I will be able to say I knew him before he was famous.
I had a long fun chat with Pierce P. tonight about a host of stuff, mostly centering around Second Life. Pierce is extremely talented and easily the most dedicated machinimist working with Second Life. He and I both see the impact that Second Life, and machinima in Second Life, can have on the world.
Naturally, the topic of Linden Lab came up several times in our discussion, especially given being in the wake of the major exploits and downtimes during the Relay for Life event. Now, rumor is spreading of some SLrs working on a competitor to SL, and I've previously stated here how Linden Lab has to kick it into an even higher gear to keep ahead. However, I think another point needs to be emphasized.
I described the idea to Pierce, and he recited the proper name; there exists a principle about the human's reaction to things that are similar looking to humans. It's called the Uncanny Valley. In essence, things that aren't very similar get a positive response, as do things extremely similar. However, as things become more similar but not quite very similar, people have a negative response - like corpses, human-looking robots, prosthetic limbs, etc. Wikipedia tells me, "It was theorized by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori in 1970."
It's illustrated in this chart:
In Layman's terms, is there's this "freaky deaky" area on the chart when things are really similar that gives people the heebie jeebies. (Yes, that's a technical assessment.)
Human brains are pattern seeking devices
My take on this is based on physiology. Basically the human brain is constantly looking for patterns. So, if two things are different from one another, a person will naturally look for similarities to put the two in context. Conversely, if two things are similar, a person will be automatically looking for the differences.
Now, when you get on the threshold, you may not realize they are different, but you feel something is wrong on a subconscious level. This I once read is why something like the movie The Polar Express was a bit odd, because Tom Hanks' character looked real, but not really real enough to be very convincing. This is why animatronics are inherently scary and appropriately mocked by The Simpsons.
This is a question I've heard raised about machinima before; where does it start and stop being freaky? Will people outright reject machinima if it is too-real-but-yet-not-real-enough?
It's also a phenomenon that describes residents and Linden Lab. You see, when programs like ActiveWorlds only sort of resemble a Metaverse, people tend to see what similarities they have to a Metaverse. Conversely, when you get something like Second Life that is really close to a Metaverse, and yet with some glaring holes that are waiting to be filled, people tend to focus on the differences instead.
I think that we're moving through the Uncanny Valley for Second Life. There's a lot of frustration because we're so close to where we need to go, and yet those differences are significant and telling. And this means the majority of our comments are going to be criticizing what Second Life is not, rather than praising what Second Life has become already.
So, in light of my last post, previous, and for future ones to come that may come across harsh to Linden Lab's development of Second Life, I think it's fair to keep in mind that folks like myself are critical because things are so close to being what they need to be.