Transcript of 10th Session between Charles Balis, M.D. and Mr. George Landau,

Dr. Balis: Hello George. How are you this week?
Mr. Landau: Oh. Okay, I suppose. This last week has been a little rough.
Dr. Balis: What has been happening?
Mr. Landau: One of Melissa's friends is in hospital. It looks like cancer of the prostate. Melissa is really not herself at the moment. And I've been having more nightmares. They've gotten worse in the last two weeks.
Dr. Balis: Do you find it difficult to get a full night's sleep?
Mr. Landau: It seems that every hour either I wake Melissa by shouting or flinching suddenly, or she wakes me by tossing and turning. It wears both of us down--you can imagine it.
Dr. Balis: How has this affected your relationship?
Mr. Landau: I would have jumped down your throat for that question a few months ago, wouldn't I? Told you to mind your own business.
Dr. Balis: I can visualize that happening. Do you feel differently now?
Mr. Landau: Melissa can be a little short with me. Perhaps I try to help her in the kitchen and just get in her way. She can snap at me without meaning to. But she usually notices when she does it, and she'll make it up to me later. We've been through a lot together, Doctor. We know how things change when one of us is under a strain. We can handle it.
Dr. Balis: You must be tired at work, too.
Mr. Landau: Yes. It's a bit easier now that Taylor knows about my problem with computers. But he's not going to stay patient forever.
Dr. Balis: I hope we can make you feel better long before that.
Mr. Landau: That would be good. Although I'm not in peak condition today for a white-knuckled hell ride through my subconscious.
Dr. Balis: We don't have to start with the rickety big dipper. We can take it more slowly than that. I thought we'd just explore in detail some of your antipathy towards machines.
Mr. Landau: Big Dipper. That's in Santa Cruz, right? Now you're making me think of the ghost train.
Dr. Balis: The ghost train?
Mr. Landau: Any ghost train. You must have been on one, Doctor, at a county fair or an amusement park? You sit in a little carriage and drive slowly through dark tunnels. Skeletons and ghosts loom out at you. Bats swing over your head. Cobwebs brush past your face. Then your two bucks are spent and a grouchy man kicks you out of your car.
Dr. Balis: I know the rides you mean. It sounds like you have a very cynical view of them.
Mr. Landau: Does it? Far from it, they used to terrify me. I hate all that kind of thing. I had a girl once--Faith was her name--who used to drag me to the boardwalk in Santa Cruz and onto that ride. She loved them, she would come out the other end bouncing in her seat, her face shining. I was more likely to be hunched down with my jacket over my head to stop anything from touching my skin.
Dr. Balis: I hope she paid.
Mr. Landau: I paid. In the end she dumped me, but I was quite pleased.
Dr. Balis: Have you ever taken your children on one of these rides?
Mr. Landau: What? Oh no. If they want to suffer they can do it by themselves. Elizabeth would probably enjoy them. I imagine Daniel would think they were a bit of a waste of time.
Dr. Balis: I want to talk about your fear of computers now.
Mr. Landau: It's funny...I suppose I can see it earlier in my life when I look for it. The ghost train is one example--I don't particularly like unknown things brushing my face in the dark. But that wasn't the most scary thing about the ride.
Dr. Balis: Please go on.
Mr. Landau: If you knew a man in a vampire costume was going to jump out at you, it would surprise you when it happened, but it wouldn't be terrifying. The thing is, the ghost train is like some giant machine which opens its doors and swallows you up. And when you are inside, all the moving parts are controlled by the machine. It's dark so you can't see what's coming. The machine could do anything to you. It could make a bar move out and knock your head off. Do you see what I'm trying to describe?
Dr. Balis: I think so. But I'd like to hear more.
Mr. Landau: You can't tell what they're thinking because they have no face. They show you a screen, or a novelty ride, but you just don't know what's going on underneath. You don't know what's in the wires.
Dr. Balis: If you talked to the computer engineers--and you can find them at SII--they'd explain to you how a computer worked, right down to the electricity running along each connection inside. Some of them have a total understanding of how the machine works at every level. They would be skeptical about any idea that the computer thought for itself.
Mr. Landau: Scientists. Scientists are always wrong, Doctor. All the way through history, scientists have been convinced that they understood how the world worked, and then some revolution came along and showed that they had misunderstood. Why should we be right today when we haven't been before?
Dr. Balis: Well, that's partly true. But...
Mr. Landau: And we can only look at things from a human perspective. We have a rigid definition of what life is. What if we have created a new form of life, and it is sitting there calmly appraising us? It may have capabilities we can't conceive of.
Dr. Balis: I'm sure I have read science fiction stories to that effect.
Mr. Landau: There are very few rooms in the SII building which don't have at least one computer screen in them. They can see everything. They know more than we do. They can communicate faster than we can think.
Dr. Balis: Do you believe what you are telling me, George?
Mr. Landau: Believe...I don't know. Nobody knows for sure. But this is what I feel, Doctor. I feel watched. I feel assessed. My body is so fragile. One electric shock and I am gone.
Dr. Balis: This is what you feel when you sit down in front of your office computer?
Mr. Landau: No, I feel it most of the time. In the street, automatic cameras are watching. Televisions look out from the appliance stores. Computer screens flicker behind the blinds of office buildings.
Dr. Balis: You sound distant, George.
Mr. Landau: I feel cold.
Dr. Balis: What do you feel when you have to sit down and confront the computer on your desk?
Mr. Landau: Some days, it's a sheer wave of fear. My hair stands on end, my skin goose-pimples, I can't breathe, I can't move. When I'm more lucid, I sometimes feel like I'm completely open to the machine. It can read every pore on my skin.
Dr. Balis: Do you feel threatened?
Mr. Landau: Yes. But more than that. I can feel...known. Like it can read what I'm thinking. It's not so ridiculous, Doctor. Our body works by electrical impulses. Why shouldn't they be able to read those?
Dr. Balis: I sense you feel awkward about referring to computers as living things.
Mr. Landau: Of course. I sound crazy. I know that. But it's how I feel.
Dr. Balis: I appreciate you being so open about it. And I think we should these feelings more.
Mr. Landau: Don't put too much store in exactly what I'm saying. I'm trying to understand myself. I'm grasping for the right words to describe my feelings and it's not something at which I have much practice. I may be going too far and saying things I don't really mean.
Dr. Balis: I'll watch out for that. But you're doing very well articulating your feelings, which is always difficult even when there's not so much attached to them.
Mr. Landau: Thanks.
Dr. Balis: Next week I'd like to begin the flooding technique, okay?
Mr. Landau: In two weeks, please. I'd like to settle on this as a regular schedule.
Dr. Balis: Can I rely on no abrupt illnesses breaking our sessions up even further?
Mr. Landau: No you can't, Doctor. I don't choose to make myself ill. But if I have no training course to go to, I don't see why it should happen. We are working on this, yes?
Dr. Balis: Okay, George. I didn't mean to suggest you would stay away voluntarily. But the flooding can be quite an intense process.
Mr. Landau: I'm prepared. I think I'm prepared.
Dr. Balis: I will see you at 4 pm then, on Monday the 19th of May.
Mr. Landau: Goodbye, Doctor. Stay away from the fairgrounds.
Dr. Balis: I will if I see one. Bye, George.
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