Interviews https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/news/interviews en Interview: Politico – Hydrogen and the export potential for Australia https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2019/03/interview-politico-hydrogen-and-the-export-potential-for-australia <h1 class="au-header-heading">Interview: Politico – Hydrogen and the export potential for Australia</h1> <span><span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Anonymous (not verified)</span></span> <span>Tue, 2019-03-12 11:00</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Dr Finkel was interviewed by Politico during his recent visit to Europe. Kalina Oroschakoff and Paola Tamma discussed hydrogen energy and its export potential for Australia with the Chief Scientist. A pdf of the article is available <a href="/sites/default/files/Feb-2019-interview-with-Politico-re-hydrogen.pdf">here</a>. The full article is below.</p> <p><strong>POLITICO: Q and A with Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel</strong></p> <p>The global push to cut greenhouse gas emissions could wreak havoc on Australia’s coal and gas exports, which is why the country is keen on hydrogen.</p> <p>Australia could use renewable energy to produce clean hydrogen by splitting water, or make it with coal and gas — although that does create worries about boosting carbon dioxide emissions, Alan Finkel, Australia’s chief scientist, told POLITICO in Brussels earlier this month.</p> <p>“We’ve reached parity with Qatar as the world’s largest exporter of [liquefied natural gas], we are the world’s largest exporter of coal, we’re an energy superpower, and we have the potential to be, if not the largest, one of the most significant hydrogen exporters,” Finkel said.</p> <p>Although electricity is often seen as the key technology to get the world to decarbonize, hydrogen does have its advocates. They argue that the zero-emission fuel involves fewer compromises to existing energy and transport industries than electrification.</p> <p><strong>POLITICO: Why push hydrogen? The idea has been around for decades and hasn’t really taken off.</strong></p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> Something’s changed. First of all, it’s the determination to decarbonize. The second thing is the plummeting cost of green, clean electricity generation. Solar and wind are just getting better and better; the sweet spot of making hydrogen at an economic level is when you can do electricity at about $10 per megawatt-hour. [But], it’s going to be hard.</p> <p><strong>POLITICO: Can hydrogen be a substitute for natural gas?</strong></p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> If you’re looking at heating houses, or running your stoves that run today on natural gas, what’s the alternative? One alternative is, you electrify the heating, and electrify the cooking. But that has a lot of expenses associated with it. Also, if you try to heat your houses in the winter and you’ve gone on a fully renewable system, you’ve got the massive expense of storing. Studies do show that hydrogen substitution of natural gas is significantly less expensive than electricity substitution of natural gas.</p> <p><strong>POLITICO: What else could hydrogen be good for?</strong></p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> Clearly, there are occasions where electricity is not the most convenient form of energy. Think about maritime operations. At the moment, they’re using bunker fuel which is the dirtiest kind of fuel. Hydrogen is really convenient for heavy-duty transport, in trucks, for trains, for shipping, and so it’s an important part of the future economy.</p> <p><strong>POLITICO: How can clean hydrogen be made at scale?</strong></p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> You make it from water, with electricity, through a process called electrolysis. You capture the hydrogen, you compress it, you pipe it, you ship it, you sell it, you use it. The challenge is to do that at scale. We’re talking about a swimming pool every second, or more. We’re talking about massive quantities of electricity and water being converted into hydrogen.</p> <p><strong>POLITICO: What are the challenges facing hydrogen?</strong></p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> The first is ensuring that the industry operates safely.The second is costs. No one’s done [green hydrogen] at scale yet.The third challenge is the one I’ve been talking here in Europe to people about. How do you get from demonstration projects to commercial scale? Who’s going to buy commercial quantities of hydrogen if it’s still expensive, and who’s going to invest in producing hydrogen if there’s no buyers?</p> <p><strong>POLITICO: What about coal? Is it a potential resource for making hydrogen?</strong></p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> It’s not practical at the moment for black coal, because black coal, whether you like it or not, has huge international market potential, especially in Asia. So, they’re not going to sell it cheaply for hydrogen production.</p> <p>What’s happening with lignite is that as coal electricity stations are closing, there’s no other application. That coal is a wasted asset, has no international sales potential whatsoever. So, you’ve got a virtually free fuel, a well-known [gasification] technology which means you can make hydrogen quite cheaply and at large scale. The only challenge is CCS [carbon capture and storage]. There’s been a 10-year science effort to identify offshore, under-the-sea bed, kilometer-down places to bury the carbon dioxide close to the coal fields. The projected economics are quite good.</p> <p><strong>POLITICO: How do you overcome environmental concerns?</strong></p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> Some of the people we’ve been talking with here, the officials, they are very concerned that communities will not be comfortable. But, in Japan, in Korea, other countries, they’d be quite comfortable as long as the hydrogen has been certified through a traceable process to show that it was low-carbon dioxide emissions during manufacture.</p> <p><strong>POLITICO: How much solar and wind do you need to produce all that hydrogen?</strong></p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> We’re talking a scale that you have not yet begun to comprehend. We’re talking about solar and wind at 10 times the level that you would use to run your cities and everything else on electricity.</p> <p>Australia generates 250 terawatt-hours electricity today, but we would build dedicated solar plants that are not even connected to the electrical system. And that would be over 1,000, maybe 2,000 terawatt-hours —massively big. The challenge is high. That’s why, maybe, as we go forward, there’ll be a need not just for solar and wind to generate hydrogen, but also for coal and natural gas to hydrogen. Norway is looking at natural gas to hydrogen, because they’ve got the ability to capture and store the carbon dioxide in the depleted oil wells.</p> <p><strong>POLITICO: How do you see a future global system for selling hydrogen working?</strong></p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> What we don’t want to do is have a country produce hydrogen with massive carbon dioxide emissions. From the planet’s point of view, we might be worse off. If you do properly regulated, developed and implemented CCS, in principle this could be as low emissions as solar- and wind-produced hydrogen. Studies are optimistic.</p> <p><em>This interview has been edited for length and clarity.</em></p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-news-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="position-above">Categories</div> <ul class="au-tags"> <li><a href="/news/interviews" hreflang="en">Interviews</a></li> <li><a href="/news/hydrogen-australias-future" hreflang="en">HYDROGEN FOR AUSTRALIA’S FUTURE</a></li> </ul> </div> Tue, 12 Mar 2019 00:00:00 +0000 Anonymous 1224 at https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au Interview: Can Australia become a leader in ethical AI? https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2018/08/interview-can-australia-become-a-leader-in-ethical-ai <h1 class="au-header-heading">Interview: Can Australia become a leader in ethical AI?</h1> <span><span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Anonymous (not verified)</span></span> <span>Tue, 2018-08-28 10:00</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Dr Finkel was interviewed by Libbi Gorr on ABC Radio Melbourne on Sunday 26 August, talking about how Australia can become a leader in ethical artificial intelligence.</p> <p>The recording of his interview is available <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/radio/melbourne/programs/sundays/alan-finkel-libbi-gorr/10166292">here</a>.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-news-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="position-above">Categories</div> <ul class="au-tags"> <li><a href="/news/interviews" hreflang="en">Interviews</a></li> </ul> </div> Tue, 28 Aug 2018 00:00:00 +0000 Anonymous 1226 at https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au Interview: Prospering in the artificial intelligence world https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2018/07/interview-prospering-in-the-artificial-intelligence-world <h1 class="au-header-heading">Interview: Prospering in the artificial intelligence world</h1> <span><span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Anonymous (not verified)</span></span> <span>Thu, 2018-07-05 10:00</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Ahead of Dr Finkel’s delivery of the Samuel Alexander Lecture in August, <a href="http://www.wesleycollege.net/News/2018/07/Prospering-in-the-artificial-intelligence-world.aspx">Wesley College</a> has interviewed Dr Finkel on the rapidly-growing world of artificial intelligence, and how we as humans will have to set the standards to make sure we can play nice and get along with our electronic brethren.</p> <p>The full text of the article is below.</p> <p>The term 'artificial intelligence’ (AI) was coined at an academic conference in 1956. For a young Alan Finkel, growing up in Melbourne in the 1960s, it was a core module in an extensive sci-fi curriculum – one that his teachers didn’t always approve.