Not so long ago, people gave a wide berth to anyone walking down the street talking to themselves. They looked crazy. They might lash out or do something weird or dangerous. They were…creepy. Now, no one notices. They’re probably talking on their mobile phone.

What happened is that the widespread adoption of a single technology changed our perception of ‘normal’. We now have a reasonable explanation of what formerly seemed to be weird — even creepy — behaviour. As computer security expert Thomas P. Keenan says in Technocreep: The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy, many factors come together to make up ‘creepy’. One of them is uncertainty or, as he calls it ‘mystery’: the inability to form a mental model that accurately predicts how something mechanical behaves, coupled with a lack of control.

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