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"I suspect that religion is a necessary evil in the childhood of our particular species. And that's one of the interesting things about contact with other intelligences: we could see what role, if any, religion plays in their development."
- Arthur C. Clarke

Sigfrid von Shrink  
  An automated therapist.  

Talk about passing the Turing test - this device could give the test!

I hate it when he asks the same questions I ask myself.

"Rob, you aren't very responsive today," Sigfrid says through the little loudspeaker at the head of the mat. Sometimes he uses a very lifelike dummy, sitting in an armchair, tapping a pencil and smiling quirkily at me from time to time.

From Gateway, by Frederik Pohl.
Published by St. Martin's Press in 1970
Additional resources -

In 1966 Joseph Weizenbaum published Eliza. A very short program (only a few hundred lines of code), was remarkably successful in creating the illusion of a computer psychotherapist. It works in a simple way; if the user mentions "I feel sad", Eliza might reply "Tell me more about feeling sad." Eliza worked by turning the user's question or statement around and giving it right back. This program succeeds for the same reason that that traditional talk therapy succeeds - people love to talk about themselves!

Want to talk with a real Sigfrid von Shrink? Go see ELIZA, the Computer Therapist. Just type your comment into the Input box and press return after each brief sentence. To readily see the limits of this approach, try typing something like "I feel asdfasdf" and see what you get.

Compare this device with the robot psyche tester from Colony (1953) by Philip K. Dick, the machine psychologist from James Blish's Cities in Flight, the mechanotherapist from Bad Medicine (a 1956 Robert Sheckley story), Dr. Smile, from Dick's 1964 novel The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from Gateway
  More Ideas and Technology by Frederik Pohl
  Tech news articles related to Gateway
  Tech news articles related to works by Frederik Pohl

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