</p> <p>Today, as Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Finkel recalls the gap between the possibilities imagined on those pages, and the technologies of the world he knew.</p> <p>Ahead of the 2018 Wesley College Samuel Alexander Lecture, to be held on 13 August in Adamson Hall at the St Kilda Road Campus, he marvels at just how far we’ve come.</p> <p>'I am proud to be a creation of the 20th century: born in it, raised in it,’ Dr Finkel said. 'What was I taught in school about computers? Practically nothing.’</p> <p>And fair enough. Computers at the time were in their infancy, so rare that they were still referred to as 'electronic computers’ – to distinguish them from the other computers, 'persons whose occupation it is to make arithmetical calculations’. The pride of Australian computing, a machine known as CSIRAC, was so large that when the time came to move it from Sydney to Melbourne, it travelled down the Hume Highway in multiple trucks. It was, for its time, a technological marvel. Yet it was far removed from a thinking, learning, reasoning, human brain.</p> <p>'But that’s the power of imagination and ingenuity,’ said Dr Finkel.</p> <p>'I came from a generation that grew up with only the shadow of an idea, that still reached out into that imagined AI future, and grasped at the fibres of possibility.</p> <p>'Now, as an immigrant in the 21st century, I feel an obligation to the native-born citizens of this new era that we helped to bring about.</p> <p>'I see our children and grandchildren growing up alongside an entirely new society of intelligent machines, their characters moulded by their AI-curated news feeds, virtual assistants, and so much more.</p> <p>'They no longer marvel at the things that were once, to me, close to impossible.</p> <p>'The big question in my mind is simple: can we raise our children and our technologies to play nice, and get along?’</p> <p>Dr Finkel cautions that opinions on AI are sharply divided.</p> <p>'On the one hand, it’s exhilarating: AI will deliver to our children the sort of products and services that we think of today as luxuries. Every one of us will have the equivalent of a personal driver, doctor, property caretaker, meal-planner, shopper and architect. And in many circumstances, they’ll be better than humans: more precise, always available, and uncomplaining about the sort of jobs that we humans find boring or unpleasant.</p> <p>'Of course, on the other hand, I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s observed that almost every movie or novel involving humans and AI seems to end very badly. It doesn’t take the imagination of Stanley Kubrick to worry that children who grow up with personal AI slaves might not be the better for it. It certainly doesn’t take the dark vision of George Orwell to worry about a world where AI scans our faces as we walk down a public street, or ends up deployed as a weapon in war.</p> <p>'AI can enable the best and worst of humanity. In the tradition of Samuel Alexander, humanitarian and scholar, there is a pressing need to equip our children with the values to choose wisely.’</p> <p>The Samuel Alexander Lecture honours one of Australia’s greatest scholars and one of Wesley’s most significant alumni. Samuel Alexander was a student at Wesley College in the early 1870s who, after completing his studies at the University of Melbourne and Oxford University, was appointed Professor of Philosophy at Manchester University. He subsequently became one of the 20th century’s most significant philosophers.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-news-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="position-above">Categories</div> <ul class="au-tags"> <li><a href="/news/interviews" hreflang="en">Interviews</a></li> <li><a href="/news/articles" hreflang="en">Articles</a></li> </ul> </div> Thu, 05 Jul 2018 00:00:00 +0000 Anonymous 1227 at https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au Interview: Australia's Chief Scientist on STEM partnerships https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2018/06/interview <h1 class="au-header-heading">Interview: Australia&#039;s Chief Scientist on STEM partnerships</h1> <span><span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Anonymous (not verified)</span></span> <span>Thu, 2018-06-14 10:00</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Dr Finkel has spoken with the Australian Council for Educational Research’s online <em><a href="https://www.teachermagazine.com.au/articles/podcast-special-australias-chief-scientist-on-stem-partnerships?utm_source=Twitter&amp;utm_medium=socialmedia&amp;utm_content=social">Teacher magazine</a> </em>on the <em><a href="https://docs.education.gov.au/documents/optimising-stem-industry-school-partnerships-inspiring-australias-next-generation-issues">Optimising STEM Industry–School Partnerships: Inspiring Australia’s Next Generation</a> </em>report, particularly on why partnerships with STEM industries can be beneficial for students, and how schools can work towards implementing such a program<em>.</em></p> <p>The full transcript is below.</p> <p><strong>Dominique Russell: So, in the beginning of the report, some important terms that are often interpreted in different ways are outlined. Could you define 'enterprise skills’, 'STEM skills’ and 'digital proficiency’?</strong></p> <p>Dr Alan Finkel: Sure, Dominique. When we started this process, I was overwhelmed by the plethora of terms and the inconsistency with which they were used. So through our panel on the forum we decided we’d tackle that and we managed to reduce the critical terms to three. STEM skills, digital proficiency and enterprise skills.</p> <p>Now, STEM skills, those are the deep discipline skills that reflect themselves in knowledge and ultimately in careers. Such as a molecular biologist needs to know chemistry and genomics and statistics to be proficient in what they’re doing. And, realistically, only a modest number of young people need to train at that level. I don’t know, it’s a moving target – we can’t get firm numbers on this – but it might be 20 or 25 per cent or 30 per cent who will be needed to be trained in those fields to the depth that we’re talking about to have careers in STEM.</p> <p>The second term that we defined was digital proficiency. And digital proficiency is often out there called ICT capabilities or digital literacy. Digital proficiency is the ability to use apps, spread sheets, word processes, recording devices, digital technology and integrate them into everything that you’re doing in your future career. At least 90 or 95 per cent of kids will have to be well trained in digital proficiency. It’s not a choice in the modern world.</p> <p>The third term is enterprise skills which is often called 21st century skills, soft skills, general capabilities – there were just so many different ways to describe it. It’s the creativity, the project management capabilities, communications, resilience, understanding of ethics. You’d hope that 100 per cent of students have that capability. So, progressively – in terms of percentage of use – we identified STEM skills, digital proficiency and enterprise skills and tried to use only those three terms throughout our report.</p> <p><strong>DR: Now, the report also says that its recommendations really aim to optimise the way that industry partnerships can work towards a contemporary and internationally competitive STEM education in Australian schools. So, we’ll get to the international examples a little later, but what is meant by 'contemporary STEM education’? What does that really look like?</strong></p> <p>AF: Well, a contemporary STEM education truly has elements of the traditional in it as well as some of the more modern things. But the traditional elements are actually very, very important. To get a good STEM education, students need deep discipline knowledge. In Chemistry or Physics, or it could be Digital Technologies. But whatever they’re learning, that knowledge has to be deep.</p> <p>The students need to be proficient users of technology. In school and ultimately in whatever careers they might adopt. We are using technology as props to amplify our capabilities. Now, what we know is you can’t just throw technology at a problem out in the workforce, and you can’t expect technology to make education better. When The Federal Government tried the –every child gets a laptop’ program and left it at that, it didn’t help at all. But if you use technology to assist the delivery of content by the teacher, to provide a high-speed interactive feedback to collectively see how the class is progressing, to feed to the students via the teacher wonderful videos and tests and quizzes and things like that. That technology can help in education just like technology helps an engineer or a scientist in the pursuit of their job. So, proficient users of technology is a key element of a contemporary STEM education. Of course, we are using the term STEM to make it clear that we’re talking about an integrated approach to the disciplines. So, through a contemporary STEM education, we are trying to help the students recognise the interactive opportunities between Maths and Physics and Chemistry and Digital Technologies – whatever it is that they’re learning – as well as the creative areas.</p> <p>And another important aspect of a contemporary STEM education is a deep understanding for and respect of the social impact of these technologies. It’s the workforce opportunities, of course, but it’s the impact of what technology does to the way people live, to the way people interact, and to everything in our society.</p> <p><strong>DR: And it’s also said that teachers are central to developing and maintaining STEM industry partnerships, and there are a number of case studies outlined in the report which give some really excellent examples of how schools are partnering with industries quite successfully. So why are these case studies good examples of industry partnerships? What is it that they’re doing?