back to article On the couch with an AI robo-doc asking me personal questions

"Tell me about your mother." I should have guessed that was coming. I am on a virtual couch, being diagnosed by a digital psychiatrist. Naturally it's a virtual couch. Being British, I don't own such a thing in real life. I have various other types of soft furniture and even once considered buying one of those reclining …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I love head doctors...

    It's terribly fun to fuck with their minds. I get bonus points for making them snap & join me in the rubber room drooling on my toes!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At the end of my annual review the health centre nurse had to run through a set of life-style questions on her computer and interpret my responses.

    At the end the computer's damning categorisation of me was "inactive". At which the nurse yelled at the screen "rubbish!". Earlier she had complimented me on the muscle definition on my legs from the amount of walking I do.

    No doubt my medical record now states categorically that I am a lazy slob.

  3. jake Silver badge

    Let me couch this in simple terms ...

    You are the settee, you set on a settle.

    (You did say you were brought up in Yorkshire, right?)

    1. John 110

      Re: Let me couch this in simple terms ...

      Scottish mother (They're all battleaxes).

      It's a settee. (I want to spell out "Full stop" there, but that would be overly aggressive)

  4. EddieD

    It might not all be bad.

    At least an AI doc would listen to all your symptoms and hopefully not suffer from the form of paradoelia that human docs do when any symptom you mention is a symptom of what they want you to have "Stubbed your toe? Ah yes, IBD" "Sneezes and sniffles? Ah yes, classic compound fracture symptoms" "Sodomised your Mother? Have some viagra".

  5. TrumpSlurp the Troll

    Device tracks your movements

    No! Not that kind of movements!

    So lending someone your phone should give interesting results.

    Much like loaning your fit bit to an active friend to up your step count.

    Presumably you have to be heavily invested in not gaming the system and very trusting of the results to cooperate with this kind of thing.

    In which case lack of sanity is probably a foregone conclusion.

    1. dav0id

      Re: Device tracks your movements

      Agreed. You've cleverly spotted the flaw in this smartphone technology and the assumption that I'm not leaving my phone in a drawer while I go out clubbing.

      I have long believed that the best feature on a mobile phone is the off button.

  6. Alister

    I'm not sure if this says more about me than I would like, but I reckon the image at the head of this article still bears a passing resemblance to Dabbsy...

  7. Bob Starling

    "Serves me right for buying IoT furniture. Either it has been hacked or my settee responded to a dodgy email and refused to pay the ransom."


  8. Chairman of the Bored

    If you've got UNIX...

    Fire up Emacs; then meta + X then "Doctor"

    Probably about as good as some humans I've talked to and ... better yet ... the ELIZA script cannot access the bloody camera.

    1. cambsukguy

      Re: If you've got UNIX...

      > the ELIZA script cannot access the bloody camera

      Are you sure about that?

      Sticky tape is the only way to be sure, unless you nuke it from orbit of course.

      1. Chairman of the Bored

        Re: If you've got UNIX...

        Strange story about that...

        ...I sticky tape all the cameras on my computers, especially when working in sensitive areas like server rooms. Security offizer was doing a walk-down, spotted my stickies, and pitched a fit. So I said the obvious, "Um, ma'am, they're a LOT more secure this way. And you are all about secure, right?"

        She replies, just about foaming at the mouth, "Damn it, I ordered you to take that off!"

        Me, trying to stay calm, "WTF is your problem? The only use would be to spy on me, and given the nature if this space I cant imagine that you have the authorities to do so. Let's go check with the head... if you ARE playing with these in our server spaces you will be in dheep schitt."

        At that point she shouted something inarticulate, requested that I perform a nearly impossible autoerotic task, and went away.

        Please tell me there is an AI shrink that can fix a person like that?

  9. Chris Miller

    All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.

    OFOW Wilde

  10. John 110

    Frederick Pohl

    Have you read "Gateway" Dabbsy?

  11. Fading

    Reminds me of the Rorschach test joke.....

    Patient being shown Rorschach ink blots...

    "Two goats copulating with a house-wife"

    "Hmm - next one"

    "A giant bat receiving fellatio from a nubile ballet dancer"

    "and the last one"

    "Gangbang involving the entire nation of Luxembourg"

    "Well my diagnosis is complete - you are a sex addict."

    "ME.. me a sex addict?? You're the one with the dirty pictures!"

  12. James12345

    Woodhouse Grove or Ashville?

