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A Facebook Live Event organised by Oxford Sparks and the Neuroscience, Ethics and Society team at the Department of Psychiatry, asked the question - ‘Should we use AI to help prevent people from getting the blues?’

Image shows four women, sat in a semi-circle chatting in a studio with Facebook Live branding on the screen behind them.
Kirsty Heber-Smith, Professor Ilina Singh, Dr Gabriela Pavarini and Jessica Lorimer

Professor Ilina Singh, Dr Gabriela Pavarini and Jessica Lorimer from Neuroscience, Ethics and Society all took part in a Facebook Live Event to discuss the ethical considerations of using AI. 

Technological advancements like smartphones, smartwatches and social media platforms enable the use of digital data to help predict risk of mental health challenges. Young people are avid users of new digital technologies, and the NEUROSEC Team are particularly interested in the social and ethical implications of using their data to inform understanding of mental health risk, interventions and outcomes.

Professor Singh talked about the importance of investigating young people's attitudes, values and preferences in relation to the use of digital data to help prevent mental health problems in the future. The use of their digital data poses a number of questions for young people including:

  • Are they interested in learning about probabilistic mental health risk early in life?
  • What implications would risk information have for their sense of self and their futures?
  • Is data privacy a priority, or do other ethical considerations, such as early access to services, trump privacy?

Dr Pavarini discussed the NEUROSEC young people's advisory groups, which help design and direct the team's research, it is part of BeGOOD Citizens Early Intervention Ethics investigating young people's values and preferences to early intervention strategies.

One of the recent studies, 'What lies ahead', was also described. This study is the start of work to develop an interactive digital platform to investigate young people's ethical perspectives on the use of predictive technologies in mental health. Jessica Lorimer highlighted the potential ethical challenges and benefits of a Facebook initiative in the United States (which is not available in the EU) that uses social media posts to alert local emergency responders' to users who may be at imminent risk of suicide.

The live event has had 5,700 views on Facebook so far. During the event we started recruiting for the 'What lies ahead' research study, which is open to young people aged 16-18 years in Oxfordshire, London or Sussex.


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Early Intervention Ethics Facebook page

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