</strong></p> <p>AF: Well, we’d have to take a couple and go through them. So, one that’s in the report is the Victorian Tech School system. I had the pleasure of going out to the Tech School on the Box Hill TAFE campus. First thing I’ll say about Tech Schools is that the name doesn’t actually indicate what they are. They’re not tech and they’re not schools. They’re a facility on a campus of a university or a TAFE. So the location is important – it’s mutual territory and intellectually engaged. What they are is they’re a hub, a central facility that brings together 20 to 30 schools in the region through this facility and connects them to a handful or more of companies, of industries. And at the Tech School there’s another handful (maybe five or six) teachers and technicians who are experts in certain areas and they work with the companies to identify problems, real world challenges that the kids might be interested in.</p> <p>The particular Tech Schools I went to, they’d been working with some local hospitals and companies who are providing ICU (Intensive Care Unit) facilities and they’d fitted out this Tech School with really a lot of equipment to do electronics and software for sound and robotics. And the particular challenge that was underway when I went there that was being addressed by Year 9 boys and girls was to develop an entertainment system for an Intensive Care Unit bed in a hospital. These kids had only been there for half a day, or about that, and they’d already plugged together and made systems that in some cases they’d be getting the sound source form the internet, some from their phones, some from radio, and they were having the time of their lives. But they were being guided through this process by the experts who are always at the Tech School, the teachers, and the context was a real-world context that had come from the local hospital. Because industry is a broad interpretation, it doesn’t have to be a manufacturer, it can be government or bank or a tourism association or a manufacturer.</p> <p>And the local schools, they come in one at a time, they’re bussed in and they can have three days in a row working at the Victorian Tech School. So it’s bringing real-world context, contributions from the industry in terms of capabilities and definition of the challenge in the context, with experts at the tech school facility. The students come in, their teachers come in – so their teachers are getting a professional learning opportunity from the resident teachers and experts at the tech school – at the same time as the kids are being motivated and actually learning something significant. It’s not a shallow touch, they learn how the technology is being used and what the scientific principles are behind that.</p> <p><strong>DR: Another quite interesting aspect was that it’s said that neither schools nor industries are often quite sure about how to actually approach a partnership. In this sense, you’ve said that an intermediary organisation can be quite valuable. Can you describe a little more about the role of an intermediary in this sense?</strong></p> <p>AF: Certainly. So the word 'intermediary’ in this context is typically talking about a university or a TAFE. Schools and industry – they want to work together. This is not something being imposed on them, they enjoy this relationship, but they do find that they speak different languages and have different understandings and different capabilities and it’s our experience – through the consultations and also my personal experience – that bringing in a university or a TAFE partner to what would otherwise be a relationship between an industry and a school can really help.</p> <p>I’ll give you two examples – one personal and one more general. Back in 2006 I had the opportunity of developing a hands-on science technology program for Year 9 students called <a href="http://www.stelr.org.au/">STELR</a>. And STELR is delivered by the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering. It’s interesting because it’s [an] in-class program, so it’s co-curricular if you like, it’s aligned to the Australian Curriculum. The decision to deliver a STELR unit is made by the school, so that once the school puts up its hand and volunteers ('we want to do it’) then every kid in Year 9, or every kid in Year 8, depending on what year they do it, or 7, will participate for six, seven or eight weeks in the STELR program. We found it great context, which was that the kids were very concerned about growing up in a world of global warning and climate change and that one way to address that, to mitigate it, is to convert from fossil fuel electricity to renewable electricity.</p> <p>So we built the unit around renewable electricity. It turns out with solar, wind and hydro, you can teach a lot of Physics and some Maths thrown in. So we developed a hands-on kit and a program around that. And we did that through our own resources at the Academy of Engineering in consultation with professors from Deakin University and then later on as we started to go into the delivery phase we found it was important to provide one or two days of professional learning for the teachers who are delivering STELR into the classroom. And certainly part of the professional learning is the obvious of how do you use the STELR equipment and the STELR resources, but a lot of it was inquiry-based learning, because it was an inquiry-based learning unit, and how do you integrate that information about the STELR resources with your already inquiry-based learning capabilities? We asked and got the professors from Deakin University to do that professional learning for us. So, it was the Academy of Technology and Engineering, which is people from industry, from academia, the schools and Deakin University in that case as an intermediary.</p> <p>Another very big one is the partnership between Google Australia and the University of Adelaide to deliver professional learning in the new Digital Technologies Curriculum. The curriculum came along as an opportunity, schools want to deliver it. There were very few, if any, teachers trained to deliver that new curriculum. Google, of course, has expertise in those kinds of areas and Google got together with University of Adelaide. Google contributed I think some financial resources, some technological resources and some context and expertise in the area. The University of Adelaide has full responsibility for the pedagogy, the teaching and marking of this course which was co-developed with Google and it’s been extraordinarily successful. Something like 10 000 teachers have done this online course, which now also has a face-to-face learning practice community, but something like 10 000 teachers have done this course. It would not have been possible if Google was doing it themselves, it actually would’ve been really hard to imagine it being successful if University of Adelaide had been doing it themselves, but the partnership has been extraordinarily successful.</p> <p><strong>DR: Now in terms of international examples of exceptional STEM performance, Singapore is a fantastic one. How did they become such a great performer and how is this turnaround relevant to schools here?</strong></p> <p>AF: Well, Singapore, of course has some advantages that we don’t have which is being a single jurisdiction, so they can make a decision and then run with it. So, they had made the requirement to do Science and Mathematics right through secondary school a strict requirement. They’ve committed to having specialist teachers in Maths and Science starting in upper-primary school all the way through. They also require that their teachers do 100 hours of professional learning per year of which some of it has to be discipline specific. And that is a good example of one of our recommendations. We’ve suggested in our report that given the teachers in Australia have to do 20 hours a year of professional learning, but currently in most jurisdictions that’s left to the teacher and the principal to work out exactly what they will be doing – well given that they’re doing it anyway, we recommended that some of it should be discipline specific and taught by an accredited provider, so that teachers who happen to be teaching out-of-field get the benefit of ongoing training in the field they’re teaching or teachers who are years past their initial training get the benefit of being updated. So we’ve learnt from Singapore in formulating that particular recommendation although it came to us through various other means during the consultation as well.</p> <p><strong>DR: And just finally, then, on a bit of a lighter note, if you were to enter a classroom in the future – in 2030 – what would you want to see?</strong></p> <p>AF: Human teachers. Let me elaborate. The last thing I’d want to see is robots in charge of the classes. We are going into a world of AI (artificial intelligence), we are going into a world of technology and robots will be doing more and more for us and if they are there in an assisting capacity, fabulous. No problem with that. But young people, they need peer-to-peer relationships. Young people, they need peer-to-teacher relationships. And I am talking about a human relationship. So I’ll use the word humanity, I’d like to see humanity in the classroom – but I’m not using it in its normal sense – I really mean I’d like to see humans doing the teaching and doing it well with a focus on conveying deep discipline skills combined with those enterprise skills we talked about, and fun. There’s no reason to trade off one for the other. You can chase expertise and quality at the same time as you’re having fun.</p> <p><strong>DR: Well, Dr Alan Finkel, thanks so much for spending time with <em>Teacher</em> magazine today.</strong></p> <p>AF: Dominique, my pleasure.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-news-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="position-above">Categories</div> <ul class="au-tags"> <li><a href="/news/interviews" hreflang="en">Interviews</a></li> </ul> </div> Thu, 14 Jun 2018 00:00:00 +0000 Anonymous 1228 at https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au Interview: Artificial Intelligence, ABC AM https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2018/05/interview-artificial-intelligence-abc-am <h1 class="au-header-heading">Interview: Artificial Intelligence, ABC AM</h1> <span><span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Anonymous (not verified)</span></span> <span>Mon, 2018-05-14 10:00</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Dr Finkel was interviewed by Kim Landers for <a href="http://www.abc.net.au/radio/adelaide/programs/am/chief-scientist-calls-for-regulation-on-artificial-intelligence/9774302">ABC AM</a> on Friday 18 May regarding Artificial Intelligence, and what it would take for humans to trust AI in their daily lives.