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This Philip K Dick Reality: Online Robot Psychiatrists And Surveillance Insects

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Darryl Mason
Your New Reality
Wednesday, October 7, 2009

In the early 1960s, Philip K Dick wrote the novel The Three Stigmata Of Palmer Eldritch. He created a portable psychotherapy computer program called Dr Smile, housed in a suitcase :

And there in the next room by the sofa sat a familiar suitcase, that of his psychiatrist Dr. Smile.

Barefoot, he padded into the living room, and seated himself by the suitcase; he opened it, clicked switches, and turned on Dr. Smile. Meters began to register and the mechanism hummed. “Where am I?” Barney asked it. “And how far am I from New York?” That was the main point…

The mechanism which was the portable extension of Dr. Smile, connected by micro-relay to the computer itself in the basement level of Barney’s ownconapt building in New York, the Renown 33, tinnily declared, “Ah, Mr. Bayerson.” “Mayerson,” Barney corrected, smoothing his hair with fingers that shook.

And today :

Internet therapy programs for depression and anxiety can be twice as effective as seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist in person, studies show.

A series of internet programs delivered to more than 1000 people appears to have produced better results than gained by seeing a specialist at one of the country’s best mental health clinics, and much better results than reported in the scientific literature.

”We’re doing something unnerving,” said Gavin Andrews, professor of psychiatry at the University of NSW, and the director of the Clinical Research Unit for Anxiety and Depression at St Vincent’s Hospital. He joked about ”the end of psychiatry as we know it”.

An appealing animated character, who suffers the particular symptoms, leads people through the programs. There are six sessions over 10 weeks with added ”homework”, and clinicians require less than two hours with the patient.

And there’s this PKD prediction of unmanned surveillance vehicles from his 1960 novel, Vulcan’s Hammer :

On the chest of drawers something was perched. Something that gleamed, shiny metal, gleamed and clicked as it turned toward her. She saw into two glassy mechanical lenses, something with atubelike body, the size of a child’s bat, shot upward and swept toward her.

How the PKD surveillance UAVs were depicted on cover art :

This Philip K Dick Reality: Online Robot Psychiatrists And Surveillance Insects PhilipKDickVulcansHammerCover

And today’s reality, from New Scientist :

A locust flight simulator could be the key to perfecting the ultimate surveillance machine: an artificial flying insect. The simulator can model the way wings of varying shapes and surface features beat, as well as how they change their shape during flight.

The device was created using extremely high-speed flash photography to track the way smoke particles flow over a locust’s wings in a wind tunnel – a technique called particle flow velocimetry. This allowed researchers at the University of Oxford to build a computer model of the insect’s wing motion. They then built software that mimicked not only this motion, but also how wing surface features, such as structural veins and corrugations, and the wings’ deformation as they flap, change aerodynamic performance.

The flying surveillance insect that will also talk to you and ease you through the paranoia inherent in realising you really are being spied on by tiny flying robots must surely be in development…

This article was posted: Wednesday, October 7, 2009 at 9:36 am





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