Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Virtual Therapists

You knew it would come to this.

Real therapists replaced by virtual therapists.

Or, as The Economist puts it:

A virtual shrink may sometimes be better than the real thing.

This doesn’t sound like a rousing vote of confidence in the profession.

Credit to the artificial intelligence crowd, the new virtual therapists are very good indeed:

ELLIE is a psychologist, and a damned good one at that. Smile in a certain way, and she knows precisely what your smile means. Develop a nervous tic or tension in an eye, and she instantly picks up on it. She listens to what you say, processes every word, works out the meaning of your pitch, your tone, your posture, everything. She is at the top of her game but, according to a new study, her greatest asset is that she is not human.

This feels like a Freudian wish fulfillment. When Freud sat behind his patients, out of their line of sight, wasn’t he trying to trick them into thinking that he was not a human being?

Among their interesting new discoveries, computer scientists have discovered that people will be more open when speaking with an avatar.

Since some patients choose to hide some of their symptoms from their physicians, it is useful to construct a form of interaction that would facilitate disclosure of embarrassing details. This applies especially to soldiers who are suffering from signs of PTSD and who prefer not to admit to having symptoms.

Obviously, Freud took it a little too far. It’s one thing to create a form of doctor/patient interaction that will facilitate the disclosure of embarrassing symptoms. It is quite another to teach people the bad habit of treating human beings as though they were avatars.


Anonymous said...

In general a predator acts in a manner expressing the desire to see its prey and to not be seen by its prey.

Anonymous said...

Most people drawn to the helping professions are ugly. Ugly people have a need to be needed, and normal life does not provide satiety, or safe refuge from the storms of unintended ridicule. Let's be honest: most therapesses are ugly. Doing the therapy virtually would spare the therapist the indignity of the disgust and reflexive aversion coming from the average male's body language, which is clearly a reaction to the therapist's ugliness. He can't say it, but he has to communicate it somehow. Otherwise, he'll go nuts, which is probably why he's in the chair in the first place. And he can't get away, because she's ugly, too. And wants to be validated. At least most therapists do. But they can't ask for it, because professional guidelines say everything is about the client. Yet she's so well trained that nothing gets past her. She knows she's ugly. And she knows ugly is forever. Really, how many therapist women are attractive? By the time they get in that chair, they've cut their hair to lesbian lengths, are bored by their own PhD dissertation, and have had enough failed bisexual relationships to fill Noah's ark one-by-one so every life form goes extinct. Virtual therapy would be a sort of occupational prosthetic, I suppose. Just pray that things don't go to Skype. You can't move far enough away to escape the Jetsons videophone. Interplanetary travel won't save you. You're still an ugly therapist. The modern world is cruel.