</p> <p>The full transcript is below.</p> <p><strong>KIM LANDERS:</strong> Artificial intelligence is part of our daily lives. Voice recognition systems like Alexa, Siri and Google Home are just a few simple examples.</p> <p>It’s developing at a tremendous pace – but is it possible to trust AI?</p> <p>Australia’s chief scientist wants governments and businesses to develop some sort of regulation or ethical stamp for artificial intelligence.</p> <p>Dr Alan Finkel is calling it a 'Turing certificate’ after the famous English scientist, Dr Alan Turing, whose life was depicted, you might remember in the movie The Imitation Game.</p> <p>It’s an idea he will expand on during a lunchtime speech in Sydney today for the Committee for Economic Development of Australia.</p> <p>But ahead of that, he joins me in our studio.</p> <p>Dr Finkel, good morning.</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> Good morning, Kim.</p> <p><strong>KIM LANDERS:</strong> Artificial intelligence is already with us. So how are we now going to try to put some ethical guide rails around it?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL</strong>: Well, artificial intelligence is not only with us but it’s becoming ever more pervasive.</p> <p>What brought it home very recently was Google demonstrating a new product called Google Duplex, which is a digital voice assistant. And it’s quite remarkable in its naturalness.</p> <p><strong>KIM LANDERS:</strong> It sounds like a human?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> It sounds like a human. So instead of being: “Good morning, Dave” from a movie, it calls up and it says: “Hi. I’m calling to see if I can, hmm, maybe make a booking for a restaurant this evening, perhaps at 7pm?”</p> <p>That sounds pretty natural. You won’t know, if you’re the person taking that phone call, who you’re actually speaking to.</p> <p>So that raises all the questions about: what are our expectations from the companies who are providing these products?</p> <p>That’s just a very visible illustration.</p> <p>So what I’ve been giving a lot of consideration to of late is the spectrum of regulations that will assist us in integrating AI into human society. Sometimes I refer to AI and HI: human intelligence and AI.</p> <p>Ultimately, what we need is for those two societies to play nice and get along.</p> <p><strong>KIM LANDERS:</strong> But if you’ve got big tech companies like Google, Facebook and Amazon pursuing AI, the same companies that have been responsible for massive privacy breaches in recent times, how on earth is any government or authority going to be able to issue these certificates or assess whether a company or product is using AI ethically?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> It’s a huge challenge but we’ve got examples that have been developed over decades, working with other products that are pervasive in our society.</p> <p>Think about your electric kettle. You’re quite confident that, when you switch on the plug, touch the cord, pick up the kettle, that you’re not going to get electrocuted.</p> <p>It’s not because you’ve read a 20-page statement from the manufacturer. It’s because on the base of that kettle there’s a mark, called a CE mark.</p> <p><strong>KIM LANDERS:</strong> But if you want one of these similar trust marks on AI products, who is going to be the authority that issues that?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> So there needs to be an authority and it could be one of the existing authorities.</p> <p>So the CE mark is issued because you met the ISO – the International Standards Organisation – 9000 test. And that test is done by companies in Germany like TUV (Technical Inspection Association) and other companies in Australia. And they test not just the final product but the whole process of concept, design, manufacturing, the test process; and then the product.</p> <p>Now, you as a consumer do not have to understand anything about what they’re testing. But they go in. They audit the companies. The companies have to work very, very hard to qualify to get the CE mark put onto an electronic product. And you know that you are protected by that stamp.</p> <p><strong>KIM LANDERS:</strong> So if you’re using something similar for AI: I mean, isn’t the point that AI is really smart; could outwit humans, outwit our attempts to regulate it?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> Well, that’s right. That’s why you can’t just do this certification based on the final product that has been made by the company.</p> <p>You have to look at the design process to ensure that principles of appropriate – let me call it behaviour – for the AI will be designed into the product, not just as an afterthought.</p> <p><strong>KIM LANDERS:</strong> If we look at the US, for example, it’s had decades of public and private investment in this space. China is pouring billions of dollars into AI research and development.</p> <p>And yet the recent federal budget had just $30 million in it to boost this country’s AI capability. Isn’t that a bit of a puny contribution?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> Look, it is small. But think of that as a down-payment on perhaps where we are going to go.</p> <p>We’re unlikely to be able to compete to be the world leader in AI, but we need to be a significant player.</p> <p>Part of that $30 million will enable CSIRO – through Data61, one of its divisions – to develop a bit of a road map on AI. And they’ve already done a lot of work on that.</p> <p>The funding around the world is just huge. You mentioned a few countries. France has committed about $2 billion over the next five years to AI; China much, much more than that. But one company, Alibaba in China, claims that they will put $US13 billion into AI development work.</p> <p><strong>KIM LANDERS:</strong> That’s what I mean. Australia’s contribution is pretty tiny. So are you advocating that the Federal Government should be chipping in more, for example?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> Well, it’s a corporate and government expectation.</p> <p>I think what the Federal Government is going to do with its $30 million is stimulate a number of companies, through what’s called the CRCP (Cooperative Research Centres) program, a cooperative research program, to start upping their investment in AI. And it will get a road map as to where we need to go.</p> <p><strong>KIM LANDERS:</strong> All right. Dr Alan Finkel, it’s very interesting. Thank you very much for speaking with AM this morning.</p> <p>That is Dr Alan Finkel. He is Australia’s chief scientist.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-news-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="position-above">Categories</div> <ul class="au-tags"> <li><a href="/news/interviews" hreflang="en">Interviews</a></li> </ul> </div> Mon, 14 May 2018 00:00:00 +0000 Anonymous 1229 at https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au Interview: Hydrogen energy https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2018/04/interview-hydrogen-energy <h1 class="au-header-heading">Interview: Hydrogen energy</h1> <span><span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Anonymous (not verified)</span></span> <span>Fri, 2018-04-13 10:00</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel was interviewed by ABC Gippsland radio presenter Rebecca Symons about using hydrogen for energy and energy storage on 13 April 2018.</p> <p>You can read the full transcript of the interview below, or download it as a <a href="/sites/default/files/Chief-Scientist-transcript-ABC-Gippsland-hydrogen-13-April.pdf">PDF</a>.</p> <p><strong>REBECCA SYMONS:</strong> I’m joined by Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel. Now what was your reaction to yesterday’s announcement?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> Basically my reaction is positive. The commitment by the participants, Kawasaki Heavy Industry and others, to the professional conversion of brown coal into hydrogen, and the capture and sequestration of the carbon dioxide that’s made through that process, is really strong. These companies have long term vision and a strong sense of societal responsibility. The success of the project will depend how well they can capture and hide away, that is, sequester, the carbon dioxide; and from everything that I understand the intentions are to do that at a very, very high percentage level.</p> <p><strong>REBECCA SYMONS:</strong> So Alan, how long do you think that we could do that for? Will those wells just fill up? How does that work?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> It’s an extraordinary capacity that the wells have. I can’t answer the question, but it’s many decades, during which the Valley will have an industry, and our ability and our capacity and our knowledge on how to use hydrogen effectively in our economy will grow. There are two ways, as you know, to produce hydrogen. One is through the conversion of coal, or methane, in other words through the fossil fuel route, which requires the sequestration of the carbon dioxide. The other route is to take solar or wind electricity, renewable electricity, and use it to crack water. Water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, and you can split it with electricity to capture the hydrogen. The oxygen, of course, is not a problem; that just gets released into the atmosphere. But it’s early days for that electrical pathway to produce hydrogen. I think it’s got huge potential, but it’s going to take some time to build up to volume potential.</p> <p><strong>REBECCA SYMONS:</strong> When it’s a lot cheaper and, we’ve seen examples of this in other areas, a lot more efficient to use solar or wind to make this hydrogen, are we behind the eight-ball already, going ahead with brown coal?