Friday, April 9, 2010

I've been playing a lot of Plants Vs. Zombies lately, so I've been thinking a lot about brains. And how they get eaten. One of the ways that brains commonly get eaten is by the "Terrible Twos." See, there is a class of humanoid demon that is about three feet tall, can mimic human speech, and is not deterred by garden perennials. Worst of all, apparently, every child passes through this phase. Now, I'm a skeptic of so-called "Common Knowledge," so I didn't believe in the Terrible Twos, despite having heard about them. Not until last fall. But, then, the toddler ate my brains.

My theory is that every infant must pass through the "Uncanny Valley" -- and that's the Terrible Twos. The Uncanny Valley is an idea from computer animation. In short, there is a scale from cartoony, Disney-like depictions of human beings through the various levels of CGI, up to absolutely realistic images of humans. And, there is a patch on that scale where the depictions become too realistic, without being real enough. That's the Uncanny Valley, and anything that falls there is, really, downright creepy. Because it's eerie to look at something that's almost perfectly human, and, then, suddenly to see something that's off. Something that gives it away. You feel tricked, cheated, and creeped out.

That's what talking to Elaine was like between two and two-and-a-half. She'd babble along quite coherently, and when you'd start talking to her, she'd give completely reasonable responses. Then, suddenly, you'd need to really communicate an idea, and you'd realize she was just spewing random movie quotes. Being the full-time caretaker of a toddler is what having Eliza as a business partner would be like. Highly frustrating.

Fortunately, while zombies don't give your brains back and computer therapist programs don't burst into random sentience, toddlers do get older.

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