Brain implant successfully treats resistant depression in a patient / Humans + Tech - #101

+ The rise of dark web design: how sites manipulate you into clicking + Facebook will not fix itself + Other interesting stories from around the web

Hi,

I hope you had a wonderful week. The first article made me quite optimistic as it is a promising remedy for treatment-resistant depression. It’s also a timely discovery as the pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in anxiety and depression. Learn more below.

World-first brain implant successfully treats resistant depression in a patient

Up to a third of people with depression don’t respond or become resistant to treatment. This type of resistant depression can make life utterly miserable for people. A neuroscience research team at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) have discovered how to use a custom-designed ‘brain pacemaker’ to stimulate the region in the brain where the biomarker for depression appeared [Jacinta Bowler, Science Alert].

Their approach is more effective than previous attempts as they track the region where depression appears for each individual rather than targeting the same area for all people. Sarah, a 36-year old who has suffered severe and treatment-resistant depression since childhood, participated in the case study to for a proof-of-concept.

Excitingly, only stimulating the brain once the symptoms – or in this case the biomarker – arise is also a new way of using deep brain stimulation in depression. In past studies, the stimulation was done continuously at pre-set intervals, and not when specific depressive brain activity arises. This in itself could be a huge change to making the technique more successful.

But this biomarker is very likely not universal, which means that the researchers will need to find every patient's individual version of Sarah's biomarker to be able to treat them in the same way.

The team is already enrolling more patients into the study to see if they can find more personalized depressive markers and provide them with their own specialized 'brain pacemaker'.

So far, Sarah is the only successful patient to benefit from this technique. Hopefully, the researchers can improve the technology and extend this to more people. The pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in anxiety and depression [Gary Stix, Scientific American], so treatments like this are crucial.


The rise of dark web design: how sites manipulate you into clicking

Dark patterns are tricks that websites and apps use to manipulate you into performing actions that you didn’t intend to do, like buying something or signing up for a service [Daniel Fitton, The Conversation].

E-commerce websites also frequently use dark patterns. Say you’ve found a competitively priced product you’d like to buy. You dutifully create an account, select your product specifications, input delivery details, click through to the payment page – and discover the final cost, including delivery, is mysteriously higher than you’d originally thought. These “hidden costs” aren’t accidental: the designer is hoping you’ll just hit “order” rather than spending even more time repeating the same process on another website.

[…]

In recent research analysing free app-based games that are popular with today’s teenagers, my colleague and I identified dozens of examples of dark design. Users are forced to watch adverts and frequently encounter disguised adverts that look like part of the game. They’re prompted to share posts on social media and, as their friends join the game, are prompted to make in-app purchases to differentiate ttheir character from those of their peers.

The best way to avoid falling victim to dark patterns is through awareness. Watch this short video below to learn about a few of the dark patterns used in various websites and services.


Facebook will not fix itself

Whistleblower Frances Haugen, a data scientist who worked at Facebook as a product manager on the Civic Integrity team, recently released internal documents that show how the company failed to address the harmful effects of its products, even when being fully aware of them [Roger McNamee, TIME].

The last three weeks have changed the game. The courageous Facebook whistle-blower Frances Haugen has transformed the conversation about technology reform, accomplishing more than what I and others had achieved in years of effort. The documents she provided to the Wall Street Journal’s “Facebook Files” series confirmed that harms from Facebook’s business model are not an accident, but rather the inevitable result of a dangerous design. In many cases, the documents show, Facebook chose to double-down despite awareness of the harm it was causing and the pressure for change. It is clear that policymakers and the media have consistently underestimated the threat posed by Facebook, buying into the company’s rosy claims about the power of connecting the world and giving benefit of the doubt where none was deserved.

[…]

Everything we do on a smartphone, every financial transaction we make, every trip, every prescription and medical test, every action we take on the Internet or in apps is tracked, and most of it is available for purchase in a data marketplace. Companies throughout the economy use machine learning to look for patterns in this data and artificial intelligence to apply those patterns to improve their business. No one in this process gives a thought to the impact on the human beings affected by their influence and manipulation. Their only goal is to maximize shareholder value.

Facebook still believes it has done nothing wrong. The truth is that surveillance capitalism is making Facebook and other tech companies billions at the expense of our privacy and autonomy. Their algorithms shape the way we think by choosing what information to present to us. The algorithms are designed to maximise their profits, even at the expense of our mental health and wellbeing.

It’s high time these tech companies are regulated.


Other interesting stories from around the web


👁 Former Google exec warns that AI researchers are ‘Creating God’ [Futurism]

Mo Gawdat, formerly the Chief Business Officer for Google’s moonshot organisation, Google X, believes that artificial general intelligence (AGI) is inevitable. Once it’s here, humanity may face an apocalypse brought forth by godlike machines.

Gawdat told The Times that he had his frightening revelation while working with AI developers at Google X who were building robot arms capable of finding and picking up a small ball. After a period of slow progress, Gawdat said that one arm grabbed the ball and seemed to hold it up to the researchers in a gesture that, to him, seemed like it was showing off.

“And I suddenly realized this is really scary,” Gawdat said. “It completely froze me.”

“The reality is,” he added, “we’re creating God.”

All this will sound farfetched until it’s not, but it will be too late by then.


📝 Americans need a bill of rights for an AI-powered world [Eric Lander & Alondra Nelson, WIRED]

The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is working with partners and experts in government, academia, the private sector, and communities across the United States to develop a bill of rights that clarifies the rights and freedoms that data-driven technologies should respect.

Soon after ratifying our Constitution, Americans adopted a Bill of Rights to guard against the powerful government we had just created—enumerating guarantees such as freedom of expression and assembly, rights to due process and fair trials, and protection against unreasonable search and seizure. Throughout our history we have had to reinterpret, reaffirm, and periodically expand these rights. In the 21st century, we need a “bill of rights” to guard against the powerful technologies we have created.

[…]

Technology can only work for everyone if everyone is included, so we want to hear from and engage with everyone. You can email us directly at ai-equity@ostp.eop.gov. 

All countries need to develop a bill of rights to guard against technology creep and protect their citizens.


🖼 Google AI recreates Gustav Klimt paintings destroyed during WWII [Thomas Macaulay, The Next Web]

Gustav Klimt created some of the world’s most expensive masterpieces. Three of his works, Philosophy, Medicine, and Jurisprudence, were lost in a fire, and only black and white photos of them remain. The Google Arts & Culture Lab, in collaboration with Dr Franz Smola, a curator at Belvedere, recreated the paintings in colour using AI and machine learning.

The algorithm was first trained on a collection of 91,749 artworks, which allowed the model to understand general aspects of painting. works.

Next, the algorithm was trained on Klimt’s own paintings in order to replicate his colorization style.

The researchers also developed an interface to interact with the algorithm. This was used to apply reference colors from Smola’s research to the artworks.

“If we know that a certain object has a specific color, we add that color directly to the black and white photos,” said Emil Wallner, a creative coder at the Google Arts & Culture Lab, in a blog post.


Quote of the week

“The thing I saw at Facebook over and over again was there were conflicts of interest between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook. And Facebook, over and over again, chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.”

—Frances Haugen, from the article, “The Facebook Whistleblower Revealed Herself on 60 Minutes. Here's What You Need to Know“ [TIME]

I wish you a brilliant day ahead :)

Neeraj