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My Uncanny Year: How We Can Enrich our Virtual Work Lives by Climbing Out of the Uncanny Valley

Hour after hour, I have been my own CNN 24-hour news cycle reporter.


That's what it feels like to sit for endless days in pandemic lockdown. On Zoom. Imperfectly interacting with people. Trying to get work done.

When this life began — what I now refer to as my "Uncanny Life" — I was proud that I had accommodated and adjusted to the Everything-from-Home parallel universe.


[For people unfamiliar with the term, "Uncanny Valley" refers to a creepy feeling you get when you're interacting with a great almost-human robot and suddenly realize you've been sharing your most intimate secrets with a machine.]


One day in mid-September, I admitted that my life had gone uncanny. It had the texture of stale Cheerios and the taste of an omelette that needed salt. All of the accommodations I’d made to recreate pre-pandemic life were missing a critical ingredient.

Essentially, I was living in The Truman Show, a simulation that felt almost real, but not quite.

I had pieced together an entire world that was almost living, but it was missing richness — unsatisfying and simply not enough.


Essentially, I had solved the wrong problems with imperfect solutions.


After six months of trying hard to replace visits with friends with Zoom, learning experiences with Udacity, conferences with software, foreign travel with ethnic carry-out, client collaboration sprints with Mural and Miro, community conversations with Slack, keynotes with recorded video, and strategy sessions with Virbela and Teams… I wanted out.


I was simulating the obvious aspects of what I had lazily decided were the jobs-to-be-done, but missing the richness of what was possible if I thought harder and more creatively about how to use technology.

In October, when I finally admitted that the Pandemic State was here to stay, I set out to climb out of the Uncanny Valley.

To Dig Out of the Uncanny Valley, I Started With New Questions.