Tuesday, 05 September 2017 07:20

ANU 10-year programme to drive AI revolution in Australia

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The ANU has announced “a major expansion to drive societal response to the artificial intelligence revolution".

The Australian National University (ANU) has announced its 10-year Australian artificial intelligence revolution “will be led by one of the world’s top technologists Professor Genevieve Bell and will be based within the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science".

Professor Bell recently joined ANU from Intel as “the first of five appointments under the ANU Vice-Chancellor’s Entrepreneurial Fellows scheme".

She has also been appointed the inaugural Florence Violet McKenzie Chair at ANU, named in honour of Australia’s first female electrical engineer.

{load position alex08}Under the expansion, the ANU said: "Professor Bell will lead a new Autonomy, Agency and Assurance Institute, to be known as the 3A Institute, co-founded with CSIRO’s Data61, Australia’s largest data innovation network.

“The 3A Institute will bring together the best researchers from around the world and a range of disciplines to tackle complex problems around artificial intelligence, data and technology and managing their impact on humanity.”

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt noted the institution was committed to help solve the most pressing problems facing the world and the new institute would drive innovation, research and policy responses.

Professor Schmidt said: “It isn’t just about engineering and computer science, it’s also about anthropology, sociology, psychology, economics, philosophy, public policy and many other disciplines – you have got to put it all together to get to the best answers possible.

“Professor Bell’s extraordinary experience and depth of knowledge in this area will ensure Australia remains prepared to meet the big social, cultural and political questions around our technological future.”

Professor Genevieve Bell

Data61 chief executive Adrian Turner noted the 3A Institute would build on Australia’s strengths in cyber systems.

Turned said: “Australia has an opportunity to be a leader and to seed new industries of global relevance as IT, biological and advanced materials disciplines converge and become data-driven.

“Building on our national strengths in cyber-physical systems, interdisciplinary research is needed now more than ever to understand how we can integrate resulting new technologies into our lives for economic and societal benefit.

“The 3A Institute will be an important way for us to achieve this and move the nation forward. Data61 is delighted to be contributing talent and resources towards this collaboration as Founding Partner.”

Professor Bell said there was a critical set of questions to be answered around autonomy, agency and assurance if the world is to meet challenges of future technology.

Bell said: “We, as humans, are simultaneously terrified, optimistic and ultimately ambivalent about what it’s going to be like.

“How are we going to feel in a world where autonomous agents are doing things and we aren’t? How are we going to be safe in this world?

“We will be looking closely at risk, indemnity, privacy, trust – things that fall under this broad term ‘assurance’.”

Dean of the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science, Professor Elanor Huntington, said the appointment of Professor Bell would ensure ANU is recognised for shaping the way the world respond to technological change.

Professor Huntington said: “It’s tremendously exciting to be leading the development of such an important field of exploration.

She also “welcomed the announcement that Professor Bell will present the ABC’s 2017 Boyer Lectures. Each year since 1959, the lectures have sparked national discussion about critical ideas".

In October, the ANU reports “Professor Bell continues this proud tradition by interrogating what it means to be human, and Australian, in a digital world".

The Boyer Lectures are available on your existing podcast service, and they’re also available at the ABC’s website here.

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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