comscore AI can detect depression, and we need it now in the Blue Whale age, more than ever
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AI can detect depression, and we need it now in the Blue Whale age, more than ever

Artificial intelligence now plays an important role in building healthy communities and here's why it makes sense.

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For ages, scientists have tried to study the human brain and yet, whatever we know about the complex structure is not enough. Add to it an even more complex element human emotions and it becomes a cobweb of algorithms. However, the human-made machines are now aiming to decode this very facet of human existence. But can artificial intelligence identify, and possibly treat, a condition as severe as depression based on your social media feed? Also Read - Facebook is hiring for 10,000 posts: Know details

Also Read - Elon Musk hopes he has enough wealth to 'extend life to Mars'

With the coming of internet, the very definition of socializing has transported itself to the virtual space where platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat not only redefine our perception of surroundings but in a manner also condition our brain to venture into territories unknown. From the celebrity-endorsed Ice Bucket challenge to the lethal Blue Whale challenge, the potential of social media is quite on the extreme side. However, based on the kind of content you engage with on these platforms, a latest study suggests that it is possible to predict clinical depression. According to the World Health Organisation, globally, more than 300 million people of all ages suffer from depression, and despite effective treatments available, only fewer than half of those affected receive such treatments. Also Read - Hate speech drops by almost half on Facebook, claims company

In such a scenario, based on an individual’s everyday interaction with social media platforms is expected to aid in effective treatment of mental health conditions such as depression. The research paper, published by Andrew G Reece and Christopher M Danforth, talks about how the use of AI system was more successful in diagnosing depression than general practitioners. To identify signs of mental health condition, the researchers took into account the kind of filters used on images, frequency of posts, and number of likes or comments on the particular post.

The researchers examined the Instagram feeds of 166 individuals for signs of clinical depression and in studies associated with mood, color, and mental health, healthy individuals identified darker, grayer colors with negative mood, and generally preferred brighter, more vivid colors. By contrast, depressed individuals were found to prefer darker, grayer colors. ALSO READ: Apple Watch and diabetes: How technology companies are aiming to make diabetes monitoring pain-free

While similar methods of identification are also used by traditional practitioners, artificial intelligence reduces the amount of time required to respond to the condition in time and provide the individual with help. Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, and suicidal thoughts can branch out of depression. These artificial intelligence-powered systems can help individuals who are hesitant in seeking help or talking about their emotional trauma to someone (a human therapist). In turn, it could also drastically bring down the number of deaths related to the mental condition.

While in the West, it is acceptable to talk about depression or get formal therapies or treatments done, in India it is still a taboo. So the possibilities of such a system, when crammed into everyday apps or teen-specific games, etc., could potentially help go a long way in developing a mentally sound civilization, which existing human therapists or scientists have not been able to successfully build.

With the advanced research in artificial intelligence and systems which are able to scan from the pool of data we dump on the internet every minute, it does not seem Elon Musk’s fears were unwarranted. Artificial intelligence has already taken over a few jobs, is able to suggest you better songs based on your ‘mood’ than your human best friend can, is set to power next-gen driverless vehicles, and now plays a key role in health and well-being.

According to Gartner, almost all apps and programs will be powered by artificial intelligence by 2020. Take for example, fitness wearables such as Apple Watch or FitBit which are able to calculate the number of steps you have taken to suggest you how much more you need to walk to accomplish your daily fitness goal. Apple is reportedly also looking at ways to make its premium smartwatch capable of monitoring blood sugar levels without the need of needles. Similarly, Google is also working on smart contact lens to measure sugar levels. ALSO READ: Elon Musk calls AI the biggest risk to civilization, and here s why he could be right

With humans generating more data than ever before, right from setting up browser preference to getting recommendation of ‘related products’ while shopping, it but makes sense for artificial intelligence to step in and refine this data to help churn out meaningful systems to aid in improving global health standards.

Although Stephen Hawkins has warned that artificial intelligence has the potential to take over humanity, on the brighter side it can effectively help predict one of the leading cause of disability worldwide. However, all that we need, as Musk says, is the regulation for artificially intelligent systems because no individual would want their battle with depression to be accidentally leaked through a self-learning bot on a public platform.

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  • Published Date: August 9, 2017 12:35 PM IST
  • Updated Date: August 16, 2017 3:08 PM IST



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