Senator Rex Patrick and Students Discuss the Future of AI

Group photo with senator Rex Patrick and students

Senator Rex Patrick with Adept students

With investment in AI becoming increasingly important, AIML was delighted to host a discussion between Senator Rex Patrick and Adept students from the University of Adelaide studying computer science about the benefits AI can bring to our economy and our country more broadly.

The goal of the event was to get a better understanding of how the importance of AI can be effectively communicated to the public and parliament to ensure the field continues to be a national priority.

The conversation started with Tobin South, a masters student specialising in natural language processing, providing insight into what students majoring in AI and associated fields may be feeling. Tobin noted that unless the volume of work available to graduates in these fields is increased, Australia could lose key talent to overseas as they try to find suitable opportunities.

Sen. Rex acknowledged this as an issue and suggested that part of the problem is politicians not entirely understanding the importance and capabilities of AI. On the topic of communicating value to stakeholders, his general advice to students was to focus less on the technical difficulties of an AI implementation and more on its economic, environmental and societal impacts.

AIML Director Anton van den Hengel with students Dasuni and Moaz

AIML Director Anton van den Hengel with Adept students Dasuni and Moaz

The Director of AIML, Professor Anton van den Hengel, added that the lack of local AI research and development would have a considerable impact on the sovereignty of Australia. With more data being collected than ever through smartphones and other devices, the prevalence of AI is set only to increase. The questions we should therefore be asking is whether we, as Australians, want to be leading the development and ensuring ethical standards are observed, or be at the mercy of more technologically sophisticated countries.

AIML's Business Development Manager, Dr Paul Dalby, highlighted the positive economic impacts improving AI capability has on Australia, drawing upon case studies from the agriculture and manufacturing industries. Although there is local interest in adopting these technologies, with other nations developing and implementing AI technologies at a faster rate than Australia, we risk becoming decreasingly competitive in these areas.

Sofia McLeod, an honours student focussing on satellite detection and positioning using computer vision techniques, explained how in the space industry AI is acting as an enabler, creating jobs ranging from CubeSat development to creating satellites with mid-flight refuelling capabilities. This is in contrast to the popular notion that AI is only taking away jobs.

Senator Rex Patrick with Adept students Mark, Tobin and Sofia

Senator Rex Patrick with Adept students Mark, Tobin and Sofia

Sen. Rex pointed out that the themes of data sovereignty, economic growth, and job creation were exactly the sorts of arguments that fellow politicians would be seeking when looking to grow the nation. With AI being an important part of our future, the Australian Institute for Machine Learning is well positioned to lead the Australian research effort.

AIML would like the thank Senator Rex Patrick, his team, and the Adept students for coming to visit this week, and we look forward to future informative discussions.

Tagged in AI, Government, AIML