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> It will be the economics that determine what is the most successful way forward, and it could be a bit of both. At the moment, even though solar and wind electricity are coming down the trajectory of costs really rapidly, and they are very cost-effective for producing electricity, there are other costs involved in making hydrogen from solar electricity. One has to invest in massive devices called electrolysers. These are the big devices that take the electricity and the water and convert it into hydrogen. Then the hydrogen has to be compressed for export and liquefied.</p> <p>So the capital costs of the electrolysers, the capital costs of the solar panels or the wind turbines, have to be recouped. And it’s just not clear yet exactly how low that can go. But, our expectations are, based on what we’ve seen for solar and wind for generating electricity, the prices just keep coming down and down and down. So at the moment it would be expensive; but in five, ten or fifteen years making hydrogen from electrolytic pathways should be cost-competitive. But in the short term, we don’t know the answer. If the conversion of brown coal to hydrogen can be done cleanly, through capturing the carbon dioxide, which is the absolute intention of the parties, then we could say, let the two approaches battle it out in the marketplace, and maybe both will have a role.</p> <p><strong>REBECCA SYMONS:</strong> OK. But you don’t need carbon capture and storage to do this with renewables?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> No, not at all.</p> <p><strong>REBECCA SYMONS:</strong> Right. So it does seem like a very overly complicated process, doesn’t it?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> It is a complicated process, but at the moment, on the projections done by others, not by me, the cost-effectiveness of doing the production of hydrogen from brown coal in Gippsland, it looks as if it will be competitive with other sources of producing hydrogen, and ultimately even competitive with natural gas.</p> <p><strong>REBECCA SYMONS:</strong> Now tell me about this idea of “exporting sunshine”.</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> Oh, I like the concept of “shipping sunshine”, or “exporting sunshine”. Australia is blessed with resources, with energy resources. But some countries, like Japan, are small, northerly latitude, high population density; there’s a limit to what they can actually do to meet their own energy needs. So Japan imports well over 90% of its energy needs at the moment, and invariably, those are fossil fuels: oil and gas. Well, Japan is quite committed to meeting its Paris Accord obligations, and so it looks around, and says “What can we do?” What they need to do is replace the imported natural gas with imported hydrogen gas. So, Japan is a highly motivated customer. We are a highly capable exporter. We can take sunshine, wind comes from sunshine, originally; solar is obviously sunshine; we can take that sunshine, turn it into electricity, turn it into hydrogen, and ship it.</p> <p><strong>REBECCA SYMONS:</strong> Is brown hydrogen the way of the future? I understand you’d like to see more green hydrogen. Could you explain what that is?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL</strong>: Well, the term brown hydrogen is typically used to describe hydrogen that is made from brown coal, or black coal; whereas green hydrogen is hydrogen made from renewables. More technically, we should talk about renewables hydrogen, or renewable hydrogen, and hydrogen from fossil fuels. Both have enormous potential. It’s more difficult with the fossil fuel pathway, because you do have to capture the carbon dioxide and bury it; but as I said at the beginning of this conversation, the Japanese company, the Victorian government, the local companies who are working with them, they are absolutely committed to maximising the extent of the carbon capture and storage.</p> <p><strong>REBECCA SYMONS:</strong> We haven’t seen too many instances of carbon capture and storage being used around the world, have we?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> We haven’t seen many in the electricity generation industry, but there are quite a few in industrial processes, and in resource extraction. In Western Australia and the Gorgon project, the carbon dioxide that comes up with the methane natural gas does get buried again, so that is a large-scale carbon capture and storage project.</p> <p><strong>REBECCA SYMONS:</strong> Last year you came out with a blueprint of how you think electricity generation should be going forward. How does this fit in with that?</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL</strong>: Well, actually it fits in very, very well, because if one imagines a future where solar and wind electricity and hydroelectric power are the dominant sources of electricity, as you know, they need to be matched with storage of some kind, and other measures to improve the resilience of the electricity system. Manufacturing hydrogen from excess electricity rather than just wasting that excess electricity will add to the resilience of the electricity system.</p> <p><strong>REBECCA SYMONS:</strong> Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, thank you so much for talking to us this morning.</p> <p><strong>ALAN FINKEL:</strong> My pleasure, Bec.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-news-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="position-above">Categories</div> <ul class="au-tags"> <li><a href="/news/interviews" hreflang="en">Interviews</a></li> </ul> </div> Fri, 13 Apr 2018 00:00:00 +0000 Anonymous 1225 at https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au Interview: The Monthly https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2018/01/interview-the-monthly <h1 class="au-header-heading">Interview: The Monthly</h1> <span><span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Anonymous (not verified)</span></span> <span>Mon, 2018-01-08 11:00</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Dr Alan Finkel was interviewed by Anna Krien for The Monthly about the energy narrative and his role as Chief Scientist.</p> <p>The full article is available below, as published in the December 2017/ January 2018 edition of <a href="https://www.themonthly.com.au/issue/2017/december/1512046800/anna-krien/unflappable-finkel">The Monthly</a>.</p> <p>Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel has an uncanny ability to be at once open and inscrutable. When I meet him at his office in Melbourne’s CBD, I wonder if it is the design of his face that achieves this: his wide-set blue eyes, high cheekbones, eyebrows sprouting in thin arches, receding grey hair swept back. I find myself thinking of Australian artist Patricia Piccinini’s computer-generated seascape, <em>Swell</em>, an ocean that rolls and heaves around its audience, and yet, disconcertingly, whose surface never breaks. There is a distinct lack of chaos in Finkel’s features, which is not to say he has mastered the political poker face. More that there seems to be an impenetrable layer to his person: a quality made particularly enigmatic against the backdrop of Australia’s climate wars.</p> <p>“Someone should give Alan Finkel a diplomatic posting somewhere,” said the <em>Guardian</em>’s Katharine Murphy on ABC TV’s <em>Insiders</em> in October. This was in the week following Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s announcement of the Coalition’s energy “game changer”, the “national energy guarantee”. In other words, the clean energy target – produced in June as a part of the Finkel review to bring the national electricity grid into the 21<sup>st</sup> century, designed after considering more than 390 submissions, after conducting more than 120 meetings, and consulting worldwide – was dead. It was to be buried alongside an emissions trading scheme, the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, the Carbon Pricing Mechanism (the latter known as the carbon tax), and a briefly floated (48 hours) emissions intensity scheme.</p> <p>Australia is running out of palatable market mechanisms to encourage investment in the electricity sector while lowering emissions. It has been a downward slope – after 15 years of political ineptitude and arrogance from all quarters, we now have at the fore the national energy guarantee: an eight-page idea that is dispiritingly low on reducing emissions, put together in four weeks by the newly formed Energy Security Board. Ever the statesman, Turnbull deferred to these “experts”, but few media outlets wanted to hear what the board had to say. Out on the lawn of Parliament House it was Finkel’s thoughts they scrambled for, and if there was ever a moment to dip his toe into the muck of politics, this was it.</p> <p>Finkel didn’t. “What we now have, and for the first time, is strategy,” he told gathered journalists. On <em>Insiders</em>, Murphy described the chief scientist’s response to the national energy guarantee as “gracious”, while journalist Laura Tingle suggested it was more than that, because Finkel saw merit in the mechanism. Either way, it was clear Finkel was a better person than the rest of us.</p> <p>Since October 2016, when Finkel was appointed to lead the independent review into Australia’s electricity market, it seems almost everyone has been trying to get the chief scientist’s measure. <em>Is he pro-coal or pro-renewables?</em> It ought to have been a no-brainer; after all, when the prime minister introduced Finkel as the incoming chief scientist a year prior, it was widely known he drove an electric car and lived in a home powered by renewables. Yet still no one seemed quite sure where Finkel stood. Somehow he managed to stay above the fray. When the final report of the Finkel review was released in June 2017, there was a sense that surely now his hand would be revealed. Yet, among the 50 recommendations to secure affordability, reliability and lower emissions, his allegiance proved just as elusive.