As we head into Easter and Passover for 2020, we are reflecting on what a year it has been already.
As we bunker down and #StayHome to slow the spread of COVID-19, across the globe we are all trying to come to terms with tragic loss, an uncertain economic future and the prospect that this world we live in has been irreversibly altered.
And let’s not forget that the global pandemic followed closely on the heels of an extraordinarily complicated Australian summer. A continuation of protracted drought, fires, hail and floods. The early months of 2020 brought heartache for so many people. 3Ai is based in Canberra, 3 hours inland from Sydney and 8 hours north of Melbourne, surrounded by bush, plains and mountains. Our neighbouring rural communities were devastated by the fires. For us, sealing all windows and doors, air purifiers, wearing P2 masks to leave the house, the constant smell of smoke in the air: that was our normal.
After tireless efforts from emergency services, as the rain came and the smoke cleared, 3Ai gathered our community of co-conspirators to kick off the second 3Ai Masters cohort. Hard to believe that was only two months ago.
Plans have unravelled and the world we live in now — and the world that is coming — is different from the world that has been. However, we know that our mission, our vision, and what we have planned for 3Ai beyond 2020 are relevant right now and in the future as the world rebuilds. More than ever we need people from different places, with different experiences to build this future.
Allow us to take you back to Friday 21 February 2020. Students, staff and friends of 3Ai gathered at the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra to welcome the 2020 Masters Cohort. You can watch the event on our YouTube Channel by clicking [here] or you can read on for the key talking points from the day.
A mere two months ago, 3Ai Director Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell stood at a lectern and shared with our co-conspirators the journey to a new branch of engineering:
We have the opportunity to build something different, that can scale, that can create a different kind of future. This isn’t an abstract notion but rather a daily lived reality. A way of approaching the technical objects that are coming — next-gen AI powered cyber-physical systems. We do not have the right skills, language or mental model for what that will look like. Yet.
Our guiding rule is to establish a new branch of engineering to take AI safely, sustainably and responsibly to scale. We are doing that by: teaching it into existence, studying it into existence, and theorising it into existence.
Genevieve announced the appointment of Professor Alexandra Zafiroglu as the institute’s Deputy Director.
Alex took the stage to discuss what are we doing in 2020 to bring our thinking to broader audiences.
Studying the new branch of engineering into existence involves exploring cyber-physical systems in the wild. Some of our ongoing research projects include: exploring the underwater autonomous image capture technology collecting data on the Great Barrier Reef; how autonomous mining vehicles change the workforce and are people prepared to work in an autonomous environment; how nascent AI engines are enabling a range of financial services, what will this look like in the decades to come and how to operationalise AI ethics principles; and analysing the German government’s preparations for and response to the coming of Industry 4.0.
Our educational offerings are growing. In addition to our flagship Masters program, 2020 will see the kick off of the PhD program. But we know we cannot sit around and wait for the next generation of practitioners to emerge. We have developed a suite of workshops and masterclasses — that we are calling microcredentials — that bring the 3Ai ethos and learnings to a range of people and organisations.
Our journey to date would not have been possible without the support of KPMG and Microsoft.
James Mabbott, National Leader of KPMG Innovate and Microsoft Senior Executive, Rachel Bondi spoke about their organisations’ relationship with the 3A Institute. It is rare to hear a business partnership described with words such as: bravery, trust and family. We look to the future, and continue to collaborate on the important issues that face Australia and the world.
3Ai Research Lead, Dr Katherine Daniell then welcomed the 2020 cohort. Little did we anticipate the challenges the year held for this remarkable group of people.
This year we have gone global, with a student from nearly every continent. The 2020 cohort represents a huge range of lived experience and diversity. Just the sort of voices we need to build the future.
When everything feels big and crazy and new, it is hard to know what changes your action can drive. But one thing we know with certainty: if you want a different future you have to build it. We believe looking to the past can help us refine our thinking and ask the better questions.
Over the coming months we will be casting our minds back to where we’ve come from with #ThrowbackThursday. Everything has a history, and what we learn from the past just might help us muddle through this chaotic present to build the future we want to see.