As we descend deeper and deeper into The Uncanny Valley, we are left to wonder if we want those built to be like us, to be like us, or if we prefer them to look mechanical so we can more immediately identify not just what, but who, we are interacting with in our intimate lives.

I am fascinated by The Uncanny Valley, because I am a child of The Paper Mountain generation and currently serve as a bridge between the two unnavigable crevasses — as I revealed in this discussion of our newest Marshall Jamison poem published ten years after his death — quite an uncanny feat from a Paper Mountain Godhead if there ever was one:

I’m a “bridge generation” from paper and pen and typewriter into the electronic world of nefarious bits and bytes.

Today, there is no paper trail. Only multiple “e-drafts” that indicate nothing of the revision and thinking process. We’ve long-lost the beauty of handwritten script, too — or, the ugliness of it, if you’re talking about trying to decipher what I’ve written out by hand.

Today, it is fascinating there are children in the world who have not been born into an analog world.  The world they know is purely digital.  They have never known life without the internet.  Email and SMS are ordinary, ubiquitous, totems of daily living.

For my Paper Generation elders, the idea that something can be written and “time machined” forward to another person in a faraway land is still an amusement — if you don’t allow yourself to become chastened and contemptuous in a world where everything is now and nothing is made, or meant to, last.

My role as a generational bridge can be a challenging one.  I see the value in both bales of paper and bytes of nothingness and they each have a separate, but essential, commoditization.  Leaving a paper trail was always an important, prosecutorial pathway to the truth; but today, the trail of what actually happened is harder to divine, and easier to fake, and oftentimes it is impossible to fully recover what was done and so, one much have much more faith in a transient world that no longer exists, but may still exist somewhere out there in the cloud or on a local backup server.

The Uncanny Valley values faith much more than the Paper Mountain.  We allegedly don’t need physical libraries any longer to store our memories because we’ve decided to believe that mortal mind space is safe and secure in infinite storage.

Is it possible for another generation to experience the loss of human provocation and genius thought that befell an entire people in the Alexandria Library fire?  Have we protected our immortal self-interests with backup upon backup?  Or is it that we really don’t care much any longer for what other people before us thought? Is the vagabond meme, and not actual memory, the only thing that matters going forward as we reinvent the wheel over and over again while bragging about it online?

As The Uncanny Valley becomes canny and ordinary and the newborn reality — where will the mechanists among us thrive?  Is there the same thrill of creating a virtual life as there is in creating a mechanical one made of plastic, metal, and gears?  If The Paper Mountain is dead, can The Uncanny Valley ever really be alive?  Will we have to invent a second indicator of life other than breathing?


  1. I had a conversation about this with a friend of mine who backs up all of his photographs to CD. I keep telling him that he should look into online storage but he cannot conceive of how he could even get the files from his SD card to the online storage and so he keeps going back to Duane Reade and having them make CDs for him. He has a pile of discs at home and no computer to read them!

    1. Your friend should really print out all of his photographs, too. He can do that in bulk, from an iPhone or a computer and have Walgreens print them out at a cheap and reasonable price. He can email the images or use an SD card.

      Burning CDs presents false hope for long-term preservation:

      Opinions vary on how to preserve data on digital storage media, such as optical CDs and DVDs. Kurt Gerecke, a physicist and storage expert at IBM Deutschland, has his own view: If you want to avoid having to burn new CDs every few years, use magnetic tapes to store all your pictures, videos and songs for a lifetime.

      “Unlike pressed original CDs, burned CDs have a relatively short life span of between two to five years, depending on the quality of the CD,” Gerecke says. “There are a few things you can do to extend the life of a burned CD, like keeping the disc in a cool, dark space, but not a whole lot more.”

  2. I hope we never loose the written word. books, paintings and the like. I treasure some of the artwork – er scribbles- I did as a child – I kept some of the memorable masterpieces of my childrens as well when I moved here. It is tough to straddle the gap between the generations.

    One of the groups I still belong to is a story telling group – we used to meet occassionaly and have a story telling evening – I know there are thousands of these over the world who are trying to save, preserve and teach the art of story telling.

    Thanks for the tip on CD storage …………

    1. Paper does have value — even in the physical space it takes up to store it and access it for later reference.

      I like your storytelling groups. I hope someone is making some sort of record of the stories told!

  3. It really is an interesting balance between different lifestyles. This reminded me of one of my old professors’ discussions about preserving our records entirely online, and the “black hole” of knowledge that might result for later generations who, for one reason or another, are unable to access them.

    1. It is certainly a concern, Emily. If you have paper in your hand — you can save it and protect it and preserve it. If that same piece of information is stored in the cloud elsewhere — you no longer control access or even have physical possession of the information. People you do not know, but now intrinsically must trust, are the safe keepers of something that is vital to your life.

  4. I really do prefer paper over trying to save things in the cloud. Even when I make PowerPoint presentations, I still print out a physical copy to take notes on. I also think that I’m one of the few people in my classes that still hand writes my notes out. I’d rather search for a physical piece of paper, rather spend hours wondering where a file disappeared to in the cloud.

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