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.
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.
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."
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?
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,
Uncommon Wisdom Daily