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IBM THINKS of AI for mental health

Thursday, 22 March, 2018

One of the highlights of the IBM inaugural THINK Conference, which ends today in Las Vegas, was the announcement of what Big Blue describes as the world’s smallest computer. It’s smaller than a grain of salt, will cost less than 10 cents to make and can monitor, evaluate and act on data. It also packs several hundred thousand transistors into a tiny footprint to act as a crypto anchor technology.

Along with the tiny computer, the other headline-grabber at THINK was the list of predictions covering five technologies that IBM researchers believe will transform the world over the next five years. Arvind Krishna, director of IBM Research, lists them in a blog post titled The Power of Thinking Big: IBM Research’s ‘5 in 5’. There’s hyperimaging, macroscopes, medical “labs on a chip” and smart sensors, but the most fascinating idea is the potential role of AI in language analysis. Not the usual “instant translation”, this time, but the idea that what we say and write could be assessed by cognitive systems as indicators of our mental health and physical well-being. In theory, the patterns in our speech and writing could enable healthcare professionals to track mental illness and detect degenerative neurological diseases.

As Zadie Smith said, “The past is always tense, the future perfect.”


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