Beyond the Uncanny Valley of the Dolls

Lecture: Other Cal Archaeology | March 15 | 6-8 p.m. | Hearst Museum of Anthropology, 103 Kroeber Hall

 Ken Goldberg

 Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology

About this Lounge Lecture:
In 1919, a year before the word “robot” was coined, Sigmund Freud published an influential essay, Das Unheimliche, later translated into English as “The Uncanny”. The essay and the concept of the Uncanny are familiar to literary theorists and art historians, who have charted its the literary and theatrical origins of the concept through works by ETA Hoffman, Mary Shelley, Karel Capek, and Isaac Asimov, its rich history in psychoanalysis, aesthetics, and philosophy, from Jensch to Freud to to Heidegger to Derrida to Cixous to what Martin Jay described as the “master trope” of the 1990’s. However, the Uncanny remains esoteric and unfamiliar to engineers and the public. They are familiar with the Uncanny Valley, a related but distinct concept that originated in 1970. I'll describe the Uncanny in plain language, trace its origins back to Descartes and medieval automata, and show how it relates to our contemporary human fear and fascination with a broad variety of technologies from AI to cosmetics to robots to Siri to Google Glass to zombies.

About the Speaker:
Ken Goldberg is an artist, inventor, and UC Berkeley Professor. He is Chair of the Industrial Engineering and Operations Research Department, with secondary appointments in EECS, Art Practice, the School of Information, and Radiation Oncology at the UCSF Medical School. Ken is Director of the CITRIS "People and Robots" Initiative and the UC Berkeley AUTOLAB where he and his students pursue research in geometric algorithms and machine learning for robotics and automation in surgery, manufacturing, and other applications. Ken developed the first provably complete algorithms for part feeding and part fixturing and the first robot on the Internet. Despite agonizingly slow progress, Ken persists in trying to make robots less clumsy. He has over 250 peer-reviewed publications and 8 U.S. Patents. He co-founded and served as Editor-in-Chief of the IEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering. Ken's artwork has appeared in 70 exhibits including the Whitney Biennial and films he has co-written have been selected for Sundance and nominated for an Emmy Award. Ken was awarded the NSF PECASE (Presidential Faculty Fellowship) from President Bill Clinton in 1995, elected IEEE Fellow in 2005 and selected by the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society for the George Saridis Leadership Award in 2016. He lives in the Bay Area and is madly in love with his wife, filmmaker and Webby Awards founder Tiffany Shlain, and their two daughters. ( @Ken_Goldberg)