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.