Drones have become a household name in the past few years. Drone strikes seem to be the new face of modern warfare, allowing unmanned aircraft to eliminate determined threats without risk to military personnel. The Obama administration has become synonymous with the use of drones, although they are not the first to utilize them. The new concern is a memo attached to this program outlining the justification of using drone strikes on Americans. Ties to terrorist organizations are likely the backing of the program, however, many are wondering who determines the affiliation. More recent events have also highlighted the need for a review on Drone laws. Is it fitting with Just War Theory? Does it go against the UN or NATO if lives aren’t at risk?

Members of the legislator are rightly demanding criteria for this decision, worried that the government is overreaching their hand and we can see another Guantanamo situation… on our soil. There is no doubt that the criteria in this memo are blurred, allowing for interpretation as needed. It is too similar to what past presidents have done in order to accomplish certain tasks.

My fear, is how others will interpret this information. Groups of anti-government individuals who are already angry for their gun’s honor believe that this is exactly the type of situation that warrants their ownership. This belief that one day they will have to “rise up” and protect themselves from the tyrannical government will only increase with this information.

Every president, every person in power for that matter, have interpreted unprecedented situations in a way to allow the ends to justify the means. That is nothing new. From Washington’s isolationism, Lincoln’s emancipation, Teddy Roosevelt’s expansion and Truman’s decision to drop a nuclear bomb, history is ripe with interpretation. Defining it for the future is what is crucial here.

Robo-Therapists- Are the rest of us out of work?

Social work and mental health professionals have always relied on the fact that we need humans for our human interaction as a measure of job security. After all, how can technology be expected to know when to react or provide appropriate support? Well by a “well timed uh-huh” apparently. As a part of the USC’s Institute for Creative technology, psychologist and computer scientists are teaming up to provide your very own Tech therapist. A Robot Raconteur if you would. This bot, can measure responses and appropriately react to any given situation that the client puts out, even silence. The analysis is done with multiple measurements:

“A video camera tracks facial expressions of the person sitting opposite. A movement sensor – Microsoft Kinect- tracks the person’s gestures, fidgeting and other movements. A microphone records every inflection and tone in his or her voice… to read their body language.”

Originally this idea began at the Department Of Defense as a way to help flag service members for suicidal risks; a epidemic occurring with little relief. The belief is that the minute difference that can be picked up might be missed even by the most seasoned clinicians. It is attempting to analyze the hidden messages that occur in every interaction and compare it to large databases of research on issues. So if the robot is screening for depression, it can have a record of every movement, smile, and fidget that the client had and can respond appropriately. This simulation can take the data that is collected and compare it to averages of people with depression and flag potential risks.

Flag, not diagnose. The bot has great potential to help screen, but just as there are gray areas to every diagnosis or risk factor, so there will be here. The robot would be able to compile large amounts of data and formulate potential risks associated based on that data, but it will not be as simple as positive and negative diagnosis, regardless of what it is screening. Even within this boundary, there can be a large margin for difference as each person expresses emotions in slightly different ways. There will certainly be trends, and subtle, intrinsic signs that most of us are unable to read, but each one is not a guarantee.

To my fellow mental health professionals; don’t give your couches up just yet, there might be need of us yet. So… how does that make you feel?

To see a demonstration, check out NPR’s full story.

Swipe Culture- How Tinder uses our thought process

“Swipe left” has become synonymous with a distasteful or disliked person or experience. The new catch phrase is more than a remnant from the dating app Tinder, as it’s become symbolic of how we view experiences. Tinder, a dating app based solely on pictures and a 140 character bio is known to be more of a hook up facilitator than a fully-fledged dating app. It’s basis is simple, swipe right for someone you like and be connected with them if they liked you too, swipe left for the ones you don’t.

Swipe left is taking a hard pass on something from a quick glimpse. Most of it is shooting from the hip; you glance and decide using Systems 1, or our quick thinking brain. There’s no algorithm for match percentage, no need to fill out a questionnaire or worry about what your screen-name says about you. Apparently the new app does let you list some interests and show mutual connections via Facebook, but for the most part, it’s that look across a bar and form a judgment based on appearances. The best part? You never have to ignore a request or message because once you swipe left they’re gone, disappeared into oblivion before it even gets that far. Who needs social graces or appropriate ways of dealing with rejection and rejecting when you can just click no and become a ghost?

We teach our kids to “not judge a book by its cover” but failed to mention that that goes out the window when you grow up. In fact, we rely heavily on our brain’s ability to make snap judgments without a second thought(pun intended) in our everyday life and work. The sadly brilliant part about Tinder is that it makes the most of this ability by saying “no, don’t worry about their personality, or forming a connection, go for what’s really important” which is looks of course.

No before you go swiping left to this statement because your friend’s friend met her boyfriend on Tinder, just consider how intolerant we are for lengthy processes. It’s not that people are making bad decisions it’s that we’ll forget how to actually deal with things we don’t like or want in real life. How you let someone down or deliver unwanted news is a fundamental part of a civilized society, dating or otherwise. Delivering bad news is a skill one has to develop with the careful balance of truth and tact. Too much of one, and meanings and intent suffer.

Don’t go blaming another thing on these gosh-darned kids with their mobile technology, because sometimes, snap judgments are more reliable. You can find goodness in anyone if you try hard enough, and the world would in fact be a better place if we didn’t judge someone based on looks. But step by step rational thinking doesn’t always get us to a different or better place. For any of us who is partly consumed by the introspective process, this is a terrifying belief, but we really need to trust our own mind more than we do. That being said, next time you have a task that you don’t want to complete, you can’t just yell “LEFT SWIPE” and hope it disappears like that guy with a neckbeard.