News  |  ,   |  October 18, 2017

Andrew Ng Has a Chatbot That Can Help with Depression

News article by Will Knight.
Published in MIT Technology Review.

Excerpt:

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve been seeing a virtual therapist.

It’s called Woebot, and it’s a Facebook chatbot developed by Stanford University researchers that offers interactive cognitive behavioral therapy. And Andrew Ng, a prominent figure who previously led efforts to develop and apply the latest AI technologies at Google and Baidu, is now lending his backing to the project by joining the board of directors of the company offering its services.

“If you look at the societal need, as well as the ability of AI to help, I think that digital mental-health care checks all the boxes,” Ng says. “If we can take a little bit of the insight and empathy [of a real therapist] and deliver that, at scale, in a chatbot, we could help millions of people.”

For the past few days I’ve been trying out its advice for understanding and managing thought processes and for dealing with depression and anxiety. While I don’t think I’m depressed, I found the experience positive. This is especially impressive given how annoying I find most chatbots to be. [ . . . ]