</p> <p>It was ABC TV’s <em>Q&amp;A</em> host Tony Jones who finally just came out with it later that same month. “Alan,” he said. “Are you genuinely technology neutral? Does it matter if it’s coal or wind or solar, as far as you’re concerned?” It was with an almost incredulous look that Finkel surveyed the television audience and his fellow panellists, who included the environment and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, and the shadow climate change and energy minister, Mark Butler. “I think,” Finkel replied, “I’m the only genuinely technology-neutral person in the room, perhaps.” The following day, I watched <em>Q&amp;A</em> again, pressing pause on Finkel. I studied his face, looking for clues as to what <em>he was really thinking</em>. “Jesus, he might be right,” I muttered.</p> <p>“My answer on renewables is unchanged,” Finkel tells me. We are perched on a mezzanine overlooking a busy cafe. He has a hot chocolate in front of him. “I’ve had the same position all the way through. The focus shouldn’t be on renewables or coal, the focus should be on atmospheric emissions and carbon dioxide.” He goes on to say how it has been a struggle to elevate the narrative.</p> <p>“Isn’t that just semantics?” I ask at one point.</p> <p>“No, it isn’t,” Finkel replies.</p> <p>“Why not?” I ask, “if we know coal is linked to emissions, then why can’t we—”</p> <p>“You’re doing it,” Finkel interrupts.</p> <p>“I’m not!” I say, starting to laugh. Or am I? <em>What is it I am doing?</em> Finkel explains how as a businessperson he had to constantly reimagine the outcomes for his company, constantly rethink and renew the endgame. It was the same here. “What does the generation input matter, if the outcome, atmospheric emissions, are lowered?” It seems revolutionary to focus only on carbon dioxide – not on an arbitrary build of renewables or the malevolent machinations of fossil fuel companies. It strikes me as almost impossibly Zen. After the Finkel report was released, there were accusations that Finkel and his team had watered down the science and the urgency to curb global warming to ensure its political palatability. It was an allegation from the trenches. But the review was never meant to be a scientific paper. It is a carefully crafted tool; of course its users, implementers, had to be considered. Finkel is, after all, an engineer.</p> <p>It was October 2015 when Turnbull introduced Dr Alan Finkel to gathered media. Clearly excited with his appointment of Finkel as Australia’s next chief scientist, the newly crowned PM opened up questions to the floor only to interrupt journalists with questions of his own – and why not? An engineer, neuroscientist, Silicon Valley entrepreneur, former university chancellor, philanthropist, publisher and co-founder of <em>Cosmos</em> and <em>Green Lifestyle</em> magazines, and the key driver behind a new secondary-school science program, Finkel is certainly a man after Turnbull’s heart. He even has a ticket booked to go to space on Virgin Galactic’s first commercial flight.</p> <p>I ask Finkel what he was like as a child and he smiles. “Shy.” He recalls the classic ’50s childhood, playing on the street, building billycarts, reading science fiction. He grew up in the Melbourne suburb of Caulfield; his Polish parents had immigrated separately, his mother before World War Two and his father, who ran a clothes-manufacturing business, after the war. The youngest of three, Finkel says his sister liked to look after him, while his brother, Ron, who is the brains behind and chair of Project Rozana, an international organisation that focuses on improving the Palestinian health-care system, liked to argue with him, teaching him how to articulate his thoughts. In 1974, their father died of cancer. Alan was 21. “Were you close to him?” I ask – and he pauses. His response is careful. Yes, he says, in that he shared his father’s values of working hard and not giving up. In the early ’80s, after living in share houses and doing his postdoctorate in electrical engineering, he fell in love. In 1983, Finkel followed his girlfriend – now Elizabeth Finkel, a biochemist and award-winning science journalist – to San Francisco. From there, he drove south to Silicon Valley.</p> <p>In an ABC Radio interview, Finkel recalled that he didn’t know anyone in those early days and had no idea how to run a business. Silicon Valley was a flat, stark and sterile place. He rented a space in a factory and started up Axon Instruments, a one-man operation. A significant person from those early, lonely days in the valley was Eddie the local postman. The two got to talking, sharing their stories. “Then one day,” Finkel says, “he came in and … I was out the back, wearing a white lab coat and working on some electronic equipment.” Finkel showed Eddie what he was doing, explaining that he was making new high-tech instruments to study the human brain. “And Eddie said, 'Oh Alan, the people next door are doing the same thing.’” Finkel says he jumped off his chair and grabbed Eddie by the collar. “'Eddie, Eddie,’ I said, 'I flew all the way from Australia, I’ve invested my life and you’re telling me the people next door are doing exactly the same thing?!’” The neighbours turned out to be assemblers for a company that produced instruments similar to Finkel’s – a partnership was struck up, and 20 years later Finkel sold Axon to an American firm for $190 million. It was a piece of luck, Finkel recalls, and one, I’d add, that required taking the time to chat to the postman.</p> <p>You could argue that Turnbull’s appointment of Finkel as chief scientist, fresh from knifing former leader Tony Abbott, was one of the last truly Turnbullian things he did – which is not as much of a stab as it sounds. The reality is Abbott and his supporters exist, as do the Nationals and One Nation – and people vote for them. Finkel tells me his review made a point of using commodities and technologies in its modelling that were “real” – that is, here and now, while transforming the grid so other advancements can be slotted in without too much fuss. You could say a similar approach needs to be taken with the politicians involved: following the Finkel review, business journalist Alan Kohler wrote in the <em>Australian</em> that both sides of this argument need to give way. “The pro-coal Abbott gang needs to accept a policy that makes coal-fired generation possible but not probable, while the pro-renewables gang need to accept a policy that makes coal possible, not impossible.”</p> <p>Politics is, as is often said, the art of the possible. If both sides accept this, Kohler continued, “then investors will decide what gets built”. But he couldn’t resist the quip: “And it won’t be coal.”</p> <p>And so, with three years to go in his post, Finkel continues to balance between being exact and successful inside Parliament House. Although now “I’ve lost my foil,” Finkel says to me with a wry smile. He’s referring to the recently departed One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts, the coal miner turned self-appointed NASA investigator who was claimed by the dual-citizenship saga. No doubt the Queensland senator envisioned a greater role for himself (in his first speech to parliament, Roberts likened himself to Socrates), but “Finkel’s foil” is an apt description. At a Senate hearing in June 2017, Roberts turned his forensic gaze on the chief scientist. “Isn’t the scientist’s first duty to be sceptical?” he queried, clunkily trying to set a trap.</p> <p>In his usual unflappable manner, Finkel concurred. “I think all the scientists I know have a healthy degree of scepticism. But healthy [he leaned forward] is an important word there; you have to have an open mind [he gestured at his ears] but not so much that your brain leaks out.”</p> <p>There was a fleeting twinkle in Finkel’s eye. It was like seeing a fish swim to the sea’s surface – an inkling of the depths – then skitter away, careful, inscrutable patience returning. Arthur Sinodinos, the minister for industry, innovation and science, had had enough of Roberts’ NASA theories. “That’s a very serious allegation against a group of people who helped propel us to the moon,” he said. “Have you raised this issue with the US administration, with the FBI?”</p> <p>Later in the day, it was Sinodinos again who summed up the mood. “We really are in a very Kafkaesque world,” he muttered on the way to a tea break. “I need a biscuit.” Kafkaesque was a good way to describe the times. Finkel, who used to make up science-fiction stories for his two young sons when they went for walks, may well be not only the sole “technology-neutral” person in the room but also the best placed to find the door for the rest of us.</p> <p>Opening that door, however, is a different beast. For the question remains: as the national energy guarantee is furnished with details – and if the states come on board and Labor chooses to support it – just how long will it have legs inside the Coalition?</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-news-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="position-above">Categories</div> <ul class="au-tags"> <li><a href="/news/interviews" hreflang="en">Interviews</a></li> </ul> </div> Mon, 08 Jan 2018 00:00:00 +0000 Anonymous 1223 at https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au Interview: Australian Financial Review https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2017/12/interview-australian-financial-review <h1 class="au-header-heading">Interview: Australian Financial Review</h1> <span><span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Anonymous (not verified)</span></span> <span>Tue, 2017-12-05 11:00</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Dr Alan Finkel was interviewed by Ben Potter for the Australian Financial Review about artificial intelligence, energy and his role as Chief Scientist.</p> <p>You can read the full article below, published in the Australian Financial Review on 17 November 2017.</p> <p>I have been chatting with Alan Finkel about artificial intelligence for 18 minutes when the Chief Scientist invites me to make a “substantial commitment” to science. I just have to have my head lopped off and my warm brain removed so that it can be cut into invisibly thin slices to be analysed by electron microscopes and fluorescent imaging devices many times more accurate than an MRI.