Yes, but does the program cross-check for pretentiousness?

June 27, 2010 at 6:32 pm (research, science) (, , )

Researchers at Ben-Gurov University of the Negev (that’s in Israel, kids) have created a software program that scans blogs for signs of depression in the blogger.

Yup, the future is now, and it reads your lame Internet musings.

“The software program was designed to find depressive content hidden in language that did not mention the obvious terms like “depression” or suicide,” explains Prof. Neuman. “A psychologist knows how to spot various emotional states through intuition. Here, we have a program that does this methodically through the innovative use of ‘web intelligence.'”

The program looks for the ways that people describe their emotions, along with the use of words like “black”.  When the software brought back its first bumper crop of bummed bloggers, a team of clinical psychologists agreed with 78% of their findings on who could possibly be depressed.  The researchers are hoping that at some point the tool could be used to reach out to bloggers and offer services to them.

This terrifies me on several levels.  First, where does a therapist’s responsibility to intervene end?  Will we move into having teams of therapists running scanners on the billions of blogs out there 24 hours a day?  Second, a person with the energy to blog is not a person whose physical safety you need to be concerned with.  It’s the people who can’t even get out of bed that need services, not the people who write about how lame their weekend was and how they wish they could just move to NYC.  All this software is going to find are the attention-seeking kids out there wishing someone would notice them.

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