Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fallen Through the Cracks

The last of my food supply

Right now, I’m debating whether or not to eat a box of macaroni and cheese.

I’m not debating whether I should eat it versus something else which would be decidedly more nutritious. I’m debating whether or not I should eat it, or go hungry another day. You see, I only have three boxes of macaroni and cheese left to my name. I have no other food in my apartment, and I currently have $9 left in my bank account. My Internet and mobile phone were turned off at the beginning of January, and my gas will probably be turned off in the next month. My electricity will eventually follow suit. The only reason I still have an apartment is because of the charity of family, however their finances are stretched too thin with almost half a million dollars in medical debt, and the costs associated with caring for an elderly matriarch in the last months of her life. The only way I am able to receive calls from potential employers is through an old flip phone loaned to me by a family member while I look for work. I’ve been living off macaroni and cheese since January, eating a box every second day in order to stretch what meager funds I had as far as they would last.

You may be asking, “But, Ashe, weren’t you in college? Did you ever graduate?” The answer is, yes. I graduated from NC State University in December 2012. I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, and had a 3.44/4.00 Cumulative GPA, as well as a 3.75/4.00 Major GPA. It says so, right on my resume. I spent two years doing research for the Good Doctor, although, to be fair, that last semester I really slacked off since I had a small bout of depression, later followed by fear and anxiety associated with not having a job waiting for me when I graduated. My slacking showed, as the Good Doctor only gave me a B for the last semester in his lab, where previously I had made A’s. I really feel bad about that, and I feel that I left things off with him on a sour note, as a result.

While I did attempt to apply to graduate school, finances dictated that I could only afford to apply to one school, NC State. As anyone who has applied to graduate schools can tell you, it is not a good idea to place all of your hopes into one university. Unfortunately, I was a little too vague on my application when explaining what I wanted my research focus to be, and was rejected despite what one of the professors reviewing my application said were very good GPA and GRE scores.

The problem, as I see it, is that I am a bit afraid to tell any professor about my true goals for research. Ever since returning to college, I have had a dream of doing research which would lead to the creation of an artificial intelligence, which would reside on any mobile device, computer, or perhaps even a web-enabled television, that would be used mainly for the treatment of depression, anxiety, and some mild addiction disorders. Several problems get in the way of this research. One, I have no engineering or computer programming background, so I would not be creating the actual programming code, myself. Two, there is very little research in the psychological journals pertaining to the use of artificial intelligence, as it seems that psychologists have mostly ceded control over this area to the engineering field. And, three, since there aren’t any psychologists currently doing research into the use of artificial intelligence as a treatment for depression, there aren’t any researchers whose labs I can apply to work in as a graduate student. At NC State, we have an engineering department with faculty and students who would be of great use in the actual construction of the AI, but the closest thing to a psychologist who fits my needs focuses his research on studying the cognitive effects of playing video games in adults and the elderly. For my purposes, as one who has played video games since I was four years old, I see parallels between using AI for improving the cognitive and emotional well-being of adults with depression, and using video games, which are little more than graphical AIs which respond to player input, as a way of improving the cognitive functioning of older adults.

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