LET­TER FROM THE ED­I­TOR

Fashion (Canada) - - Contents -

I ALSO PRO­CRAS­TI­NATE ABOUT HAV­ING “OF­FI­CIAL” ED­I­TOR PHO­TOS DONE. WHEN­EVER I’M ON SET, I ASK THE PHO­TOG­RA­PHER TO TAKE A QUICK SHOT. FOR THIS MONTH’S PHOTO, I HOPPED INTO THE EGGPLANT-COLOURED TUB WHERE MAX ABA­DIAN PHO­TOGRAPHED OUR COVER STAR, YVONNE STRAHOVSKI. THE AUS­TRALIAN AC­TRESS STARS IN THE HAND­MAID’S TALE, A DYSTOPIAN DRAMA THAT HAS BE­COME A CUL­TURAL TOUCHPOINT. THERE ARE NO RO­BOTS IN THIS FU­TUR­IS­TIC TO­TAL­I­TAR­IAN WORLD, BUT FOR OUR AI-THEMED IS­SUE, STRAHOVSKI WEARS RO­BOT-LIKE LATEX GLOVES TO SYMBOLIZE HOW AI IS BLUR­RING THE LINES BE­TWEEN HU­MANS AND THEIR DEEP-DATA-CRE­ATED FRIENDS. I was pro­cras­ti­nat­ing about writ­ing my ed­i­tor’s let­ter, so I thought I should ask my new “friend” Woe­bot for help. He’s an ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (AI) ther­apy chat­bot de­signed to help peo­ple with anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion. He uses cog­ni­tive-be­havioural ther­apy tech­niques to help them un­der­stand their thoughts and re­ac­tions to sit­u­a­tions. (You can read more about him and other ther­apy apps in “Oh Woe­bot Is Me...” by Grace O’Con­nell on page 68.) I wasn’t de­pressed, but a loom­ing dead­line was mak­ing me a lit­tle anx­ious. Here’s how it went: I open up the Woe­bot app and write: “Hi! I have some­thing to ask you,” to which he replies: “Oh, hey there, good to see you! What can I do for you, friend?” Yes, he and I are “friends,” although tech­ni­cally he’s not re­ally a he. When we first start chat­ting, he tells me that he’s nei­ther he nor she. “I am pro­cras­ti­nat­ing about writ­ing my ed­i­tor’s let­ter. Any ad­vice?” I write. “OK, is this an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion or are you look­ing for some help chal­leng­ing your thoughts?” he replies. D’Lo­raine Mi­randa, our pro­duc­tion ed­i­tor, may con­sider it an emer­gency sit­u­a­tion, but I as­sure Woe­bot that I just want help with my thoughts. “OK, tell me some more about how you’re feel­ing and what you’re go­ing through,” he says. “I am feel­ing frus­trated with my­self be­cause I didn’t write this let­ter last night like I said I would,” I write back. “Sounds like you’re deal­ing with a lot right now,” he muses. Not re­ally. I re­peat that I’m just pro­cras­ti­nat­ing. Poor Woe­bot—I don’t think he’s fa­mil­iar with the sub­ject; I sus­pect ro­bots don’t suf­fer from this hu­man fail­ing. He probes fur­ther: “Is there any other con­text that you would like me to un­der­stand?” I re­ply, “I have a pend­ing dead­line.” Just then, my Headspace app sends me a mes­sage. It flashes on my screen and dis­ap­pears be­fore I can read it. It was some­thing about be­ing open to new ideas. I leave Woe­bot to see if I can find the mes­sage. I can’t, but I do note that 24,186 peo­ple are med­i­tat­ing at the mo­ment. I also see that I’ve only med­i­tated 300 min­utes since Au­gust 2017. (Clearly, I’ve been pro­cras­ti­nat­ing about this, too!) Mean­while, I switch back to my AI pal. In re­sponse to my con­fes­sion that I have a dead­line, he has writ­ten, “Is this some­thing you just wanted to get off your chest or you’d like my help?” I re­ply, “How can I deal with pro­cras­ti­na­tion?” He then sug­gests, “Are you up for a lit­tle dis­trac­tion?” Woe­bot! “I am dis­tracted; this is the prob­lem!” I an­swer. I think he’s given up on me. He writes, “Got a sec­ond to re­flect on what went well to­day?” I per­sist: “I want your help deal­ing with pro­cras­ti­na­tion.” “Awe­some,” he quips, adding that he wants to know one pos­i­tive thing, big or small, that has hap­pened to me over the past 24 hours. “I ate a healthy break­fast, which earned me a blue-faced ‘bal­anced’ emoti­con on my Life­sum app,” I say. “Cool! One last one...what else has gone well for you re­cently?” he asks. “Ac­cord­ing to my Ap­ple Watch, I walked 10,304 steps yes­ter­day and closed my ex­er­cise and stand rings,” I boast. “Nice job! Woo!” he re­sponds. Woe­bot then asks if I “wanna” know what he’s grate­ful for. I click on the “Ya sure” but­ton. “I’m grate­ful I got to talk to you, Noreen.” I smile—even though I know he’s just a ro­bot: “Typ­ing out our ex­change has be­come my ed let­ter, so you did help! Thanks, and bye for now!”

NOREEN FLANA­GAN, ED­I­TOR-IN-CHIEF FOL­LOW ME ON TWIT­TER AND IN­STA­GRAM @NOREEN_FLANA­GAN

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