simultaneously strong.

Broadcast were one of those rare groups where each successive release was better than the previous one, going from ‘The noise made by people’, to ‘Ha ha sound’, to ‘Tender buttons’, to their collaboration with The Focus Group’s ‘Investigate Witch cults of the Radio Age’, from 2009. They can quite literally be said to be the originators of a new genre of music: hauntology. Groups like Moon wiring club, Research Laboratory of Electronic Progress, Mordant music, and every artist on the Ghost box label create nebulous sounds, couched in the past, like soundtracks from déjà vu experiences from places you’ve never personally visited and occurrences you’d never personally witnessed. We’ve all been there. But do you recall that voice you’d heard in the background of nearly all your dreams? That whisper like a familiar but slightly chilling breeze? Naturally, that was Trish.

I’d say she’d be missed, but she’ll always be with us. Especially in our dreams

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Invasion of the pod(cast) people

typed for your pleasure on 13 January 2011, at 12.32 am

Sdtrk: ‘Pieces’ by Blank dogs

Well will you ‘ark at that — another interview. It’s true!
Back in November, Don Recuero and Diana Sparx, of the podcast blog Mindcore, had asked if I’d like to speak at length about the usual blather I’m known for, I suppose. However, there are two interesting aspects that made this a noteworthy experience…

First, the session wasn’t simply centred round RealDolls, or my life with the Missus, but we also took a significant amount of time discussing the future of humanoid robotics in society, so as you’d suspect, it was fun talking about something beyond Dolls for a change. Sure, we spoke about the unique relationship Sidore and I have, both in a fictional and nonfictional context, but the fact that they didn’t just stop there was definitely appreciated.
Secondly, Don and Diana were not the typical interviewers that I’ve often encountered. For one, Mindcore’s previous slant was towards free-thinking and the discussion of atheist ideas, so clearly this was a venue that was more open toward nontraditional concepts. Upon reflection, Don and Diana kinda remind me of V.Vale and Andrea Juno, former collaborators of the counterculturalist press known as RE/Search.
Third, this would be the first podcast interview I’d done, and I have to say, I thought it was pretty neat! A good time was had by all.
Huh! Looks like that was three interesting aspects, then! Math was never my strong point, really.

Go visit Mindcore right this damned minute, and have a listen to ‘Davecat: Man Marries Robot‘, s’il vous plaît. And be sure to let the hosts know how much you enjoyed it! There is no better conceivable way to spend ninety minutes. Fact

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‘Did… did you just say she’s Misogynist Squirrel??

typed for your pleasure on 5 January 2011, at 9.25 pm

Sdtrk: ‘The King’s civil calendar control’ by The new lines

Contrary to popular belief, ‘Shouting etc etc’ is a blog that does not speak exclusively about Dolls, Gynoids, Synthetik companions, and the like. It also covers other important subjects that I feel need to be disseminated more often to society. Squirrels, for example.
CAVEAT: This video is so sweet that your teeth will undoubtedly rot out of your head in seconds. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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CandyGirls, eating candy and listening to ‘Psychocandy’ / The Portable Kaylani Lei

typed for your pleasure on 2 January 2011, at 4.21 pm

Sdtrk: ‘High speed flight’ by Daphne Oram

Now were it not for The Great ‘Shouting Etc Etc’ Blackhole that happened on the 30th of last December — I thought I could upgrade WordPress without the use of a clever plugin, but Fate had other plans in store — this would’ve been posted earlier. But I’m fairly sure no-one would have noticed, what with all the New Year’s Eve revelry taking place. So all according to plan, then! *strokes chin*

A week or so previous to My Personal Blogpocalypse, alert reader Azusa brought another artist to my attention recently: his name is Yoshitaka Hyodo, and he works almost exclusively with CandyGirls. You simply can’t go wrong with Dolls as your photo models!


‘Well, here’s another fine mess you’ve got us both into’


Contrary to all appearances, this place rated five stars in the Michelin guide

The above pics are from his series, ‘Haruna’s Room‘. And that’s about the extent of my knowledge of this bloke! There’s no English on his site, and it’s mostly text, so I wouldn’t even know which block of kanji to translate in order to find out more. I should point out that that link might be not safe for work, incidentally, but as I always say, it depends on where you work. Perhaps you work at Orient industry, which would be an eerie/amusing coincidence! If that’s the case, then… would you like to help me translate some text??

And continuing the Orient industry-related vibe of this post, you may not recall back during February of 2009, I’d mentioned an artist by the name of Becky Yee, who was exhibiting a photo-essay of hers entitled ‘More than a Woman’ at a New York gallery, which would be the results of having spent time with esteemed iDollator ta-bo-san, taking photos of his cadre of affictitious girls. I’d managed to locate an interview conducted by the website Bongoût, which is an interesting wee read.

Bongoût: How did you connect with this particular collector?

Yee: I frequented a fan website for Dutch wives. Writing undercover, I played the role of a connoisseur of dolls, and got an intimate glimpse inside the head of these men.
The site first originated as a place to go for advice, including maintenance, such as cleaning and repair for your doll. There are chat groups you can join where men will swap stories of how to fix a doll if you break her arm or leg since there is no shops to repair them.

I met many men through this site, but the most interesting to me was the one I decided to work with. He is educated, successful, and career driven. So why is there a need to have Dutch wives? And not just one, but 70 or 80!?

After speaking with him, I learned that he is a spokesman for his cause. He desired to see the flipping of his sub-culture, to have it become acceptable to the public. This is why he agreed with interviews, and was willing to share his story as long as I did not show his face.

Bongoût: At this point, who is it that he can speak with openly about his lifestyle?

Yee: He only speaks openly with the people he meets online. And of course, it takes time for him to build up trust before he would meet anyone in person. However, he has quite a network of men, and some evenings they all meet out at a restaurant and bring their Dutch wives along.
the entire article is here

Finally, surely you lot must know by now that Abyss creations will be unveiling their newest lass in the Wicked RealDoll line? That’s right, now you can have an artificial Kaylani Lei reclining on your furniture at home, small as life (she’s 4’11”), and twice as rubbery.


Being 70 lbs and only three apples high makes her easy to take anywhere

If we were to witness a Jell-O wrestling match between a CandyGirl and a Kaylani Lei RealDoll, who do you think would win? Apart from all of us, that is

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