This article originally appeared in my column with Liberty Island Magazine.
I read a Cracked article on how surprisingly prescient the movie Demolition Man
was down to the wussification of the world and social mandates enforced by automated systems. (Sesame Credit, anyone?) We could argue that Heinlein’s group marriages are on the cusp of being legal when same sex marriage was immediately followed by lesbian throuples and polygamous families suing for recognition. Yet the future of tech support is found in even older works of science fiction. I think the future of tech support will be robo-psychologists like Dr. Susan Calvin in Isaac Asimov’s short stories and the Robots based on his 3 laws of robotics.
When AI and robots are capable of advanced thought and may have rights, you may be not able to call in a mechanic.
In fact, our technological development is going to create several entire classes of potential patients.
When you create an artificial intelligence that becomes sentient, you may end up with a self-owning entity. We already have self-governing non-human entities – corporations. Incorporate an AI, and it could own itself, own assets, pay taxes and make decisions. If it starts to go wrong, you may not legally be allowed to tinker in its code. But you could order it to attend mental health counseling with a robo-psychologist to find the underlying thought patterns that are leading to unacceptable behavior.
I doubt the average psychologist could handle the mental state of an uploaded human mind to the Singularity, but a robo-psychologist would be better qualified to determine if the issue is traceable to the early human experience, the Singularity or something that happened during the transition.
The third category of patients would be the extremely modified human population. We’re already seeing implants to manage pain, and cybernetics to replace eyes, damaged nerves and failing minds are on the horizon. We debate today how much of a person you could replace before it is no longer human. We’re soon going to have to answer that question in real life. How much of someone’s brain or body could you replace before it is no longer legally human? And while society grapples with these issues, you know the person who went through the procedure will be grappling with it first and on a far greater scale. If you don’t feel human but society says you are, the solution to this distorted sense of identity is long talks with a psychologist. If you’re modified genetically, cybernetically or a dozen other ways yet to be invented, you may not feel like yourself or that you belong with anyone else. Since we already see mentally healthy adults struggle with their identity and self-esteem after loss of full mobility, family relationships and career, you know someone waking up like Cyborg from the DC comics is going to spend as much time in counseling as he did in rehab. Or longer.
If we end up with technology that erases memories, implants memories or dramatically alters personalities, then high-tech psychologists may be the future of the profession. And that is nothing compared to malware that makes you want to buy everything with a particular brand or hijacks your actions for a short period of time.
Yeah, robo-psychologists have a strong future ahead of them, because technology isn’t going to solve all the classic problems. Instead, we’ll merely add to the roster of ones that need to be solved.