Issue 37 of Factor: What lies ahead for mental health? Out now!

In the past few decades we’ve experienced a pace of change never before felt by humans. The march of technology has brought us the ability to keep up with anyone, anytime; learn about breaking news on the other side of the world as it’s happening and maintain complicated social interactions even when we are physically alone.

It’s simultaneously great and awful. And while this connectedness has widened our horizons and given us almost superhuman access to knowledge, it has also had a less than amazing impact on our mental health. So in issue 37 of Factor magazine we turn our attention to mental health and technology, both as a cause of and solution to the problem.

With our online activities forming such a significant part of our lives, and the ability to track much of what we do online, it is hypothetically possible for people to be monitored for signs of depression based on their online use. We consider whether the approach is a good idea, or whether it’s too much of an ethical minefield to achieve.

Then there are personal digital assistants such as Siri and Alexa. A few years ago they were getting considerable flack for failing to provide appropriate mental health support, but are things any better now? We find out.

Over on the professional side, licensed therapists are not known for their embrace of technology, although that is slowly changing. We consider whether online tools can help, hinder or even replace the role of a professional counselling service.

Plus, we also look at some of the statistics on how technology and social media is affecting our wellbeing, and find out how digital services are attempting to help improve our state of mind.

On the more futuristic side, we could soon be transforming our mood by targeting specific brainwaves with custom music. We investigate how this could work, and whether it could be a viable way to improve our mood, as well as looking at some of even more out-there plans for neurotechnology from major names such as Facebook and Elon Musk.

And if that wasn’t enough, we also look at how virtual reality is taking off in the music industry, ask whether politicians should be learning more about technology and unearth the lesser-known history of the videogame Half-Life.

As usual there’s also all of your latest news, reviews and we check out the tool to gamify brain mapping too, in issue 37 of Factor magazine – out now on iPad and online.

Wanted man captured thanks to facial recognition

A Chinese man who was wanted by police for “economic crimes” – which can include anything from tax evasion to the theft of public property – was arrested at a music concert in China after facial recognition technology spotted him inside the venue.

Source: Abacus News

SpaceX president commits to city-to-city rocket travel

SpaceX president and chief operating officer Gwynne Shotwell has reiterated the company’s plans to make city-to-city travel — on Earth — using a rocket that’s designed for outer space a reality. Shotwell says the tech will be operational “within a decade, for sure.”

Source: Recode

Businessman wins battle with Google over 'right to be forgotten'

A businessman fighting for the "right to be forgotten" has won a UK High Court action against Google.. The businessman served six months’ in prison for “conspiracy to carry out surveillance”, and the judge agreed to an “appropriate delisting order".

Source: Press Gazette

UK launched cyber attack on Islamic State

The UK has conducted a "major offensive cyber campaign" against the Islamic State group, the director of the intelligence agency GCHQ, Jeremy Fleming, has revealed. The operation hindered the group's ability to co-ordinate attacks and suppressed its propaganda.

Source: BBC

Goldman Sachs consider whether curing patients is bad for business

Goldman Sachs analysts have attempted to tackle the question of whether pioneering "gene therapy" treatment will be bad for business in the long run. "Is curing patients a sustainable business model?" analysts ask in a report entitled "The Genome Revolution."

Source: CNBC

Four-armed robot performing surgery in the UK

A £1.5m "robotic" surgeon, controlled using a computer console, is being used to shorten the time patients spend recovering after operations. The da Vinci Xi machine is the only one in the country being used for upper gastrointestinal surgery.

Source: BBC

Virgin Galactic rocket planes go past the speed of sound

Virgin Galactic completed its first powered flight in nearly four years when Richard Branson's space company launched its Unity spacecraft, which reached supersonic speeds before safely landing. “We’ve been working towards this moment for a long time,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides said in an email to Quartz.

Source: Quartz

Google employees protest being in "the business of war"

Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses AI to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. The letter, which is circulating inside Google, has garnered more than 3,100 signatures

Source: New York Times

Computer system transcribes words users “speak silently”

MIT researchers have developed a computer interface that transcribes words that the user verbalises internally but does not actually speak aloud. The wearable device picks up neuromuscular signals in the jaw and face that are triggered by internal verbalisations — saying words “in your head” — but are undetectable to the human eye.

Source: MIT News

Drones could be used to penalise bad farming

A report by a coalition of environmental campaigners is arguing squadrons of drones should be deployed to locate and penalise farmers who let soil run off their fields. Their report says drones can help to spot bad farming, which is said to cost more than £1.2bn a year by clogging rivers and contributing to floods.

Source: BBC

Californian company unveil space hotel

Orion Span, a California company, has unveiled its Aurora Station, a commercial space station that would house a luxury hotel. The idea is to put the craft in low-earth orbit, about 200 miles up, with a stay at the hotel likely to cost $9.5 million for a 12-day trip, but you can reserve a spot now with an $80,000 deposit.

UK mobile operators pay close to £1.4bn for 5G

An auction of frequencies for the next generation of mobile phone networks has raised £1.36bn, says regulator Ofcom. Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three all won the bandwidth needed for the future 5G mobile internet services, which are not expected to be launched until 2020.

Source: BBC