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Woodhouse Grove

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Mornington Crescent

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge


          1. Mark York 3 Silver badge

            Not under the Hanshott First Rule it isn't.

            1. jake Silver badge

              Hanshott's not valid on the first Friday in July, per the Airedale Exceptions of 1977.

  13. Chris G

    Shrinks are useless or crazy

    A mate in the 70s was into brain chemistry, his own, which he used to augment with interesting chemicals he could buy on the street. One morning he was found naked on a front garden rockery with his neatly folded clothes as a pillow, he was arrested went in fro t of the beak next morning and held pending bail as he had had a pocketful of Mandrax.

    While being held the cops sent him for psychiatric reports, in answer to every question he replied ' I know the answer but I' m not telling you because you aren't asking the right question. An example of his sense of humour. the shrink reported him as schizophrenic with paranoid tendencies, they finally got it right as manic depressive a few years later after he had committed suicide.

    NB the schizo report was based on about 10 minutes of work.

    1. The First Dave

      Re: Shrinks are useless or crazy

      How could he have anything in his pocket if he was naked????

      1. Alister

        Re: Shrinks are useless or crazy


        neatly folded clothes as a pillow,

      2. Chris G

        Re: Shrinks are useless or crazy

        If you read my comment he was using his clothes for a pillow!

        Even folded clothes still have pockets

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Chairman of the Bored

      Re: Shrinks are useless or crazy

      Chris, Im sorry that your mate punched out. Sucks, sounds like he was an interesting character.

      10 whole min for a full and bogus diagnosis? Think I will go for the AI

  14. tony2heads

    Off home

    See you later alligator

  15. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "He is not suffering from any mental illness."

    He works in tech journalism, training and digital publishing.

    Now, I think it's time for another visit at The Home for Deranged Scientists.

  16. Mark 85

    It is said that such tools are on the verge of revolutionising how psychiatry is practised.

    Well, psychiatry should be practiced. Maybe one of the decades, they'll get right.

    1. LaeMing


      It's always a bit disconcerting that doctors call what they do 'practice'.

  17. Peter Kavanagh.
    Thumb Up

    The Knife

    +1 for We Share Our Mother's Health. Love that album.

    Another appropriate vid:

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "even once considered buying one of those reclining armchairs which flip up a footstool, slice off your fingers and terrify the cat as you push back, but never a couch."

    I finally persuaded my wife to have one of these post hip replacement and it was the most sensible thing I did. It's operated by two buttons, is silent, the dog ignored it within a few hours and the only way you could slice off a finger is to lie on the ground and operate the retraction mechanism while sticking a finger in the pantograph that works the footstool. This does, to my mind, suggest that Mr. Dabbs is not a totally reliable product reviewer. (Though usually he is spot on.)

    The thing he has missed, however, is that if the government ever required the NHS to use AI psychiatrists they would certainly contract for them with a certain French company that does disability assessments.

    "Do you ever have suicidal thoughts?"

    "Would you like me to suggest some effective and cheap ways to commit suicide?"

  19. DevelopingMadness

    Professional stress management with beer

    I remember being put on a stress management course many years ago (mandatory for the whole company, HR's latest brainchild) whilst working as a sys administrator & general dog's body. We had to fill in a questionnaire and we got a scored on the stress in our life, after which we would be taught how to manage it. I was working 60-100 hours a week at the time because the company had doubled in size. I had also suffered a recent bereavement. When the "qualified" trainer looked at my score I was called a liar and asked to leave for not taking it seriously. We all managed the stress by going to the pub that night. Cures everything.

  20. Tom Paine

    A terrifying prospect...

    ...a future where music consists of unlistenable electronic blurps, hoots and chimes. Come back Autechre, all is forgiven :/

  21. DerekCurrie

    Oh, another generation of ELIZA

    "I should have guessed that was coming." It's been going on since circa 1964. Since then it has evolved from 'parody' to one of many attempts at passing the Turing test.

    Developer Tom Bender still makes his rendition from the 1990s, named Eliza, freely available to the public, as well as its amusingly evil twin Azile. They both run on old PPC Mac OS. I remember having great fun turning the table on the analyst, flipping it into that which was being analyzed.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Oh, another generation of ELIZA

      In 1972, ELIZA (as "The Doctor", at BBN (tenex?) ) and PARRY (at SAIL) had a conversation at the first ICCC ... Well, they had a conversation that was followed over the ARPANET during the ICCC. It was immortalized in RFC 439.

      More leftovers from SAIL here. Not much has changed in 45 years ...

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