SIM:Henk the Spider: Vicarious Extinction

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Kevin Breeman, Henk the Spider, Euronymous


While Kevin is trying to research the planet Desperot in the USS Independence-A's library, he is again accosted by Henk.


((Library - USS Independence-A))

((OOC: I've taken the liberty of putting Henk on Euronymous' shoulder for a brief period. I hope he's not arachnophobic :) ))

:: Henk's arachnoid body housed the mechanical mind developed by its creator, a strange and peculiar computational psychologist who resided aboard the USS Independence. Jose Fangjian was an expert in phobic reactions and so had developed Henk as a probing instrument for collecting statistical data. Whenever someone stepped on Henk or shrieked in his presence, Henk would log yet another instance of a phobic reaction. Fangjian now had a wealth of data. Indeed, Henk as a vehicle for instilling phobic reactions had outlived his usefulness. But Fangjian left his creation active to serve with the science department as a miniature exploration probe. He could crawl into small spaces and his eight eyes each contained a different EM spectral sensor.

As Henk crawled across the ceiling demonstrating the dexterity with which it had been endowed, two of the robot's eyes scanned the young lieutennant below. The officer seemed still to be exhibiting heightened fear, as evidenced by elevated levels of activity in the human's amygala. Laser microacoustic data from its third eye indicated an elevated heart rate. It was clear to Henk's central processing unit that something new was in order.

So the AI dropped its previous act of victimized spider (though it was true that the unit had been stomped on many times before) and instead activated a different human protocol implementation. Compassion.::

Henk: Look, I can see you're still getting used to me.

:: Henk's laser sensor detected a reduction in Breeman's heart rate as the human realized that the phobic entity was about to leave his vicinity. Still, Henk's psychology subroutines began to process the new data and the robot's CPU registered a good candidate for automated systematic desensitization therapy.::

Henk: Why don't I leave you alone for a while and then I'll come by and pay you a visit later, okay?

Breeman: Okay. I mean no disrespect. This will just take....time....

:: Henk crawled across the ceiling and back toward Euronymous, the librarian. The spider crawled up onto the desk at which Euronymous sat, his horned head seeming rather glum and his tail more subdued than usual.::

Henk: Slow day today?

Euronymous: Ah Henk. Not just slow I fear I may have mishandled my first real chance to prove the worth of this library. The Lieutenant barely acknowledged my presence. While in some ways being ignored is better than being the object of superstitious fears because of my appearance I am at a loss as what to do next.

Henk: Well Kevin is...scared. He's not scared of you. He's scared of me. You see, I kind of... lowered myself down on his shoulder to say hello. That's the thing with these Terrans. There are so few species of spider that can actually harm them and yet a good portion of humans are terrified of my appearance. Why don't you go talk to Kevin? Ask him if he needs any help.

Euronymous: Indeed an excellent idea Henk. I shall sally forth once more and enquire if the Lieutenant requires any further assistance. Perhaps you could tag along and watch. The feedback would be useful.

:: Henk's subroutines analyzed the prospect. He realized that Euronymous could use the company in case Kevin declined the offer. But he also knew that he was the object of a phobia that Kevin had. But... Perhaps a bit of behaviour modification through observation on Kevin's part would help.::

Henk: Okay. That sounds like a good idea. Why don't I stay on your shoulder. That way Kevin will see I'm not so bad.


I'd recently been reading about the notion of vicarious extinction as it related to modern psychology. Apparently this is a technique in which someone who has some kind of behavioural problem (a phobia in this case) is exposed to scenes or events in which other people interact successfully with a feared object without consequence (James M. Weyant, "Applied Social Psychology." New York: Oxford University Press, 1986, p. 17).

I used this sim to present Henk robotic side a bit more. I thought it might be a nice idea to present a nearly autonomous robotic creature that had the appearance of a phobic object and yet could also conduct basic therapy on phobic people.

At the end the robot decides to use the vicarious extinction technique describe above by sitting on Euronymous' shoulder while he talks with Breeman.

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