Munk Debate: Big Data and Mental Health

A few weeks ago I was asked to participate in the prestigious Munk Debates, specifically in a debate that focuses on the use of artificial intelligence and big data in the field of psychiatry. The Munk Debates are the world’s largest public debate forum as measured by audience attendance, media partnerships, and online followers. So I was honored to be invited to The Munk Debates.

Artificial Intelligence and Mental Health

For more than a decade, the Munk Debates have been a showcase for civil and substantive debate over some of the biggest issues facing the world today — from climate change to the rise of populism, from the gender divide to the role of organized religion. Their past participants have included Tony Blair, Fareed Zakaria, Samantha Power, David Brooks, Michelle Goldberg, EmanuelRahm, Paul Krugman, Jordan Peterson, Malcolm Gladwell, Kara Swisher, Stephen Fry, and Dambisa Moyo.

In an era of widening political and social divides, holding substantive, long form conversations about contentious issues is crucial. Moderated by author and seasoned broadcaster, Rudyard Griffith, The Munk Debates are world-renowned for their focus on respectful discourse, intellectual rigour, and ability to engage rather than inflame. Most importantly, the Munk format allows for ideas to breathe, for rebuttals to be balanced, so that all viewpoints are properly aired.

The specific topic of this debate was: “The future of mental health is big data.” I have published various blogposts on this issue in this blog (for example: “Digital Psychiatry – Is Humanism Outdated?“; “Big Data in Psychiatry – Brave New World?“; “Would you talk to a machine therapist?” or “How digital is man?“), and that was the reason why I was invited to act as the opponent to Daniel Barron. Daniel recently became appointed the Medical Director of the Interventional Pain Psychiatry Program in the Department of Psychiatry, Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine of Brigham & Women’s Hospital at Harvard University. He very recently published an interesting book “Reading our minds: The rise of big data psychiatry“, so he was a very challenging proponent in this debate. We had a great discussion that was recorded in July 2021, which you can find here.

Please let me know what you think about our positions.

My position is discussed in detail in my book “Wie wollen wir leben?“, published in German in 2020 in Springer-Verlag. The book was recently translated into English, it is currently in production and will be available internationally soon. Please check back in a few weeks.