chapter  2
Empathy machines
Forgetting the body
BySherry Turkle
Pages 11

Dr. Turkle builds on arguments she advanced about the power of presence that she advanced in Alone Together (2011) and Reclaiming Conversation (2015). Here she explores the disembodiment that is at the heart of the “flight from conversation” and splitting of attention when we use our digital devices. Turkle questions the implications for the body in analysis in a world in which increasingly more people would rather text than converse face-to-face. It “normalizes” analysis by Skype, but should this be normalized?

Additionally, Turkle looks at the implications for the body when we become open to interacting with machines ‘as if’ they were embodied with the richness of human experience. This is relevant to the future of psychotherapy, a future in which automated therapists are currently proposed. Turkle describes that when we are tempted by automated programs as therapists, we risk entering into the disembodied realm of the ‘as if,’ and also risk treating other humans as if they too were disembodied. Turkle is an analytically trained clinician who works closely with roboticists and champions of AI. From work in that research environment, she is able to explore the of what she has called “the robotic moment” (our willingness to treat machines as though they were worthy of conversation about human matters) and virtual reality, our willingness to accept what is not real as “real enough.” What does our vulnerability to these technologies say about our relationship to psychoanalysis and to our traditional conceptions of the human?