National Jobs Summit is Australia’s chance to reset artificial intelligence, say business leaders

Earlier this week, a rapper with an artificial intelligence was removed from his label (yes, he had a label) after his algorithm learned to use racial slurs in his lyrics.

More helpfully, a recent AI trial at Princess Alexandra Hospital in Queensland was able to give early warnings up to eight hours before a patient’s condition deteriorated.

Artificial technology is about to send a “tidal wave” of disruption into the way we work, according to a forecast by CSIRO, the national science agency, once every ten years.

The federal government is urged to use the upcoming national jobs summit to “double down” on policies set by the previous government to ride this tidal wave, or risk being crushed.

AI technology is expected to replace up to half of the work being done today by 2030.

According to CSIRO’s Data 61 Institute director Jon Whittle, you probably already interact with artificial intelligence all the time – you might not realize it.

He talked about “simple” AI like Google Maps and voice assistants, but also robotics in mining and warehousing, or AI that detects breast cancer from mammograms.

“We still sometimes talk about AI as if it’s a futuristic technology, but it’s not, it’s actually here now. We use it every day,” said Professor Whittle .

Creative and emotional work equally exposed to automation

A 2019 McKinsey & Co report on automation in Australia explained how quickly industries are set to change.

The authors said that by 2030 up to 5 million Australians may have to change occupations due to automation, with WA’s East Pilbara, Penrith in Western Sydney, Mackay in Queensland, La west coast in Tasmania and Port Pirie north of Adelaide among the most exposed premises. government domains.

Even work that was widely considered immune to automation, especially the creative and emotional industries, is quickly proving equally exposed.

In the past year alone, the DALL E and Midjourney artificial intelligence systems have exploded onto the visual arts scene, using massive data sources to generate compelling images in seconds and sending a wave of concern through arts and entertainment professions.

But Professor Whittle said he was not concerned that these emerging technologies could spell the end of workers.

“Even things like DALL·EI aren’t necessarily seen as replacing human creativity, but rather as augmenting human creativity,” he said.

“A good example of this is that someone recently used DALL E to generate the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine, and it looks like a great story, the first magazine automatically generated by a machine.

Cosmopolitan released what it claims is the world’s first AI-made magazine cover in June this year.(Hearst Magazine Media)

“But if you look at what was actually done, there were over 100 human hours involved in interacting with DALL E to make sure the outputs produced matched the style of the magazine and the creative license from the magazine.”

Still, he said automation will change the nature of work — and that will need to be managed carefully.

It’s time to “double down” on AI politics

CSIRO’s Data 61 Institute co-designed an AI Roadmap with the Federal Government last year that identified environmental health and infrastructure AIs as technologies on which Australia is well positioned to initiate.

The research group’s chief executive, Professor Whittle, said the jobs summit was a chance to ‘double down on that’.

“All of these things are opportunities for the country. I wouldn’t say we should sit down and take our time,” he said.

“We should definitely grab them by the scruff of the neck if we want to take the lead.”

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Andrew McKellar said the government needed to coordinate the change.

“There are strong pockets of consciousness [in government]. Is it part of a cohesive narrative on which the government guides, directs and educates? I think in the recent past that hasn’t been the case,” McKellar said.

“As we move into something like the Jobs and Skills Summit next week, I think this is an opportunity for the government to reset that narrative.

“We have to be competitive.”

A white robot inside a cafe in Canberra
An automated hospitality worker is already experienced in a cafe in Canberra.(ABC News: Donald Sheil)

Australia was one of the first nations to come out of the blocks with its AI ethics framework, but now countries are set to introduce laws to regulate automation technologies and, in some cases, outright ban.

The European Union Parliament is debating a far-reaching AI law that would classify technologies according to the risks they pose to social welfare, with stricter obligations on the technologies that could be used to significantly disrupt society.

Among the proposed changes is an outright ban on facial recognition software, which in Australia was recently used by retailers Kmart, Bunnings and Good Guys to monitor customers.

As countries strive to apply more responsible AI, Professor Whittle said it was also a responsibility to ensure that workers were not left behind.

“If jobs are going to transform, then organizations have a responsibility,” he said.

“If they introduce these technologies, they have to consider whether they should requalify their employees at the same time. »

“AI will be needed in all disciplines”

Despite the challenges, people familiar with AI are more optimistic about the potential improvements it could bring, if the country moves quickly.

Professor Whittle said that although the technology was advancing rapidly, it would take time to be adopted by businesses.

“I wouldn’t say we can kind of sit back and bide our time, there’s definitely a sense of urgency about it, especially in areas where Australia has the potential to lead,” he said. -he declares.

The same McKinsey & Co report that detailed Australia’s exposure to automation also suggested that automation would raise the average wage by up to $15,000 this decade under the fastest adoption scenario.

Conversely, automation could also lead to a 27% increase in income inequality without programs to manage the change.

An illustration of several workers with helmets or robot heads, in a blue tone.
Midjourney’s slightly abstract interpretation of “workers getting pay raises from automation”.(Mid Road)

McKellar said if government and business don’t wrestle with AI policy soon, the country will suffer.

“It will determine what our place is in the world, it will have that kind of impact,” he said.

“There’s a lot to do on it.”

Shadow Industry Minister Paul Fletcher said there was nothing “magical” about the jobs summit, but the government must seize the opportunity offered by automation.

“It’s important to emphasize that this happens over time, it doesn’t happen overnight and it’s been happening for decades,” Fletcher said.

“Ultimately, economists will tell us that the best way to raise wages is to improve productivity across the economy.”

The ABC has made several interview requests with Industry Minister Ed Husic.

Prof Whittle said the jobs summit would be a chance to advance ideas on retraining workers and training boards to understand the risks and benefits of automation.

“AI is a bit like math in a way, it will be required across all disciplines, and so we need to train future workers not just to be experts in health, law, or manufacturing, or whatever, but to have those underlying digital AI skills as well,” he said.

“There’s a wonderful quote…in the past jobs were about the muscles, now they’re about the brain, and in the future the heart.”

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