AI Therapist & its Implications

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Microsoft is seemingly developing an AI-powered therapist feature for Windows and an intelligent emotion-based journaling capability for Teams and Microsoft 365. Microsoft had initially released a patent earlier this month, filed on November 7, indicating it was working on an emotion-focused therapy Copilot for Microsoft and Windows users.

The abstract for the patent read:
A method and apparatus for providing emotional care in a session between a user and a conversational agent(…) Artificial Intelligence (AI) chatbot is becoming more and more popular, and is being applied in an increasing number of scenarios. The chatbot is designed to simulate people’s conversation, and may chat with users by text, speech, image, etc” - Source: UCtoday 

I read recently about a new company that provides AI girlfriends. They’ve taken some of the most popular models from Only Fans and such, and written AI software that imitates how those models would interact personally with men over the internet. The idea is that they’ll each have hundreds of boyfriends who never interact with the real person, only with the AI software. Now, I’m all for reducing loneliness and wouldn’t take AI girlfriends (or AI boyfriends, those exist too) away from those who want/need them.

But there’s something depressing and unhealthy about the whole concept. Not to mention that OF is also rather depressing in itself, given that based on what I’ve read about it, OF models often build the sorts of connections with their customers which make them, more or less, naked telehealth therapists who incorporate sexuality into what they do- apparently, the point is often not just sexual gratification, at all.

The whole “fake girlfriend/boyfriend” industry seems to have some roots in exactly the same psychological and societal problems that drive so many people to desperately seek therapy these days. It’s incredibly hard for a lot of us to build strong friendships and relationships with other people, particularly in adulthood. If we were shy or awkward as kids and teens, the damage seems to carry forward and make it hard to find good friends and partners as adults.

We’re in an era where more people than ever before do not have the emotional intimacy they need, so they pay for that intimacy from people who don’t reciprocate, who would usually drop them in ten seconds if the customer/client gets into financial trouble and can’t afford to pay the rate. Which is, of course, the type of crisis for which they likely need the most emotional support. Your real friends would never do that, but a lot of people don’t have real friends or close family. This type of intimacy should not be seen as a good solution to the problem, due to its dependence on finances and its one-way nature, among other reasons.

Again, I’m not in favor of yanking away people’s faux intimate relationships without being able to replace them with something better. However, I am in favor of all of us waking the f**k'up rather than accepting dependence upon therapy/fake romance as the status quo.

I’m not sure that OF is very widely accepted as a positive part of society. But dependence on therapy definitely is, and that’s messed up. The idea that you should save your darkest thoughts and feelings for your therapist is really messed up, and it’s gotten some traction. Sure, people can supplement with therapy if they want, but we should also be sharing with those who are close to us. Instead, we’re increasingly told to bring only our sanitized selves to our friendships, relationships, marriages. Know how people tend to put on a cheerful front at work and pretend they don’t have any major issues? Now we often hear that we should extend that to our personal relationships, too, and that we should have to pay someone to help us with the ugly stuff.

A lot of people have been disappointed at various times when they tried confiding in a friend or partner, only to be rebuffed. I don’t think that pushing for therapy is ultimately the answer for that, though. I think that everyone could stand to learn how to become better confidantes for their close friends and loved ones. I think that reciprocity should be a focus- I’ll be there for you, and you’ll be there for me. Boundaries are certainly necessary, of course. But I don’t hear these messages very often. Instead of learning to be better friends and partners, we’re told that we should respond to a loved one going through a hard time by simply recommending that they take the subject of conversation to a therapist.

Enter AI therapists… the counterpart to AI girlfriends. The fact that these things are the best option for many people says a lot about how society is structured such that many people truly have no one in their corner- not even the mediocre substitute of a paid confidante. It’s truly sad that a robot can provide better human connection than actual humans, and better therapy than a lot of actual therapists.

AI Therapist & its Implications AI Therapist & its Implications Reviewed by Kanthala Raghu on November 27, 2023 Rating: 5

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