Are AI drugs for mental illness innovation or a path to eugenics?

2 min read
Are AI drugs for mental illness innovation or a path to eugenics?

This morning, I read an article about how a company is using AI to design a drug to treat schizophrenia. At first, I was excited. Schizophrenia is a sister to bipolar disorder, which has made my life extremely difficultBut then I had a curious thought. What if I don’t want my bipolar treated with an AI wonder drug and think my lamotrigine is fine?

What if the fact that humanity knows almost nothing about minds and brains means novel AI treatments could have dangerous results? Further still, what if I don’t want AI to cure my "different" brain, if it ever could? 

What if I think mankind's cognitive “differences” are advantageous, or at the very least, naturally occurring and regularly worsened by poor social conditions?

For others with difficult emotional and mental symptoms, they might gladly embrace AI wonder drugs. But I personally don’t know if I would, and me saying this despite having a mélange of mental weirdness should give you pause. It's not about being anti-medication, because I'm very pro life-saving drugs. It's about "different" brains, pathology and the tapestry of mankind's brilliant weirdness.

Without bipolar disorder, I would not be able to make the type of art I do, in the way I do. I also wouldn’t know more about trauma, how reality works or how people process information than 99% of the population. What if this knowledge is critical for humanity?

Without having some flavor of dissociative identity disorder, I don’t think I’d be as good at empathizing with others as I am. Being able to work from multiple, fully prescribed perspectives at the same time can be used to employ radical love and kindness. Isn’t it positive to be able to approach people and problems from many empathetic angles?

As far as autism goes (which isn’t a mental illness at all) I like that I'm highly analytical, have a static value system, and challenge hierarchies on principle. Don’t we need these traits for a healthier, fairer social world?

Do we even scientifically know what a "different" brain is, let alone a "different" mind? What would happen if AI deleted these "different" brains from the gene pool? Would mankind stagnate? Would we lose what creates breathtaking art, communal nurturing, innovation and change because adaptation requires friction? We might and that worries me.

It’s funny. If you’d asked me if I wanted an AI wonder drug for my strange brain 10 years ago, I’d have begged for it. But these days, I know my "different" brain is as much gift as it is burden. Maybe my opinion will change later if we reach this milestone. Maybe it won’t, but “curing” me isn't something I want. I don't quite trust tech not to try though, and maybe even someday by force. That's a scary premise, isn't it?

We truly don’t know what the AI future holds for medicine, psychiatry and more. It might be worth moving slowly and carefully while we pursue progress for man's most mysterious feature: the brain. Wouldn’t you agree?

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