Google, Former NIMH Chief Seek Tech Solutions for Mental Health

Google — now Alphabet (GOOGL) — doesn’t just want to be a search engine.

Google wants to search your mind.

If you don’t believe me, then witness the recent hiring of mental health expert and former head of the National Institute for Mental Health, Dr. Thomas Insel, by the exotic Google Life Sciences division.

Dr. Insel will be teaming up with the cash-rich Silicon Valley giant to investigate how technology can help diagnose and treat mental health conditions.

As James Kirkup of The Telegraph writes:

Google doesn’t just want to read your mind; it wants to fix it too.

After spending 13 years as the director of the National Institute for Mental Health, Dr. Insel is moving into what is undoubtedly the cutting edge when it comes to mental health diagnosis — a world of sensors that can measure behavior, analyze language, monitor levels of anxiety and even tell a person if they are experiencing early signs of psychosis.

Now, if this kind of "technology creep" into the mental health field is giving you the proverbial creeps, then you are not alone.

When I read about Google’s plans I was both amazed and perhaps a little unnerved.

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Speaking recently at the Chicago Ideas Week gathering, Dr. Insel said, "Technology can have greater impact on mental healthcare than on the care for heart disease, diabetes, cancer or other diseases. It could transform this area in the next five years."

The use of sensors to monitor different variables for clues on mental health conditions is something Dr. Insel likens to the use of other devices that monitor our bodies.

In a story on Fusion, Dr. Insel said:

"We do that already for how many steps you’ve had and your activity," he said, pointing to the Fitbit (FIT) strapped to his wrist, "but this would be doing it for mood, for cognition, for anxiety. It’s really actually very doable."

The story continues to quote Dr. Insel and what he sees as the archaic way of dealing with this huge problem that afflicts so many in society today:

"So much of what we’ve done in the mental healthcare system is you have a bad night, you make it through till morning and you call and they say, ‘We’ll give you an appointment in two weeks.’ That’s just not how you treat these disorders."

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The logical device to be employed for the task of monitoring mental health is something almost everyone has these days — your smartphone.

Already, your smartphone can tell you where you are with its GPS capabilities, and what kind of businesses are around you. It can let you pay for goods and services; it can connect you with others via text message, e-mail and social media, and it can entertain you, let you search the Internet — the list goes on and on.

So, why not let your smartphone tap right into your mind?

Of course, I know I find this prospect more than just a little uncomfortable, and it’s because of the fear of "Big Brother."

What, for example, would happen if Google could interpret your mood as someone who is likely to have an acute metal illness episode? Would they be morally obligated to inform a doctor, or emergency medical services, or even law enforcement?

That is where the real runaway fear of this kind of technology comes in. And while I suspect fears like these being realized may be characterized by some as overdone, I know I am not about to trust a big corporation or a big government with interpreting data on my state of mind.

On the other hand, I do think that mental health issues are a big problem facing society. And if technology offers individuals a better way to combat this problem, then I think we should embrace the concept.

Of course, we’ll also need to embrace ways to make sure any mental health data is treated as sacrosanct, as supremely private, and as beyond the reach of authoritative abuse

And this, I fear, will become the biggest challenge on this new frontier.

***

Are you excited for the possibilities, and as scared of the worst-case scenario, of technology used to help detect the state of our mental health?

Let us know what you think by leaving a comment on our website or by sending me an e-mail.

***

Stocks finished a good week, and an even better month. September’s slump was firmly in the rearview mirror, as stocks saw their biggest one-month jump in four years. The S&P 500 is even on track to notch its biggest monthly gain in history, boosted by energy, technology and materials stocks.

In today’s markets …

•  The Republican National Committee said it was suspending its partnership with NBC News for the Republican debate scheduled for Feb. 26. The RNC accused CNBC of conducting the latest GOP debate "in bad faith."

•  Target Corp. (TGT) will offer website customers free shipping and returns, starting Nov. 1 and extending through Dec. 25.

•  It was a good day for energy, as the sector was buoyed by ExxonMobil (XOM) and Chevron (CVX). Although low oil prices dented profits, their respective refinery businesses did well in Q3. CVX may have also benefited from news that it plans to cut up to 7,000 jobs.

Good Luck and Happy Investing,

Brad Hoppmann

Publisher

Uncommon Wisdom Daily

Your thoughts on “Google, Former NIMH Chief Seek Tech Solutions for Mental Health”

  1. Those of us care-givers for the mentally ill are very aware how fragile and sensitive are loved ones are. We know first hand the funny looks we receive when we take our family members out for a quick change of scenery. But we do it for the hope that something will finally “click” and help them heal or at least get a little better. Privacy records are not very private, neither is snail mail, but we’ll grasp at anything that promotes health or hope. If tech can help my son, I’d shout to the world anything they want to hear or measure. Bring it on!

