Computer Therapy

Fascinating. NASA has been working on a way to have private therapy sessions in space.. It looks basically like a keyword selection of video clips of an actual therapist to deal with specific problems related to depression or other problems. From the article:

Clinical tests on the four-year, $1.74 million project for NASA, called the Virtual Space Station, are expected to begin in the Boston area by next month.

The new program is nothing like science fiction’s infamous HAL, the onboard artificial intelligence that goes awry in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The Virtual Space Station’s interaction between astronaut and computer is far less sophisticated and far more benevolent.

In the project, sponsored by the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, a recorded video therapist guides astronauts through a widely used depression therapy called “problem-solving treatment.”

The recording helps astronauts identify reasons for their depression. Then the program helps them make a plan to fight the depression, based on the descriptions the astronauts type in about their problems.

Astronauts also can learn strategies for handling conflict through interactive role-playing, and even read psychology books.

As a first step, not bad. I could envision going beyond pre-recorded video and have various rules based learning algorithms that could tailor solutions for specific individuals. That could probably only go so far for the forseeable future though. Still, it might be fun to have some Easter eggs. For example, if an astronaut types, “Let me in”, there would be the response, “I’m sorry. I can’t do that Dave.”

Or, if the astronaut’s laptop is Linux (though you could run this on Windows also), they could just use the emacs psychotherapist.

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