[FRIAM] dancing on the edge of the uncanny valley

Steve Smith sasmyth at swcp.com
Fri Jun 24 02:50:21 EDT 2022


Marcus confronted me a month or more ago with something along the lines 
of " who says learning isn't just imitation? ", and it *really* hit 
home.   Play seems to be a lot about mock-work and mock-fighting and it 
seems widely accepted that a great deal of learning happens through 
emulation of the expertise of others.

When I consider those who have passed in my life, I think I much prefer 
to hear-through-memory their voices (and visages) over recordings. 
Synthesizing voices or visages seems to compound the uncanny valley 
effect.   Bad enough to get it eeriely-nearly right with something less 
visceral than the affect of a loved one since passed.

During the first gulf war (1991) I worked with a voice/speech researcher 
who "went dark" for about a year.   He remained cagey about this work 
even after he came out of that period of silence and misdirection, but 
eventually the general nature of the work was declassified (though not 
details) and it was about synthesizing voices by modeling the vocal 
tract, and the application that made it so skitchy was battlefield 
communications of Saddam Hussein.   This was still in an era of analog 
communication with various analog scrambling techniques standing in for 
what we do today with digital encryption and authentication.  I have no 
idea if it was ever deployed or effective operationally, but the 
examples he used for demonstration with well known voices.   I doubt 
anyone could argue that this speech synthesizer in any way "thought" 
like Saddam Hussein, but the larger organizational unit (Iraq army), 
might well "act as if" the intention injected by the synthesized voice 
was part of their collective psyche.

Back to the original premise of whether a well-enough practiced/trained 
learning classifier system has any emergent properties that are parallel 
to animal/human cognition.  This seems entirely up in the air to me, but 
Glen's recent rant/rave about "what it's like" and splitters v smooshers 
was mildly compelling to me.

A big shift in my own perception of self/change was when someone I 
respected offered the idea of "trying it on" and "acting as if" as a 
model for personal transformation.  In retrospect it seems obvious that 
by emulating some *one* (real or idealized) one might actually become 
*more like* that person (real or idealized).   Of course, this is about 
a change of affect/self/consciousness, not emerging from whole cloth 

More information about the Friam mailing list