  2. I am always excited about new tech or new ways to use tech. In response to your statement that the sort of data collected by tech in this article should be considered sacrosanct, I say that all personal data should be treated that way. Having said that, reality kicks in with daily reports of massive data breaches of the most sensitive personal information.

    I strongly recommend that we apply a significant amount of resources to solving the data security problem before we even consider using any tech to collect any sort of info on any human being.

  3. As I read this about Mental illness and Google, there was a lot I wanted to say but everyone especially Jo Miller said it for me. There can be no regulations and controls to protect our privacy, as the so called “protectors” are the very ones collecting our data, our thoughts, our communications already. Use? for control & power. If anyone has not read the old novel “This Perfect Day” by Ira Levin, you should. Anyone not accepting, or questioning the status quo was considered mentally ill. Meds were administered for passivity, and compliance. Its a Technocratic dystopia where the ‘Computer rules and monitors all. Nice to know there are so many freedom thinking individuals around.

  4. Dr. Insel was born a little late. He would have fit perfectly in Hitler’s staff. Mental illness needs to be addressed, but it certainly is not simple enough for a group of techno-geeks to solve with programming. Much of the mental illness is caused by mass mind alteration by big government and big corporations. Take away jobs, take away personal freedom and responsibility, make the populace feel totally insecure and what do you have – mental illness.

  5. Yes,I would like to get in on the investment of being Uncle Sam’s land lord,and cash in on some of that money…

  6. Alphabet is a stupid company name. Is it like alphabet soup?
    Besides their misstep with the name Google is on the path to become a new NAZI party, encompassing all facets of life without control from any authority and definitely without control from the victims. They use the same tactics the NAZIs used, making promises to the victims to make their life better. As the US government is de facto run by businesses there is no oversight in sight. Food companies poison us and the “health care” sector takes our money to minimise the effects. It’s a conspiracy, put in place by the people who are supposed to represent us.
    Now Google may have good intentions (like some NAZIs had) and wants to eradicate the mental condition that makes many US people so aggressive and unsocial and a menace to the world. But, as with the Nazis, there are those whose lust for power does not stop even in the face of killing millions. The NAZIs did lot of research on the poor souls who did not meet the requirements and euthanasia was justified by that. Does Google know what territory they are stepping in?
    Freedom is too precious to let Google pursue their ideas without a strong oversight. Monsanto and their devilish GMO products show where we go if companies do their own “oversight”.

  7. It would seem that in the not too distant future will we have a device that will measure our mental health but perhaps what we think as well. What will be the definition of sanity versus insanity? Will the algorithm be decided upon by the medical community or by someone else? Will we all rejoice when it is announced that the data gathered from such devices could be mined to make our community safer by identifying the thought processes that are related to criminal or terrorist acts? Will our security agencies act to arrest an individual if the individual has homicidal thoughts or is suicidal or is thinking about a violent act against another? Certainly there is no harm to our freedom and security of we can identify and stop then from committing a criminal act that harms our fellow citizens?

    I am reminded of the old days of the USSR where political dissidents would be sent to a psychiatric hospital since the state believed only those with a mental illness would be against the socialist workers paradise. In the George Orwell classic, 1984, the “Thought Police” was responsible to uncovering and punishing “thought crime” and “thought criminals”. Such a device could make 1984 a brutal reality.

  8. In my opinion our society also has lots of physical health issues which I believe stem from the fact that the primary purpose of the health industry is to make a profit not heal people. That said why would I ever think the primary purpose why Google needs to get into peoples mind is truly to help people that might have mental health issues? I mean really what business is Google in?

    Why don’t they just create businesses that advertise on the internet just like all other businesses? Why don’t they put out big ad campaigns? Free help… Instead they want to get inside my head when I’m not aware? Content with Context? Plant a little fear? And if I disagree with their assessment who has the final say? Me or Dr Know-all?

    This looks like a back door entrance where you say or do one thing but the purpose is for another. I could name a lot of officials and businesses that would think nothing of doing that. They THINK they know best but best is determined by their self-centered judgment not mine or God’s. Talk about loss of freedom. Talk about lots of power. Oh my.

    PS Google ads already follow you everywhere you go. “And Google has been stealth at downloading audio listeners onto every computer that runs Chrome, and transmits audio data back to Google. Effectively, this means that Google had taken itself the right to listen to every conversation in every room that runs Chrome somewhere, without any kind of consent from the people eavesdropped on… Without consent, Google’s code had downloaded a black box of code that — according to itself — had turned on the microphone and was actively listening to your room.

    Equally troubling, the “listening” feature would operate automatically unless you were aware of it and knew how to opt out — something few people would know how to do
    without instruction.” Leahy

  9. It had been an age old practice of exploiting other human beings as long as someone can get way with it.
    Google is no exception,I see a lot of mistakes that Google is going to make in this experiment and leave some human beings as victims or subjects of experiment.

