Artificial Intelligence (AI) And Depression

Artificial Intelligence, also known as AI,* has been on the radar for some time now. I mean in 1950, Alan Turing created the ‘Turing Test’, which was and still is the first hurdle any budding artificially intelligent software needs to pass in order to be taken seriously. The test can actually be conducted in many different ways but essentially imagine having a chat on MSN Messenger with your friend (in 2003), only to subsequently realise it was AI all along – you’ve been fooled! If you can be fooled by AI, then it passes the Turing test.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to beat Microsoft’s Chess Titans on easy mode.

Has the Turing Test been passed? Well yes, kind of. To officially pass the test, the AI only has to fool 30% of judges. That is a significantly lower pass mark than was required for my bachelor’s degree but, hey-ho, some kids need a break I guess. If you want to have a go yourself, try talking to Mitsuku, if you’re 30% convinced you are talking to a human – ding ding ding, we have a winner!

Obviously though, because the Turing Test is a very specific test, many companies have created very specific AI and this has advanced the ‘chatbot’ world somewhat. You can now find chatbots everywhere, from language learning apps to your mobile phone to your internet providers online technical help and even to a doctor.

Not all are successful, however. Microsoft created a Twitter chatbot that would read Tweets and learn from them faster than… something fast. It took 24 hours for Twitter and Microsoft to pull the chatbot because it learned to hate Jews and feminists whilst finding space in its virtual heart for Hitler. Aww.

Facebook naturally tried to have a go as well, and they created two separate AI which they wanted to teach how best to negotiate. The AI were set with the task of trading simple things like hats, balls and bats with each other. The result of the (real) negotiation is below:

Bob: i can i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i i can i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have a ball to me to me to me to me to me to me to me

Bob: i . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i i i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have 0 to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Bob: you i i i everything else . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Alice: balls have zero to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to me to

Facebook, optimistically described this ‘negotiation’ as two AI creating their own complex language which only they could understand… as opposed to it just being a complete and utter failure. You’ve seen the text, decide for yourself.

More recently though AI from DeepMind and Google Brain are looking to take things one step further. They want to create emotional AI. Ooo emotions. Teaching AI to feel. It is certainly quite a feat, but it opens the door to all kinds of problems; angry killer robots, narcissistic machines, selfish supercomputers that want to enslave us, or even depressed AI…?

We don’t really know definitively what produces depression in humans and therefore we can’t really avoid giving it to emotional AI.* So, far from Terminator style AI that will destroy our very existence, it is more likely that Clippy the Windows Office Assitant will just spend more time in bed, closing its metaphysical curtains and pretending everything is OK. Until such time you really do need to know how to disable ‘Overtype Mode’, Clippy flies into an unexpected rage, telling you that you don’t understand, belatedly turning off Overtype Mode for you, and beating itself up as it knows deep down Google Docs would not only have had Overtype Mode disabled by default but that it would probably sense when the user wants it on and just do it immediately. Oh just melt me down and solder me to a Google server.

Google Search will bring up links to R.E.M.’s ‘Everybody Hurts’ or just nothing at all. It will anxiously keep sending you more results even after you have found what you’re looking for just in case you actually didn’t like what it gave you first. Then when you stick with your first search result Google Search will retreat to a safe space and berate itself for being so stupid – of course, the first result was fine.

In all seriousness though I can see why you need compassionate AI and thoughtful AI, especially if they were used for military purposes. To be honest, if anyone knows how to give a few Commander-in-Chief’s around the world these two emotions you will probably win the Nobel Peace Prize. Although I would also say one of the major advantages of genuine intelligent AI is that they don’t have emotion. They can solve complex and delicate problems quickly without being bogged down with the emotional baggage.

Who knows though maybe our phones will just turn into Scarlet Johannson’s voice and our mission in life will change from; accumulate as much money as possible, into a fight against drowning in the sickly sweet treacle nature of our existence. All the while receiving AI counselling about your panic-inducing insecurity due to your personal AI’s ‘servicing’ of untold numbers of other people. I don’t know, I just don’t really like the movie ‘Her‘.

Paul Green


*Fairly sound logic, don’t you think? I wouldn’t use it in a science journal but it is a good start.

P.S Artwork was created by Google’s Deep Dream AI.







  1. D

    I think is one of the best posts you’ve made recently. Had to laugh at my own depressive behaviour reflected in an AI. I could only imagine deep blue on a hypermanic spending spree. Sorry Mr President I just spent double the 3 trillion debt because I really needed a gizallion red crayons but I forgot the paper but Brazil has offered me a new loan! Oh there’s 60000 Chinese cargo ships docking in Florida tomorrow. Oh look they make finger spinners now. in glittery gold…. Keep up the fine work Paul.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nicole Starbuck

    So good. I’m not sure why, but AI scares me. After reading your post, I can’t help but wonder…if the push is towards AI that can feel, do you think AI will come to understand the [potentially negative] impact it will have on the human life? For example, with the 5.1 million jobs going away in 2020 due to AI and automation (if you believe how these #’s are estimated) – will AI understand? Will it even care?


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