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Wednesday, February 16, 2022

AI ethics in computational psychiatry: From the neuroscience of consciousness to the ethics of consciousness

Wiese, W. and Friston, K.J.
Behavioural Brain Research
Volume 420, 26 February 2022, 113704


Methods used in artificial intelligence (AI) overlap with methods used in computational psychiatry (CP). Hence, considerations from AI ethics are also relevant to ethical discussions of CP. Ethical issues include, among others, fairness and data ownership and protection. Apart from this, morally relevant issues also include potential transformative effects of applications of AI—for instance, with respect to how we conceive of autonomy and privacy. Similarly, successful applications of CP may have transformative effects on how we categorise and classify mental disorders and mental health. Since many mental disorders go along with disturbed conscious experiences, it is desirable that successful applications of CP improve our understanding of disorders involving disruptions in conscious experience. Here, we discuss prospects and pitfalls of transformative effects that CP may have on our understanding of mental disorders. In particular, we examine the concern that even successful applications of CP may fail to take all aspects of disordered conscious experiences into account.


•  Considerations from AI ethics are also relevant to the ethics of computational psychiatry.

•  Ethical issues include, among others, fairness and data ownership and protection.

•  They also include potential transformative effects.

•  Computational psychiatry may transform conceptions of mental disorders and health.

•  Disordered conscious experiences may pose a particular challenge.

From the Discussion

At present, we are far from having a formal account of conscious experience. As mentioned in the introduction, many empirical theories of consciousness make competing claims, and there is still much uncertainty about the neural mechanisms that underwrite ordinary conscious processes (let alone psychopathology). Hence, the suggestion to foster research on the computational correlates of disordered conscious experiences should not be regarded as an invitation to ignore subjective reports. The patient’s perspective will continue to be central for normatively assessing their experienced condition. Computational models offer constructs to better describe and understand elusive aspects of a disordered conscious experience, but the patient will remain the primary authority on whether they are suffering from their condition.