  10. Why would anyone make it easier for the pathological liars (our government) to obtain personal information that they will use to persecute us and lie about it. We all should know by now, via hero’s such as Edward Snowden that they will lie, commit felony perjury under oath, before congress and no one will even give them a slap on the wrist. They are obviously above the law. As anything that is sent via any electronic method is being recorded, I would never allow this information on the internet.

  11. In principle, I see this as an area of study with great potential. People suffering from mental health issues need immediate help, and probably a lot of it could be done by software, rather than involving a person.

    My concern, closely related I think to yours, is, “Who defines what is sane?”

    If data from these mental health programs or monitors is shared with various government agencies, it could be a very short step to defining insanity as any opposition to the government, or to particular government programs or powers. This definition was already applied in both Nazi Germany and the USSR, and apparently applies today in North Korea.

    If libertarian views, or any others unpopular with the powers that be, come to be defined as insanity, then it is a short step to requiring everyone to participate with one of these mental health apps, and forcibly institutionalizing anyone who meets their definition of “not sane”.

    This may seem a remote possibility today, but when you consider how many restrictions and controls have been implemented in the last decade, or generation, that would have been considered unthinkable only a little earlier, I think we must err on the side of caution. Personally, I will not be installing such an app, and I will move to another jurisdiction if efforts are made to make them mandatory.

  12. Since we already have ankle monitors for criminals (even suspected criminals), we have already created a second class of “monitored” citizens. Of course someone has to “monitor” these citizens (for all of our safety). That is expensive, so it has to become automated. Then someone has to monitor the automated system! And they have to be held accountable. So an entire system of protocols, governance, law, and responsibility needs to be set up. This will take time, as per automated cars. Big Brother needs chains on him to keep him from using chains on us! Good luck…

  13. My biggest concern is that Google has already stated that it will offer any and all information of users’ accounts to the NSA. This creates a problem constitutionally because once it’s ‘volunteered’ by Google and via your user agreement, that information, to my understanding, may be shared with other agencies in the government at that point (IRS, ICE, etc.)

    The problem isn’t the technology. The problem is the people that have the use and control of the technology. Google has proven that as a company, they see no sanctity in a person’s privacy and they’ve typically supported liberal causes with socialist tendencies.

    They may have great technology and may dominate the internet. That’s where they should stay, however. Just like their failed social media experiment of Google Plus, I feel that if the public is educated about this on a broader scale, this should fail as well. Betwixt Google and Apple violating so much privacy of consumers, pretty soon everyone will just start buying black phones (https://www.silentcircle.com/)

    Personally, that’s on my radar very soon if things keep progressing this way for the tech giants. I’ll revert to a flip phone if I have to. I want my right to privacy to be MY RIGHT and not something that’s denigrated because of a ‘user agreement’ that MUST BE agreed upon in order to use the service which has become a staple of everyday use of technology. I believe that this is akin to “Tying a dog to a star” which is an illegal marketing practice in business. Can anyone say Windows 95 + Explorer?

    The problem is that although there may be a science behind it, the cues or behavioral patterns that are viewed a certain way have to be generalized and associated with other patterns in order for there to be a ‘diagnosis/prognosis/guesstimation’ of whatever they’ve programmed into the code. First of all, people make mistakes. If a developer had an off day, you could very well end up having to speak to an LEO because of bad code. Secondly, if you’re teen gets use of your smart phone and does some surfing, texting, etc., the behavior patterns are not going to match with yours and therefor may create an anomaly which may in turn lead to problems once again. Finally, everyone should ask themselves about what the motivation is for ANYONE who’d want to do this? Is it an effort to create an utopia? Not going to happen because there will always be evil. Are they trying to push for more gun control via claims of a program that you MAY have issues? That’s been the liberal agenda for quite some time. Are they trying to identify a Jihadist? How would you differentiate between a school kid who’s now required to learn about that junk? Would they want to use this information politically? We all know that politicians wouldn’t be subjected to this. Look at how many are on Obamacare…NONE! Would this information then be sold to insurance companies which would then increase certain people’s premiums? If so, then black Americans would be screwed considering they tend to show more stress if they live in inner city environments through all the studies I’ve seen.

    Of course, this is all speculative of what bad may come of it. I do see some potential for good in it as well. Unfortunately, given the track record of Google and public support of such liberal ideologies, I wouldn’t trust them any further than I could throw them with 2 broken arms. Unfortunately, there are way too many ‘sheeple’ in this world we live in that have been programmed to just press ‘Accept’ and not make waves. Hopefully, more will wake up and voice their opinion with what they purchase next for technology.

  14. This is not only outright terrifying but something that should never be allowed to even start, everyone knows without question, large corporations (Google) are driven by shareholders to produce profits, accumulated data is a marketable product. They will figure out how to sell your information to someone so someone can market their product to you, anyone ever doing a Google search already knows this. The government is another story, bureaucrats are simply incapable of keeping their nosy little minds out of everyone’s business and trying to control everyone, a simple look at the current administration will tell you this is a fact.

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