On my mind

AI therapy

30 April 2024

There are two things on my mind right now—psychoanalysis and will.i.am’s co-host on his radio show, FYIona.

I’ve been turning over their odd intersection over and over in my mind for the past couple of days. My current project with the psychoanalysis text dives into the origins and evolution of the field, with the therapeutic relationship as the linchpin of successful psychoanalysis.

And yet, will.i.am states on Adam Grant’s podcast Rethinking,

“There’s not like a, a person or a thing to talk to every day if you need everyday resolution or a perspective or balancing or amending or reconfiguring. That, I think that’s the beauty of, of AI is that it can do things that humans can’t do. No person can be available 24/7 for a million people at the same time when people truly need some type of banter to help them resolve what’s eating them up inside.”

will.i.am follows this with an example of two people in couples therapy. If they need more frequent sessions, but can’t access them because of the limited availability of a counselor, or the cost, could having conversations through AI be helpful? Note, earlier in the interview, will.i.am said that he doesn’t look to AI for creative tasks. But to me, insight into personal problems is an enormously creative task. What do you think?

I find myself wondering—can or should AI be trained to give insight into peoples’ problems? Can it adequately act as a sounding board? A sounding board, after all, is someone (or in this case, something) who listens or hears. Or alternatively, according to wordhippo.com “a person with whom one shares a private matter, trusting them not to repeat it to other.” Which brings up yet another quandary. With all the “training” AI has received and is receiving, much of which we are unaware of, how much can we, or should we, trust AI to be an adequate and confidential sounding board? Or to replace or substitute an intuitive, experienced therapist in between sessions?

This thought tumbles over and over in my head. I guess I could ask an AI app for its opinion, but I don’t want to give it any big ideas.