When we think of new technology, often we only think of the bad things associated with it. We respond with fear to things we don’t understand. We have a hard time opening our minds to the possibilities.
“Artificial intelligence will become self-aware and take over the world! Haven’t you seen Terminator?”
“Computers and robots are taking our jobs!”
Humans tend to focus on the bad first and don’t see the good technology can do. The possibilities are endless. Imagine what we can dream if technology was used for the betterment of humankind? Imagine a world so advanced that technology can help us solve the worst of our problems?
What if new technology could even help people who have a mental illness?
The future looks bright
When we think of using technology to help our mental health, we think of smartphone apps and online support groups. While these are helpful, they haven’t advanced enough to a point where they could replace the one-on-one you get from a therapist or in-person support group.
The idea of using something you carry with you everywhere to help with or cure mental illness is a great goal. Right now, if you scroll through Google Play, you can find such things as MoodPath, where you take an interactive test and get a personal mental health assessment, or Wsya, which is a therapy chatbot that helps a person deal with stress, anxiety, and emotional healing.
These are great apps but limited in what they can do, and only bring us a little closer to using technology to cure poor mental health. What if we took the concept of an app for your phone a little further?
Have you heard of a smart mirror? This technology uses a two-way mirror to display information like weather and news. These mirrors are getting more sophisticated with time. Some of them use facial recognition to figure out your mental state. Some have sensors that can detect things like body temperature and heart rate. You can interface with the mirror using only your voice.
What if we were able to combine all this technology with AI and create a system that could immediately figure out your mental and physical health and make suggestions accordingly? What if AI could recognize that you are in crisis and help you contact doctors and therapists to get you through the emergency?
What if this technology resided on your phone and could be accessible no matter where you are?
What if AI became so sophisticated that it could replace human doctors? We could have access to help any time, day or night. How much would the suicide rate go down if we had easy access to a knowledgeable professional at all times — even if it was a computer? The technology could track small changes in your mood and mental state in the background while you go about your day?
“I wouldn’t trust a computer with my mental health!”
But you will trust a fallible human being, who may or may not be acting on bias and making decisions without all the information available to them. You’re putting your lives in the hands of doctors who may be at the end of a 48-hour shift. These doctors may have confused you with one of the 100 other patents they have seen in the last day.
I’ve been there. I’ll take my chances with artificial intelligence for once.
We haven’t even discussed what artificial intelligence and quantum computing can do for mental health research and development. Imagine having technology constantly working on the most difficult mental health problems we face as a society?
Imagine how advanced our understanding of the human psyche can be with the help of computer brains that don’t get tired, don’t need to eat, and have no built-in bias toward any one group.
The future is amazing!
We are far from the point of artificial doctors and apps that can detect a crisis. But we will never get there if we, as a society, are afraid to put our faith in technology. If we give in to the constant fearmongering, we will never see how much better our lives can be with technology.
Advancements in artificial intelligence, mobile connectivity (5G and 6G), and quantum computing will usher in a new reality for us. It will introduce an age where everything will be easier because we can rely on technology to take care of the troublesome and unwieldy things in our lives. We will be better because technology will help us work, play, love, heal, and survive.
Am I putting too much faith in technology? I know I’m not putting enough.
I imagine a time where we finally have the answers to cure mental illness. I know we can get there if we put our trust in technology once and for all. We have to realize it could hold the key to eradicating something that has plagued us for far too long.
Smart mirrors, smartphones with AI, voice and face recognition, and body sensors are only the beginning of what technology can do to improve our mental health. The only limit we have is our own imagination and the fear we feel at the prospect of computers and technology doing things we only dared let humans do before now. Our fear can keep us from moving past where we are stuck.
Fear drives dogma: both political and religious. And dogma could be the biggest reason people don’t trust technology.
Have you already made up your mind about technology, or can you be open to the possibilities available to the mentally ill?
These possibilities are available through technology if we only dare to dream about the future.
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Jason Weiland is a writer, blogger, vlogger, and mental health advocate living a dream life in far-away destinations he only dreamed of as a kid. He talks about difficult issues but has never lost his sense of humor or willingness to understand others and help when he can.
He would love to connect with you on social media.