Today in History for December 18th

(18 Dec 2018) U.S. Supreme Court upholds the relocation and detention of Japanese-Americans during World War Two; U.S. begins 12 days of heavy bombing of North Vietnamese targets; Steven Spielberg is born; Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Nutcracker’ – publicly premieres in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Dec. 18)

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Why Therapists Aren’t Worried Robots Will Come For Their Jobs

AI’s rapid expansion isn’t just limited to manufacturing and IT industries. It’s also hitting the frontline of a field that relies heavily on a human connection: therapy.

A handful of startups have launched AI chatbots aimed at providing mental health support over the past two years. These conversational bots offer an instant, automated therapy, often programmed after cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a popular approach that dates back to the 1960s.

Wysa, Woebot and Youper are among the most popular therapy bots available to the public, with positive online reviews from users who dealt with issues like depression and anxiety. “It can see you on your worst day. It’s also never going to get tired. It’s there for you at 2 AM. Whereas a therapist isn’t.” says Alison Darcy, founder of Woebot, a therapy bot launched in 2017.

Charging minimal to no fees, these bots’ affordability adds to their appeal – so does the fact that they aren’t human.

A 2014 study funded by DARPA found that participants who believed they were speaking with an AI therapist were more likely to open up than participants who were told a human operator was behind their virtual therapist.

“Therapy for a lot of people is intimidating so if they feel like, “I can do this instead of seeing a therapist and I’m going to be cured,” – I think they’re already starting off with an unrealistic expectation,” says Nicole Smith-Perez, a New York-based therapist practicing CBT.

Some psychologists are concerned that people might use bots instead of professional therapy, which is inaccessible to many due to the high cost and lack of access. A 2016 Health Affairs report found more than half of U.S. counties have zero psychiatrists.

There is limited independent research that evaluates the therapeutic value of therapy bots beyond impact metrics reported by chatbot companies. Tess, one of several specialized chatbots created by X2AI, claims its service helps reduce depression by 13% and anxiety and stress by 18%.

To avoid legal liabilities, some developers caution users AI chatbots are not the equivalent to human therapists. An initial conversation with Woebot, for instance, includes a warning: “This is not a crisis service or a replacement for a human.”

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Deported immigrants get last flight on ‘ICE Air’

(17 Dec 2018) Deportation flights are big business: The U.S. government has spent $1 billion on these flights in the last decade, and the Trump administration is seeking to raise ICE’s budget for charter flights by 30 percent. (Dec. 17)

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Today in History for December 17th

(17 Dec 2018) Wright brothers conduct the first successful manned, powered flight of the airplane. U.S. test-fires the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile; Simon Bolivar dies in Colombia; television’s Tiny Tim marries his fiancee, Miss Vicky. (Dec. 17th)

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Jackson says he understands ‘R’ rating for WWI doc

(15 Dec 2018) Peter Jackson’s new WWI doc tells stories of boys who were on the front lines when they were just 14, 15 or 16 years old. But viewers that age won’t be able to see the film without a parent when it’s shown in U.S. theaters, due to an ‘R’ rating for disturbing war images. Jackson says he understands the ratings decision. (Dec. 13)

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Alfonso Cuaron wishes box office success was irrelevant

(15 Dec 2018) “Roma” director Alfonso Cuaron says he’s seen changes in how the U.S. film academy treats foreign films. Releasing his critically-hailed film on Netflix and in theatres, he says measuring a film’s success by box office numbers is “perverse.” (Dec. 14)

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Pompeo: China illegally holding 2 Canadians

(14 Dec 2018) U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the detention of two Canadian citizens in China is unlawful and is calling for them to be released. (Dec. 14)

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Ginsburg reveals family story to new US citizens

(14 Dec 2018) Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg described her immigrant roots at a naturalization ceremony for more than 30 new U.S. citizens at the National Archives Friday. (Dec. 14)

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Michelle Obama visits Colorado children’s hospital

(14 Dec 2018) Former U.S. first lady Michelle Obama visited Children’s Hospital Colorado in suburban Denver on Thursday. Mrs. Obama read “The Night Before Christmas,” answered questions from children and encouraged Santa Claus to get up and dance. (Dec. 14)

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Senate rebukes Saudi’s over Khashoggi, Yemen war

(13 Dec 2018) Senators voted Thursday to recommend that the U.S. end its assistance to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen and put the blame for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi squarely on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (Dec. 13)

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