Human-Centered Therapy . . . with Robots

Are we overestimating artificial intelligence?

Episode 213 | August 9, 2016

Now that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder as a significant issue among veterans, they’ve uncovered another problem—there aren’t enough therapists to go around. Virtual reality experts at the University of Southern California have a solution: robots. Reporter Anna Stitt explains how advocates see these “therapy bots” as enhancing the field of therapy; they don’t tire out, they don’t need a salary, and patients are often more honest with them than human therapists. The only problem? Some people are worried that these therapy bots will one day replace humans.

Fears of artificial intelligence aren’t new, but they do seem increasingly common. Elon Musk declared that creating artificial intelligence is akin to "summoning the demon.” And Hollywood has done a solid job of convincing us that we’re approaching an age of artificial superintelligence—when machines’ capabilities will greatly exceed those of humans. We turned to philosopher and University of California, Berkeley professor John Searle to get his take on how realistic these concerns are. He says he takes the threat just as seriously as if someone said “shoes have been walked on for centuries. Any day now, they might come out of the closet and walk all over us."


Hosts: Michal Meyer and Bob Kenworthy
Guest: John Searle
Reporter: Anna Stitt
Producer: Mariel Carr
Associate Producer: Rigoberto Hernandez
Music courtesy of the Audio Network