The computer will see you now

www.economist.com

What happens when you put people in front of a robotic psychologist? They get more truthful. Makes for an interesting debate about privacy: there is a huge difference for us depending on if we expose our lives to a computer (more OK) than to a fellow human being (less OK). _Researchers suspected from their years of monitoring human interactions with computers that people might be more willing to talk if presented with an avatar. To test this idea, they put 239 people in front of Ellie [the robot] to have a chat with her about their lives. Half were told (truthfully) they would be interacting with an artificially intelligent virtual human; the others were told (falsely) that Ellie was a bit like a puppet, and was having her strings pulled remotely by a person. [...]_ _Those who thought Ellie was under the control of a human operator reported greater fear of disclosing personal information, and said they managed more carefully what they expressed during the session, than did those who believed they were simply interacting with a computer. [...]_ _Soldiers place a premium on being tough, and many avoid seeing psychologists at all costs. That means conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to which military men and women are particularly prone, often get dangerous before they are caught. Ellie could change things for the better by confidentially informing soldiers with PTSD that she feels they could be a risk to themselves and others, and advising them about how to seek treatment._

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