The Computer Will See You Now

Learning to bare your soul to a therapist may be as easy as turning on a computer-especially when the computer is the therapist. Meet SIGMUND, a computer-software program that helps researchers interview patients with questions that automatically tailor themselves to the flow of conversation.

Because the computer is an objective machine without personal bias, people are not as shy about revealing themselves on sensitive subjects, such as AIDS. In fact, they usually give more meaningful and in-depth responses to the machine than to in-the-flesh therapists, reports "robopsychologist" Timothy Lynch, Ph.D., who invented SIGMUND to help extract strategic information from research subjects for his doctoral dissertation.

While perhaps not as flexible as a human interviewer, SIGMUND can tirelessly collect complex data from hundreds or thousands of subjects and then efficiently compile and analyze the responses, aiding and abetting research projects by social scientists, educators, marketing experts, and hospital administrators. It may be artificial intelligence, but it's a genuine boon.

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