News Report Technology
January 12, 2023

4,000 people underwent AI robot psychotherapy without knowing it

Through chat services like Telegram and Discord, the non-profit mental health platform Koko links teenagers and adults in need of mental health care with volunteers. Users log onto the Koko Care’s Discord server and communicate with the Koko bot directly by sending it multiple-choice questions, such as “What is the darkest idea you have about this?” Then bot anonymously communicates the person’s worries to another user on the server, who can then respond anonymously with their own brief message.

This innovative way of connecting people in need of mental health assistance with volunteers has enabled Koko to bridge the gap between those who have not been able to access the help they need and those who are willing to offer it.

4000 people underwent AI robot psychotherapy without knowing it

However, Rob Morris, the co-founder of Koko, made the decision to test psychotherapy volunteers on an AI bot rather than actual people. Approximately 4,000 people received psychological support from OpenAI GPT-3, as per Morris’s tweet. The results of this study showed that the AI bot was just as effective in providing therapeutic responses as a human.

AI-generated communications received ratings that were noticeably higher than messages written by humans. A 50% reduction in response time has also been made,

Rob Morris points out.

It seemed people appreciated the psychological support and assistance that GPT-3 offered. However, following the announcement, Morris swiftly took it down from Telegram and Discord. Why? This type of therapy stopped working once individuals realized the messages were generated by a machine. It might be that the impersonation of empathy could seem odd and hollow.

However, something else might be at play as well. Rob Morris’s experiment has drawn criticism on social media and has been labeled unethical. After all, the participants were deceived and were not able to give informed consent; instead, they became unwilling participants in this study.

In a regular scientific study, participants are informed about how the study will be carried out, and they can withdraw their consent at any time up until the publication of the results. Here, there has been a major breach of trust: People with mental health issues entrusted the platform to provide them with help from another human being, all while being provided help from AI. This does not mean that the help per se was of bad quality. However, in any therapeutic setting, trust is a major factor in future outcomes. This type of deception could shatter the trust people once had in a very promising platform.

Koko’s experiment highlighted how easy it was to deceive people on social media, leading to concerns that the technology could be used maliciously by people trying to spread misinformation and fake news. This time it was done in good faith, but what about the next time?

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About The Author

Damir is the team leader, product manager, and editor at Metaverse Post, covering topics such as AI/ML, AGI, LLMs, Metaverse, and Web3-related fields. His articles attract a massive audience of over a million users every month. He appears to be an expert with 10 years of experience in SEO and digital marketing. Damir has been mentioned in Mashable, Wired, Cointelegraph, The New Yorker, Inside.com, Entrepreneur, BeInCrypto, and other publications. He travels between the UAE, Turkey, Russia, and the CIS as a digital nomad. Damir earned a bachelor's degree in physics, which he believes has given him the critical thinking skills needed to be successful in the ever-changing landscape of the internet. 

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Damir Yalalov
Damir Yalalov

Damir is the team leader, product manager, and editor at Metaverse Post, covering topics such as AI/ML, AGI, LLMs, Metaverse, and Web3-related fields. His articles attract a massive audience of over a million users every month. He appears to be an expert with 10 years of experience in SEO and digital marketing. Damir has been mentioned in Mashable, Wired, Cointelegraph, The New Yorker, Inside.com, Entrepreneur, BeInCrypto, and other publications. He travels between the UAE, Turkey, Russia, and the CIS as a digital nomad. Damir earned a bachelor's degree in physics, which he believes has given him the critical thinking skills needed to be successful in the ever-changing landscape of the internet. 

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