Psychology and psychiatry are large concerns delving deep into the human mind. However, the fact that the human psyche is extremely vast makes it impossible to interpret its intricacies. The limitlessness poses a plethora of grey areas for specialists studying the psyche, thereby evoking concepts and curiosity in directions of philosophy, physiology, literature, religion, psychology, psychiatry, anatomy, and numerous other fields.
The past and present: Revamping our approach to understand psyche
It could be argued that historical approaches to understanding the human psyche have been more of a top-down approach due to reasons such as the absence of computing brute force to elaborately study anatomical neuronal ecosystems or simply because an application-based model seemed more applicable and accessible to mental health workers of previous ages. Thus arose the overdependence on the perceptual subjective presentation of patients.
The steady growth of computational power, artificial intelligence, and electronics has made it possible for the first time to think of a bottom-up approach. To decode not only the physiology of neural connectivity but also make sense of the anatomical continuum and how synaptic neurotransmission converts into consciousness and builds the psyche. However, the question that still looms is how far we are really away from such a construct.
With development of neural signal recording technologies, we are on the brink of creating consciousness and redefining existence. What could be the implications of such technology on existence of mankind?Srijan das
Quanta of consciousness and emotion: Can we compute the subjective?
It would not be a reckless generalisation to conclude that most subjective occurrences in the universe are, in fact, composed of objective binary recordings. To consider consciousness and emotion as just another waveform is a tough nut to crack. However, functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRIs), Electroencephalograms (EEGs), and advanced neural recording might prove that brain physiology has a lot to do with electromagnetic wave signals if not all.
The fact that electromagnetic intervention like Electroconvulsive Therapy and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation has modulating action on behaviour and personality allows us to infer that emotions might indeed be a product of neural Electromagnetic Waves and thus be inherently composed of quanta. To make sense of such quanta of consciousness and to integrate it forward would lead us in the direction of understanding the human psyche from a bottom-up approach, understanding the intricacies of mental pathologies, and ultimately propel us towards synthesising consciousness.
However, to attempt to achieve synthetic consciousness would involve solving the psychological paradoxes of qualia and non-quantifiable subjective states apart from ethical, moral and logistic hurdles that loom on its path. So, introducing such a novel computational feature would initially be based on only solving pathological intricacies of the psyche rather than creating it.
AI’s challenge in understanding human behaviour through the electromagnetic spectrum
The foremost challenge that Artificial Intelligence faces in replacing the human touch is to develop an understanding of the aforementioned subjective realm. This would require translating the immense spectrum of human behaviour and emotion on a quantifiable scale, for which the electromagnetic spectrum imposed over neural recording would perhaps be the best option.
A simpler way to make sense of this would be correlating pathologies of the psyche with the alteration of electromagnetic signals in terms of measurable parameters such as voltage and amplitude. This approach would help us in titrating therapeutic parameters instead of simply providing electromagnetic stimuli to certain anatomical locations of the brain. Apart from the therapeutic advantages, such an approach would also provide diagnostic, predictive, and prophylactic benefits in managing, monitoring, and preventing psychiatric conditions.
The road ahead: How far have we reached and what lies ahead?
Human experimentation on the usage of electromagnetic waves to treat disorders of the psyche began as early as the 18th Century, with documentation such as Electricity in Medicine being published. Almost a decade later, visionaries like Benjamin Franklin were already experimenting with electrostatic devices to cure hysteria, while James Lind used galvanism to treat common mental disorders. Slowly but steadily, the birth of Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) was paved thanks to the booming developments in the field of electro-neuro-physiology pioneered by eminent researchers like G B Duchenne (rightly regarded as the father of Electrotherapy).
Over the early 20th century, the role of electricity in mental health was mostly, if not entirely, based on precipitating seizures rather than a fine-tuned approach considering the intricacies of anatomical topography of the mind. However, the advent of ECT was definitely the Babbage engine in the field of engineering the human psyche.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and the evolution of Electromagnetic Neuromodulation
Arguably, the most significant leap in the usage of electromagnetic waves to alter the mechanisms of the human cortex was met in the year of 1985 by Anthony Barker when he and his team designed the prototype of the first Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) machine. Via TMS, for the first time topographically specific magnetic stimulation was made possible. Instead of being a blind convulsive model, TMS was a more specific procedure that included tuning on the basis of frequency, duration, and amplitude.
The same time period saw the birth of various other devices of neuromodulation, which were majorly on a top to bottom approach. The intricacies of recording and translating mental or neurological pathologies on the electromagnetic spectrum were not thought about.
However, with precise electric neural recording, we are positioned at a crossroads of redefining the psyche and managing its pathologies, thereby automating emotions and psyche in the near future.
Artificial intelligence and brute force computing are still in the phase of complementing the practice of Psychiatry and Psychology rather than completely replacing the same until Moore’s law comes into proper effect and mankind develops the next groundbreaking technology in this field.
Implications of synthesising consciousness
Creating artificial consciousness raises ethical concerns and challenges our understanding of life and existence. We need policies that make artificial consciousness available for treating cognitive disorders while ensuring careful handling to prevent misuse. The future of creating artificial consciousness depends on strong data security and misuse prevention policies.
Das, S., & Ghoshal, A. (2023). Can Artificial Intelligence Ever Develop the Human Touch and Replace a Psychiatrist?-A letter to the editor of the Journal of Medical Systems: Regarding “Artificial Intelligence in Medicine & ChatGPT: De-Tether the Physician”. Journal of Medical Systems, 47(1), 72. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10916-023-01974-9