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The New Engineers, Architects, and Developers

by Mark D. Lerner, Ph.D.

Chairman, The National Center for Emotional Wellness


As a child, I remember engineers using slide rules to solve equations. I remember my dad then embracing his Texas Instruments SR-50 (1974). Architects created designs on drafting tables—then personal computers. Developers built communities like the iconic Levittown—then skyscrapers. Today's engineers, architects, and developers are not confined to these traditional roles. They're creating our future with artificial intelligence (AI).

I'm partial to the virtually unlimited potential of AI-Integrated Emotional Wellness (AIEW)the intersection of the cognitive capabilities of computers and human emotion. I see our future rapidly moving beyond computers "thinking like people" to understand and respond to people's feelings. This is no easy feat. As I learned from conducting presentations on the topic of Emotional Wellness, attendees always struggled to define what a feeling was. Imagine how a computer would do this.

Emotional wellness is a critical and often overlooked component of overall well-being. Through their knowledge, skill, experience, training, and education, experts in emotional wellness serve an essential function in bringing AIEW to the technological world. 

Imagine if AI could learn to detect feelings of anxiety in real-time and provide an immediate suggestion to empower you to cope more effectively. For instance, suggesting, "Close your eyes and take a slow, deep breath through your nose. Hold it for five seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth while repeating the word 'relax' to yourself." I'm feeling more relaxed as I'm writing this.

Likewise, consider a scenario where AI can detect feelings of depression and propose a coping strategy. This might be like instructing you to "Take a moment to identify what you're thinking about. Now, redirect your thoughts towards something more constructive—such as, 'I've got this.'" While AI will never replace mental health professionals, AIEW can contribute to developing technology that can serve as an adjunct to traditional mental health care.

Furthermore, AIEW can be invaluable beyond mental health care—such as customer service, human resources, employee assistance programs, education, and healthcare, where understanding and responding to human emotions can significantly improve the user experience and outcomes.

The roles of engineers, architects, and developers have evolved over the years. Today, they are working collaboratively to harness the power of AI to leverage the cognitive capabilities of computers to think like people. Additionally, AIEW initiatives offer invaluable knowledge, experience, and insight that can be instrumental in shaping a computer's ability to understand and respond to human emotions.

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