The Therapy-App Fantasy

“In 2021, mental health is finally cool,” declares a podcast ad for BetterHelp, one of the apps promising access to trained therapists that has promoted itself to consumers most aggressively. “But therapy doesn’t have to be just sitting around talking about feelings. Therapy can be whatever you want it to be.”

Saying therapy can be whatever I want it to be feels like a great way to not earn my trust.

On the Talkspace website, I completed an intake questionnaire (I’d prefer a female therapist, I felt somewhat anxious, I was sleeping well enough, I wasn’t considering self-harm) and watched as the kind of animation intended to convey a website’s diligent labor whirred away. Headshots cycled above a gradually completing checklist. “Calculating profile …” it read. “Searching for matches … Analyzing matches … Returning best matches …” And then, my results: “Meet your matches,” Talkspace told me. “We’ve prioritized female providers who specialize in anxiety.” Beneath this message were three men.

While the algorithm reinforces my decision to withhold trust.

String theorist Michio Kaku: ‘Reaching out to aliens is a terrible idea’

We had a big shock in the 1990s when we physicists proposed the super collider. It was much bigger than the Large Hadron Collider. It was to be outside Dallas, Texas, but it was cancelled. What went wrong? On one of the last day of hearings, a congressman asked: “Will we find God with your machine? If so I will vote for it.” The poor physicist who had to answer that question didn’t know what to say. We should have said, this is a Genesis machine that will create the conditions of the greatest invention of all time – the universe. Unfortunately, we said Higgs boson. And people said, $10bn for another subatomic particle? And they cancelled the machine.

“Can we cure cancer, please?”
“It depends. Where do you stand on Red vs. Blue?”
“Um, what now?”
“Request denied, thank you for trying.”

Let’s be honest, Carl Sagan experienced a backlash when he started to enter the public arena. There was a vote to have him initiated into the National Academy of Sciences and he was denied. The super collider was cancelled because we were in the ivory tower and had no connection with the taxpayer who was footing the bill. And then along comes Stephen Hawking. He generated so much interest and was a real physicist at the cutting edge of science, not a mere “populariser” – the criticism lodged against Sagan. So I think it was humbling. We have to sing for our supper. During the 60s, all we had to do was go to Congress and say one word: Russia. Then Congress would say two words: How much? Those days are gone.

Before:

“War.”
“How much do you need?”

After:

“Let’s explain the universe!”.
“How about no?”

Lenovo’s gaming phone has an extreme dual-fan cooling system

Lenovo’s press release tries to justify the existence of the gaming phone market by saying there were 2.6 billion “mobile gamers” last year, but the company immediately makes the leap that these are all hardcore PC-gamer types who want RGB LEDs and edgy laser beam designs. The most popular games on the Play Store are all casual games like infinite runners, turn-based games, and puzzle games, while these gaming phones all talk about fragging people at 144 fps and pwning the competition. If there is such a thing as “mobile gaming enthusiasts,” their best bet is probably to just buy an iPhone, which has better app support thanks to a more profitable app store and easier, console-like hardware support.

All that aside, I think that if you’re contemplating buying a phone that needs two fans and a special cooling system, maybe it’s a sign what you’re really after is anything but a phone.

Microsoft Wins $21.9 Billion Contract to Supply AR Headsets to the US Army – ExtremeTech

The idea of a helmet with baked-in multi-spectral imaging sounds more like science fiction than reality, but the models Microsoft is showing off today look far more capable than what the company was building in 2015.

Seeing as we ended up with HoloLens by way of the Kinect, I like to imagine that it was Peter Molyneux that sealed this deal. Had this been the case, it’d be a great test on the military’s sense of humour.

Twitch will ban people for harassment, even when it doesn’t happen on the site

The new policy splits misconduct into two categories: category one, which applies to harassment that takes place on and off Twitch, and category two, which applies only to harassment off Twitch. The first category hasn’t changed. If Twitch is reviewing a harassment report about something that happened on-stream, it will take into account related harassment on Facebook.

The second category, however, is new. Now, if Twitch finds out about “serious offenses that pose a substantial safety risk to the Twitch community,” it’ll take action, even when those offenses took place entirely off the platform. The company is currently defining “serious offenses” as incidents of violent extremism, credible threats of mass violence, membership in a known hate group, sexual exploitation of children, and nonconsensual sexual activities, among others.

Twitch is bringing on a third-party law firm to assist with off-platform investigations. “These investigations are vastly more complex and can take significant time and resources to resolve,” the company wrote in a blog post. “For behaviors that take place off Twitch, we must rely more heavily on law enforcement and other services to share relevant evidence before we can move forward.” A spokesperson for the company declined to give the name of the law firm.

I don’t even know where to begin. How on earth does Twitch have any right whatsoever to be doing this? The way I read this, law enforcement won’t be brought in to take first chair but to help with aspects of an internal investigation that are impossible (aka illegal) for a private company to conduct. And all that for cases that don’t (yet?) have demonstrable effect on the platform itself and, more importantly, its users. I honestly do not understand how such legal overreach is taken at face value. I hope it’s due to my having no clue whatsoever about common law systems.

It’s one thing to deny service to, say, felons, as a matter of policy; though it’s not as simple as that either. In such a case, you don’t get to decide who is a felon, the justice system does and you rely on that. But denying service to someone before conviction is a different matter entirely.

You may say, well, a private business can do as it pleases (maybe in the USA but there’s the rest of the world Twitch caters too as well). But look at the list of off-platform behaviours that Twitch says will result in a ban:

  • Deadly violence and violent extremism
  • Terrorist activities or recruiting
  • Explicit and/or credible threats of mass violence (i.e. threats against a group of people, event, or location where people would gather)
  • Leadership or membership in a known hate group
  • Carrying out or deliberately acting as an accomplice to non-consensual sexual activities and/or sexual assault
  • Sexual exploitation of children, such as child grooming and solicitation/distribution of underage sexual materials
  • Actions that would directly and explicitly compromise the physical safety of the Twitch community
  • Explicit and/or credible threats against Twitch, including Twitch staff

All these are actual crimes. There are laws in place for all of the above. Once you land in jail, for any of that, I’m pretty sure you can’t do much as a Twitch streamer, maybe not even as a viewer. But what happens when you’ve served your sentence? Will Twitch care if the state thinks you’ve been rehabilitated and reverse a ban? And why, just why do we have to ask what Twitch things about any of it? How do we go from “we need better online policing” to “let’s leave it to private corporations”? And if closer collaboration with law enforcement agencies is supposed to keep my mind more at ease then why not let law enforcement agencies deal with it in the first place?

I would be way more welcoming to some corporate policy that would help customers, especially those with no money to spare, start legal proceedings with the support of the company. The company would have to investigate to an extent, so as not to just pay for trigger-happy legal trolls and their customer’s vindications would also give grounds to keep an offender off of the platform. There’s an economic burden here of course but maybe this is also a blessing. A corporation will have to think twice before committing to covering anyone’s legal fees which may lead to better preliminary investigations and avoiding frivolous cases. Even then, that still wouldn’t make sense for anything that happens off-platform.

Amazing. Just amazing.