</p> <p>“And from all this information we would reconstruct a three-dimensional chemical, electrical and morphological picture of your brain, and then if we know how we could interpret that as being you,” Finkel says. “And then if that worked you would then exist into the future, the indefinite future, in digital form, but you would have no physical manifestation left because we sacrificed you … And if it didn’t work it would be a sad day in your life.”</p> <p>We are sitting at a window table at Becco, an Italian bistro in Melbourne’s Crossley Lane, and I think I see what he means. For entree Finkel has chosen eggplant parmigiana, and I am chomping on grilled asparagus with crumbed egg. We are drinking water. Finkel is unfailingly proper, and precise but detailed in conversation. He’s an incurable optimist with steel behind the polite persona.</p> <p>Science fiction enthusiasts will instantly know that he is alluding to “the singularity” – a future time when artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning surpass human capabilities in an explosive cycle of accelerating progress, conjuring up fears of machines taking over and relegating humans to the status of pets.</p> <p>Finkel isn’t alarmed – he calls singularity movies and novels dystopian flights of fantasy. Rather, like Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, he says we need “adaptive” and “anticipatory” regulation to cope with AI’s breathtakingly rapid development as software mimics the brain and learns from experience.</p> <p>A few years ago, he wrote in The Incurable Engineer – his column in Cosmos, the science magazine he and his wife Elizabeth founded in 2005 after selling Axon Instruments (the Silicon Valley company Finkel had started in the early 1980s) – that AI had a long way to go to achieve reliable facial recognition or voice recognition. A Lexus he had about six years ago had a voice-activated phone, but got it wrong as often as not – a failing of the technology, not the carmaker.</p> <p>Now he instructs Siri to send himself an email or the voice-activated GPS on his Tesla to take him somewhere, and the performance is vastly improved.</p> <p>“I love it – I get in my car and I press the button, and I say, 'Car, take take me to the underground car park at Parliament House’, the screen transforms itself and I’m on my way’.”</p> <p>But just as we’ve learnt to live with beneficial but dangerous technologies such as motor cars and electricity, Finkel says, we need a set of rules for AI that can work with industry and evolve with the technology.</p> <p>“If we do that and we do it well, we’ll have a growing industry in AI that continues to make our lives more comfortable, that enables us to amplify whatever it is that we do in our home environments, in our work places. And if we don’t, we’ll have AI that is perceived by many to be dreadful, and then you’ll run the potential of a backlash.”</p> <p>Germany’s Bundestag has passed a rule requiring autonomous vehicles to treat all human lives equally and minimise the loss of life when collisions are unavoidable. Agree or not, that’s a rule that will allow autonomous vehicles to advance, Finkel says.</p> <p>Finkel has spent a lot more time in the past year pondering Australia’s energy market than AI. After South Australia’s blackout on September 28 last year, federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg asked him to lead a review of energy security. They gave their 50 recommendations to the government in June, to the acclaim of industry and states, and almost all were accepted.</p> <p>But the heart of the report – the “orderly transition” to a lower-carbon energy system – was rejected by Turnbull government conservatives because it was too “anti-coal”. It included an agreed long-term CO2 emissions trajectory, a “Clean Energy Target” and a reliability obligation for new wind and solar farms. Coal fans queried his credentials and “magic pudding” economics. Now energy policy is hostage to the parliamentary citizenship debacle.</p> <p>How does it feel? Finkel says he is a glutton for punishment and enjoys working hard with capable people to achieve important things. Pressed, he says he is personally “saddened that a good solution has not been rapidly adopted because if it had been we already would have been better placed with respect to pricing and security for electricity”.</p> <p>But he is not frustrated or angry or distressed because it was a “true privilege” to have led the review and turning them into law is the job of government.</p> <p>Pull the other one? “I am frustrated,” he owns – not by the Clean Energy Target’s dismissal, but that the review’s narrative “has not been clearly understood by a large majority of the press, government and broader population”.</p> <p>The review was thorough – it consulted energy market players in many European and US energy jurisdictions.</p> <p>“There’s no doubt that they are all fully cognisant of the fact that the world of energy is being subject to rampant disruptive technological change,” Finkel says.</p> <p>“There is no way to stop that and what’s essential is to get to the future harmoniously with that technological change, which means at the best possible cost, with strong stability and taking advantage of that technological change to lower your carbon emissions.”</p> <p>The review’s report was a model of clarity and concision for such a big topic, but former prime minister Tony Abbott boasted of not having read it.</p> <p>Lower emissions are the end goal, the energy mix is just an input, Finkel says. “I think we have delivered a fully optimised package through the 50 recommendations of the Finkel review.</p> <p>“The recommendation they didn’t adopt is recommendation 3.2 for the orderly transition and that is the strategy for the energy sector so it’s very significant that it was not adopted,” he says. “It had support from the industry but not from the government.”</p> <p>He notes that the Energy Security Board had adopted the same three-legged framework for the alternative, politically palatable National Energy Guarantee (NEG) that Frydenberg asked it to devise – but with different details.</p> <p>“It’s significantly less ambitious than the modest trajectory that we modelled,” Finkel says. And more complicated than the Clean Energy Target, which was modelled on the well known RET.</p> <p>“I would say it’s difficult to imagine anything simpler than the CET as a mechanism,” he says.</p> <p>But he adds that the NEG is workable, and with intensive consultation with the industry can deliver the strategy that we need, and meet any future changes in the emissions target.</p> <p>Finkel the engineer doesn’t understand why anyone would fixate on the shares of wind, solar or coal power in the energy mix rather than the end goal of cutting CO2.</p> <p>“As it happens the easiest, lowest cost way to do that is with wind and solar.”</p> <p>Energy has obscured Finkel’s day job – Chief Scientist – but that may change with the release of Innovation and Science Australia’s 2030 strategic plan. It’s nearly done: “watch this space”, says Finkel. Turnbull’s enthusiasm for innovation had to be tempered during last year’s election because regional Australians saw it as a threat to their jobs.</p> <p>Finkel says the situation is not as dire as painted by some data, and points to the 26 years of continuous economic growth, the technological sophistication of our world-beating iron ore industry, tech successes like Atlassian and growing industry collaboration and startup “accelerators” in universities and CSIRO.</p> <p>But the ASX’s failure to regain pre-global financial crisis highs – the digital tech-powered S&amp;P 500 and the Dow have hit new heights – illustrates the shortfall in what Finkel calls “Silicon Valley tech” businesses, despite pockets of notable success.</p> <p>“It’s not a zero, but it’s not a sector of our economy where you would say we’re kicking goals – and we should be, because it’s a growing sector, and many people say IP [intellectual property] is the new iron ore.”</p> <p>Finkel stumbled on making scientific instruments when he was studying for his doctorate in electrical engineering at Monash University, and the head of the department wouldn’t let PhD students buy electrical kit. He had to build his own instruments for measuring tiny electrical currents in the brain.</p> <p>At the ANU, he did post-doctoral research in neuroscience and found he was better at making instruments than research. He met Elizabeth, followed her to San Francisco where she was doing her own post-doctoral work in molecular genetics and launched Axon. He told investors and managers that if an engineer announced he or she had delivered a project on time and on budget “I’d fire them – because they weren’t ambitious enough”.</p> <p>After selling out of Axon, Finkel became an advocate for science and education, not just by launching Cosmos – “the best science magazine in the universe” – but also by becoming Chancellor of Monash University and chief technology officer for Better Place Australia, the short-lived electric vehicle charging company that was too far ahead of its time.</p> <p>Along the way he acquired a taste for climbing serious mountains – tackling Kilimanjaro in 2003, Mont Blanc with his two sons eight years later, and Mera, a 6476 metre Himalayan peak, in 2014. But he’s now done with that.</p> <p>His next adventure is a ticket for him and his two sons and Cosmos’ founding editor, Wilson da Silva, to space on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic – which has an indeterminate launch date.</p> <p>Why? “Why wouldn’t you want to do it? How exciting to be up there literally looking down on earth and seeing the blue fringe of the atmosphere from above … and floating.”</p> <p>When a headhunter called him in 2015 about the job of chief scientist, he had four names to recommend to her, and his own plans. But she said his was the name on everyone’s lips, so he consulted Elizabeth. “She said, 'Alan you should do it –your country needs you’ … And it’s not often you get that from your wife, so I thought, 'Well, that’s a sign’.”</p> <p>When I lazily venture that theirs must be a great partnership after “50-odd years”, he instantly counters: “No, no, no – it’s not that, it’s 35. If you said that, I’d be in such trouble.”