The Narcissism Valley

Wherein we discuss two phenomena:  The Uncanny Valley and the Narcissism of Minor Differences.

I’ve talked before about NoMD, but the Uncanny Valley is probably new to most dog people who haven’t worked in either the video game industry or studied human computer interaction.  Take 3 minutes and watch the first part of this excellent video which explains it perfectly.  Trust me, I’ll tie it in to dogs when you get back:


I think the concept of the Uncanny Valley is very much like the NoMD in that some things that are close to our ideal but not can be grossly more offensive than like objects which have more separation.  NoMD tells us that things that are close cause friction, and the UV tells us that close-but-no-cigar is more off putting than a clean miss.

Perhaps both of these phenomena combined explain why there’s such a contentious relationship between the first two estates of the Border Collie: the working dog and the show dog, especially in the direction of the former toward the latter.  I think there’s both plenty of friction and disgust felt by working folks against the show folks and their dogs.

If we play a little Madlibs and replace a few key words from the video above from the perspective of a working Border Collie sheeple:

If a dog is clearly not a working Border Collie then its working dog characteristics will stand out and appeal to us. [You really don’t see sheeple mocking working Kelpies or working Aussies, even if “Barbie Collies” can outperform them.]  But if the dog is almost but not quite a working Border Collie then its non-working characteristics are all we’re going to see.  [The Sheeple save their most potent vitriol for the “Barbie Collies” who “herd” in AKC events, calling it “obedience on sheep” and nitpicking the differences from a USBCHA style event.] Sheeple know what a working Border Collie looks like, they see them every day.  So when something is off, they know it, and it’s unsettling.

Add in a huge helping of feelings of existential superiority, and I think we have a diagnosis for why sheeple hate showple who “herd” so much.  Barbie Collies that herd are “an imperfect simulation, which [sheeple] find kind of disquieting, or even revolting.”

I don’t think the NoMD and the UV are necessarily human failings, rather they are understandable responses, but once we identify their existence we can combat the negative effects of their expression.  Specifically, sheeple using the NoMD to “achieve a superficial sense of one’s own uniqueness, an ersatz sense of otherness which is only a mask for an underlying uniformity and sameness.”

This is my major complaint of the working community: that they believe so much in creating and sustaining trial dogs that can push sheep that they are willfully dismissive of the means in which they do so and how those means [inbreeding, line breeding, kennel blindness, popular sires, failure to publish stud books, failure to bring in new blood, placing winning trials above the breed, harboring sympathy for Lamark and Lysenko, installing institutional barriers to entry of new blood, enacting policies to create a fractured gene pool, etc.] don’t justify the ends.

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About Christopher

Christopher Landauer is a fifth generation Colorado native and second generation Border Collie enthusiast. Border Collies have been the Landauer family dogs since the 1960s and Christopher got his first one as a toddler. He began his own modest breeding program with the purchase of Dublin and Celeste in 2006 and currently shares his home with their children Mercury and Gemma as well. His interest in genetics began in AP Chemistry and AP Biology and was honed at Stanford University.