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Therapy by AI : A Very Short Story
“Bless me, Father for I have sinned. It has been fifteen minutes since my last confession.”
The priest on the screen looked at Gerald with a frown. “Are you sure you wouldn’t prefer a different module?”
“No. I’m not sure. To be honest, all this confessing doesn’t seem to be making me feel any better. But neither are any of the others.”
The priest offered a sympathetic face. “Very well then. Please confess your sins.”
“Well, no new sins in the last fifteen minutes. Really, I just feel so angry all the time ...”
“God wants you to release your anger. Focus on living a good and pure life. Say three Our Fathers and six Hail Mary’s.” He raised in his hand in a gesture of absolution.
Before the priest could finish the benediction, Gerald swiped the screen. Icons slid by in a blur, slowing and then stopping to show woman in a white blouse and tortoise-shell spectacles. “Holistic Therapist,” the label said.
“Tell me how you are feeling today,” she asked with a friendly smile.
“Same as last time. I’m frustrated. I seem to work all the time but never get ahead. I have no social life. I can’t seem to keep a relationship. And I’m angry more and more of the time.”
Her expression was sympathetic. “Tell me more about your anger.”
Gerald muttered a curse and swiped again.
He paused at the Mom module. She offered emotional support but no help. Next he tried Girlfriend, and then two different versions of Buddy. Again, he got sympathy and encouragement, but no real help.
In desperation, he jabbed the icon for another version of Therapist. This one was a male with a solemn face and tweed jacket.
“How can I help you today?”
“I’m not sure you can. I’ve tried every module in the system. Frankly, you all seem pretty useless.
The therapist touched fingertips in front of his lips. “I regret the system has not provided the help you need. Perhaps if you upgrade to the Ultra Premium Package. It features 41 channels as compared to the 16 in the Standard Prescription.”
“Oh, I knew we’d get to that sooner or later. Can’t afford it.”
“Are you sure? Results with difficult cases have been very positive. And, if I may say so, you do seem to be a difficult case.” His eyebrows lifted. “We do offer convenient payment plans.”
The therapist evinced disappointment. “Very well then. Might I suggest 15 minutes of meditation music? This often proves soothing for difficult emotions.”
“I’ve tried that before, without much success.”
“Some clients have also reported receiving audible messages. We believe these to be vocalizations of their subconscious minds—which in some cases have proven quite helpful.”
“I doubt that. But sure. Why not? I’ve tried everything else today.”
The therapist face faded out, replaced by flowing clouds of soothing colors. Gerald took a deep breath, his mind floating amid sounds resembling flutes and the chirping of birds.
Gradually the angry feelings eased.
What I really need, Gerald thought, is to break out of this cycle of dependence on this stupid AI.
“I agree. You need to break out of your cycle of dependence.”
“Wait. Which module just said that?”
The soothing clouds and noises flowed.
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