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The wellness industry’s risky embrace of AI-driven mental health care

0 3 years ago

 Across the mental-health industry, companies are rapidly building solutions for monitoring and treating mental-health issues that rely on just a phone or a wearable device. To do so, companies are relying on “affective computing” to detect and interpret human emotions. It’s a field that’s forecast to become a $37 billion industry by 2026, and as the COVID-19 pandemic has increasingly forced life online, affective computing has emerged as an attractive tool for governments and corporations to address an ongoing mental health crisis.

Despite a rush to build applications using it, emotionally intelligent computing remains in its infancy and is being introduced in the realm of therapeutic services as a fix-all solution without scientific validation nor public consent. Scientists still disagree over the nature of emotions and how they are felt and expressed among various populations, yet this uncertainty has been mostly disregarded by a wellness industry eager to profit from the digitalization of health care. If left unregulated, AI-based mental-health solutions risk creating new disparities in the provision of care as those who cannot afford in-person therapy will be referred to bot-powered therapists of uncertain quality.

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