If you haven't heard of Black Mirror before (or binged the entire new season yet), the series has gotten a ton of attention due to the episodes' plotlines focused around people living with advanced technology. While it's far-fetched for us to see most of the inventions within episodes actually work in our lifetime, it seems that the Canadian government is looking to introduce a concept that could easily have been in an episode this past season.
Right now there is a pending contract between the Canadian government and an artificial intelligence company based in Ottawa called Advanced Symbolics that is slated to be signed off in February. The goal of the partnership is for the AI company to identify trends through social media, looking for 'spikes' that hint at people contemplating or attempting to go through with suicide.
This isn't the first company to introduce the concept of analyzing social media trends to predict suicide attempts. Social media platforms themselves such as Facebook have introduced similar technology as an effort to strengthen their suicide prevention tactics. Though the idea of companies snooping around personal posts to analyze your emotions to the point of predicting whether you are contemplating suicide isn't necessarily the most comforting feeling in the world. Especially considering that there are flaws within technology.
How the system is predicted to work is that it will monitor public posts on social media and collect data from Canadians to establish patterns across the country. These patterns will then be able to reveal 'spikes' that can be assessed on a case by case basis. Canada is no stranger to tragic events regarding suicide considering in 2017 alone the Northern provinces in specific witnessed a spike in numerous tragedies regarding suicide.
The company is pretty confident in their technology considering they've predicted political moments such as Trump winning the election, Brexit and even the outcome of the Canadian election in 2015. Though Advanced Symbolics' representatives have already stated that there will be a learning curve for the system in regards to understanding tone, slang and other aspects of language used online for the system to be successful.
While predicting politics versus trends on social media platforms where people constantly post (satirically) about wanting to die seem like two very different tasks, Advanced Symbolics' efforts are at the least, an interesting effort. For now, we'll just have to wait until their 3-month pilot project starts and see what artificial intelligence has in store for Canadians in the future.