For years, Facebook has been investing in artificial intelligence fields like machine learning and deep neural nets to build its core business—selling you things better than anyone else in the world. But earlier this month, the company began turning some of those AI tools to a more noble goal: stopping people from taking their own lives. Admittedly, this isn’t entirely altruistic. Having people broadcast their suicides from Facebook Live isn’t good for the brand.
But it’s not just tech giants like Facebook, Instagram, and China’s up-and-coming video platform Live.me who are devoting R&D to flagging self-harm. Doctors at research hospitals and even the US Department of Veterans Affairs are piloting new, AI-driven suicide-prevention platforms that capture more data than ever before. The goal: build predictive models to tailor interventions earlier.