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Watch a speech about the Australian Government’s digital agenda, and closing reflections from Australia’s Chief Scientist.

Speech: Senator the Hon Jane Hume, Minister for Digital Economy

Reflections: Dr Cathy Foley AO PSM, Chief Scientist of Australia


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Text: Senator the Hon Jane Hume – Minister for Superannuation, Financial Services and the Digital Economy, and Minister for Women's Economic Security

A transcript of Jane’s speech runs along the bottom of the screen.


Description: Mark’s webcam.

Text: TECHTONIC 2.0 - Australia’s National AI Summit – 18 JUNE 2021 – Closing Reflections – Dr Cathy Fogel AO PSM, Chief Scientist of Australia.

Above the text, the logo for the Australian Government.

Underneath the text, still colour images surrounded by coloured squares: the woman looking at the drone hovering over the field. The man in the hardhat with the laptop.

A transcript of Mark’s speech runs along the bottom of the screen.

Thank you, Minister. And it is important to remember, as the minister noted, that in context AI is really just one element of a broader transformation in Australia's digital economy. It's an important, growing part. And now it's my honour to call on Dr Cathy Foley, Chief Scientist of Australia, to close the summit today and offer her own reflections and insights on how we can build on what we've done here today, what's happening all across Australia, and how we can shape our future as leaders in artificial intelligence. Over to you.

Description: Cathy’s webcam. Cathy wears a black jacket over a russet-coloured shirt.

Cathy Foley: Well, thank you, Mark. And thanks, everyone, for staying with us all on a Friday afternoon. What an amazing afternoon. Just think about what the human brain has accomplished if we look at our world around us. We've seen the development of some technologies which have impacted us and changing our world at a rate which is even hard to assume that we can embrace, learn and be able to use in a good way, but also working out how we can make sure that it doesn't end up with having a dystopia, a world which isn't what we really want.

So, it's so fantastic today to have heard a whole range of different talks, and panels and discussions. And it's actually led me to throw my original plan of what I was going to talk about into the bin, because I've heard things such as, first of all, looking at what are the new technologies that are coming up, how are they going to change the way we work, the way we live, and even the way we're safe and the way we think about ourselves as human beings. So, that's something which I think all of us need to think about. And I think it also has been identified how important the ethics, the ability to make sure that we introduce this in a way that has the ability for all of the humans in our society, how they're able to come along and be part of this transition because it's going to affect all of us in many ways.

So, how do we do that in a way which makes sure we take on board the full human potential? And that includes taking on cultural differences that need to be able to make sure that we have gender taken into account so that we encourage more women to be part of what makes our AI future. Then the other is also recognising that we need to be able to introduce AI and machine learning into a way which is something where in 20 years' time it's going to be a richness of human happiness and a good way for us as a country to see how we've been able to build on the technologies to create growth in both our wellbeing, growth in industry, and growth in the processes and governance systems that allow us to be able to have the productivity and prosperity as a nation. So, to do that means that there's huge opportunities for us with our workforce.

If you look at the way we're going to be as a society and where our industry is heading, it will need us to really turn around the sort of career paths that we have. We've heard a lot about skills. And we've heard a lot about jobs of the future. But I think I'd also like to add into that the career paths we need to create for people. As we've heard from young people today asking questions about AI, we need to understand what are the career pathways for them so that they can navigate their livelihoods and be able to make the most of these opportunities. We also need to make sure that all of us feel empowered.

And this is something which I think is absolutely critical. Too often we're seeing technologies get to a point where you have those who are in the know, and those who aren't. And those who are in the know have huge advantage, and those who don't have a huge disadvantage. So, how do we make sure that when we introduce AI and machine learning, that is done in a way that actually leads to a better prosperous nation, which is more equitable and allows us all to participate? So, how do we go about doing this? I suppose my call to action is I hope that all of you will go away and think about what is my future in an AI prosperous world? Am I going to sit back and just let other people deal with it? Am I going to be entering into the discussions about the social licence of what's OK, and what's not?

Are we going to make sure that we make the most of the things such as the AI action plan that's been announced today? Are we going to make sure that we're part of that action plan and make sure it's delivered in a way that leads to the outcomes we want to see delivered? And how can we make sure that we know what we are going to be able to absorb and be knowledgeable about? And I guess I go back to thinking about us as a nation.

Our young people today are not choosing maths and science in their last years of high school. So, how can they be empowered? How can they be ready for the careers of the future if we're not even educating them in the areas which are going to be core? So, this is something which all of us need to think about encouraging our young people to go that extra mile and do those sorts of subjects, not because they're necessarily going to be a STEM professional, but because we need to make sure that they're empowered to be able to turn their mind to these questions and be able to participate and be part of the discussion and the decision making, so that as a society we've got the country we want. And to make the opportunity of this.

Finally, I think what we need to recognise is that this is the tip of the iceberg in new developments. I'm gonna throw in one area, which is probably my own research field of looking at where AI is going to be impacted by quantum technologies, which are going to be even adding on an extra accelerator onto what AI and machine learning has to offer. And this is going to create an extraordinary acceleration, which will allow us to have better secure communications, we're going to have sensors and simulations that will allow us to design materials, and have the ability to solve some of our greatest challenges. But we need to make sure that we do this in a way that has that social licence, that equity, the jobs of the future, the prosperity and industry, and the government regulation and security, and the business models to underpin that all so that we can make the most of it.

So, I want to thank everyone today for being involved in what I think has been a really important day for Australia. It's AI, machine learning, the whole digital economy, is something which you can see by ministers who've been involved today, giving time and being participating in ways which allow us to hear what they've got to say, what the government initiatives are, there for the taking for us to be involved with, and see that we need to turn that into a reality. But it will only become a reality if we step up. And so, thanks for the opportunity to be part of today. It's been great to listen into the panels, for our speakers, for our organisers. And, Mark, I want to also say thank you for guiding us and facilitating us, and navigating through the day because I think all of us are for the richer because of it. So, thanks very much, and I hope that we see the Techtonic in probably Techtonic 3.0, I guess, in future years. So, back to you, Mark.

Description: Mark’s webcam.

Text: Thank you!

Mark Pesce: Thank you very much, Dr Foley. It has been an incredible day. And I reckon the reason for that is at least today we are asking the right questions. And those questions will evolve as our understanding deepens. And as we close here today, I too want to express my thanks to the ministers, to the wonderful team over at the Department of Industry who worked very hard to bring Techtonic 2.0 to life. Tom Ryan, Alice Obic, Steph David, Agnus Robertson, and a big shout out to Tim Bradley who got the ball rolling.

Thank you to all of the panellists who participated today for your insights, for your generosity. Thanks to all of you for attending Techtonic 2.0, and to continue to engage in what looks like is going to be one of the most interesting revolutions that we are privileged to participate in. Once again, my name is Mark Pesce, and thank you all and good day.



Text: This session has now concluded - Thank you for joining.

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