</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-news-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="position-above">Categories</div> <ul class="au-tags"> <li><a href="/news/interviews" hreflang="en">Interviews</a></li> </ul> </div> Tue, 05 Dec 2017 00:00:00 +0000 Anonymous 1230 at https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au Interview: Boss True Leaders 2017 https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2017/11/interview-boss-true-leaders-2017 <h1 class="au-header-heading">Interview: Boss True Leaders 2017</h1> <span><span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Anonymous (not verified)</span></span> <span>Sun, 2017-11-05 11:00</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Dr Alan Finkel was interviewed by Patrick Durkin for the Australian Financial Review’s Boss Magazine, as part of their True Leaders 2017 October issue.</p> <p>You can read the full article below, published in the Boss magazine October 2017, Volume 18.</p> <p>Australia’s Chief Scientist Alan Finkel calls them the Club of Rome. He’s referring to the science and tech elites who he says are out of touch with everyday Australians.</p> <p>Finkel, who is already under fire for this year’s energy report, has unleashed a new controversy by trying to reframe Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s innovation agenda to make it more popular. He has even spruiked the hidden innovation unleashed by smashing avocados, a claim that has science purists up in arms.</p> <p>“What I was talking about is the extraordinary innovation which happens in ordinary aspects of our lives, in this case suburban restaurants. It is building up a gigantic industry but it’s not captured by any of our innovation metrics,” Finkel tells BOSS magazine in a rare in-depth interview.</p> <p>Finkel also marvels about sitting in a Perth control room for a Rio Tinto mining site with operators at giant screens monitoring autonomous 300-tonne trucks and railway lines. The extracting of iron ore is happening with an improved safety record and lower environmental impact.</p> <p>A mine site, he argues, can be as innovative as a semiconductor fabrication plant. The comment triggered indignation from Freelancer.com founder Matt Barrie: “Mines are and always will be wasting assets,” he says.</p> <p>Finkel responds: “While I respect Matt Barrie’s achievements enormously, he is a criticiser, a very vocal critic of our ineffectiveness in what I call SVT, Silicon Valley Technology. But if one just focuses on us not doing as well as Tel Aviv and San Francisco on SVT, you miss the fact that we are doing brilliantly with innovative technologies in mining, banking, agriculture and other areas,” Finkel says.</p> <p>When he became Chief Scientist in 2015, he reckons the science and tech purists expected him to do two things: talk about the dearth of tech businesses and visit new start-ups to make exciting tech announcements.</p> <p>The neuroscientist, engineer, entrepreneur and philanthropist who served as chancellor of Monash University for eight years, took a broader view and was keen to bring other sectors into the picture.</p> <p>“It’s a little bit like parenting. If you have a child who is really good in computational thinking and maths and she is quite poor at creative writing, you don’t berate her for being terrible at creative writing. What you do is work with what she is good at, so she has the confidence.</p> <p>“We seem to focus on what we are bad at. If you do that, you are setting the aspirations of the community really low and if your people don’t aspire, they won’t try and if they don’t try, they won’t achieve.”</p> <p>Monash university vice chancellor, and True Leaders judge, professor Margaret Gardner says Finkel’s leadership shines through in his measured commentary and evidence-based judgments.</p> <p>Finkel has learnt to live with the critics, particularly in the wake of his report into the national electricity market this year with the Turnbull government indicating on Monday it was preparing to walk away from Finkel’s Clean Energy Target – the last of 50 recommendations the government is yet to adopt.</p> <p>BOSS has been talking to Finkel for close to an hour about his controversial CET when he finally seems to drop his guard.</p> <p>“Did you have any idea it would be this hard?” we ask, amid a mind-bending discussion about system capacity, base load power and carbon emissions.</p> <p>“I’ve never had anything so topical that’s for sure,” confesses the man who also wrote last year’s infrastructure roadmap. “I knew it would be difficult, I didn’t think it would be this vitriolic, it’s extremely divisive.</p> <p>“It’s extraordinary, it’s partly because every person in the country uses electricity and therefore considers themselves to be an expert. They all come to quick decisions about what the solutions are to various problems.</p> <p>“Sometimes those decisions are to disparage a particular technology and sometimes it is to promote a particular technology, the answer to your question would require psychological and behavioural analysis but it is because people tend to focus on the trees rather than the forest.”</p> <p>Finkel makes it clear that his energy report is focused on outcomes and, despite advocating for nuclear energy in the past, he is not an advocate for one energy form over another.</p> <p>“The world divides into those who love coal and those who hate coal. I am the only one who sits on the fence, I am focused on the outcomes,” he says.</p> <p>“Most people talk about a target for renewable energy. To me, renewable energy is an input to the system. It’s part of the generation mix. I don’t mind what the balance is between solar, wind, hydro, gas, diesel, brown coal versus black coal as long as we are meeting our atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide reduction that we signed up for. People confuse renewable energy with carbon emission reduction,” he says.</p> <p>Finkel’s approach isn’t surprising given his adherence to what he calls the “engineering way”.</p> <p>He says you can’t build a bridge based on the pursuit of perfection. That would be too expensive. You can’t build a bridge based on compromise. That would result in failure. His view is that to build a bridge you must optimise all of the variables. On energy that means securing future reliability, the lowest possible prices for consumers and lowering emissions.</p> <p>CBA chairman and True Leaders judge Catherine Livingstone and others acknowledge Finkel’s consultative approach. “He makes it clear he wants to know what the views are and then he decides. The consultation side has come through very strongly. In a leader that’s important,” Livingstone says.</p> <p>Finkel believes everything can be fixed and strongly believes in collaboration.</p> <p>“I constantly go into a meeting anticipating what the sensible outcome will be and it’s rare that I walk out of the meeting where that is the outcome because through the process of debate around the table we arrive at a better outcome.”</p> <p>The former Monash University chancellor says his advice to aspiring scientists and entrepreneurs is to always keep the doors of opportunity open.</p> <p>“John Monash is one of my heroes and he had about 24 different jobs. He went from an engineer to a military strategist, coming back and leading the build out of the Victorian State Electricity Commission to becoming a university vice-chancellor.</p> <p>“What I say to young people is do one thing really well. Law, engineering, science, arts, philosophy, do it really well but like any skills, practice makes perfect. When you deep dive, that’s when you practise your skills, you get your self-confidence and go off and do other things.”</p> <p>When he was young, Finkel believed he was destined to become a doctor but found he was more interested in science and engineering. At university, one of his lecturers had a rule they couldn’t buy scientific equipment. So Finkel built his own instruments, which turned out to be better than the commercial versions.</p> <p>One day, a visiting US neuroscientist, Paul Adams, noticed Finkel’s scientific instruments. He asked Finkel the most important question of his life: “Wow, could I buy one of those?” It led to the creation of Axon Instruments, a company that supplied tools for cellular neuroscience and drug discovery, that was bought by a US firm and listed on the ASX.</p> <p>Finkel also founded the science magazine Cosmos, with his wife and science journalist Elizabeth Finkel, and an environment magazine called G: The Green Lifestyle Magazine and contributes towards a number of research institutes.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-news-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="position-above">Categories</div> <ul class="au-tags"> <li><a href="/news/interviews" hreflang="en">Interviews</a></li> </ul> </div> Sun, 05 Nov 2017 00:00:00 +0000 Anonymous 1231 at https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au Interview: ABC Perth, Automation and AI https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/2017/09/interview-abc-perth-automation-and-ai <h1 class="au-header-heading">Interview: ABC Perth, Automation and AI</h1> <span><span lang="" typeof="schema:Person" property="schema:name" datatype="">Anonymous (not verified)</span></span> <span>Tue, 2017-09-05 10:00</span> <div class="field field--name-body field--type-text-with-summary field--label-hidden field__item"><p>Dr Alan Finkel was interviewed by Gillian O’Shaughnessy forABC Perth Afternoons about automation and the changing nature of the workforce.</p> <p>You can read the full transcript below, or download it as a <a href="/sites/default/files/Chief-Scientist-ABC-Perth-automation-interview.pdf">PDF</a>.</p> <p><strong>Gillian O’Shaughnessy</strong><strong>:</strong> Now Alan, the concept machines will replace humans on the jobs front is nothing new, but fear is certainly getting stronger.</p> <p><strong>Alan Finkel: </strong>You’re right Gillian, there’s a lot of concern. You could dismiss it and call it pessimism. But it’s founded on the belief that this time it’s different.</p> <p>We always hear that you could go back to the luddites from two-hundred years ago and their concerns about the steam engine and what it was doing for industrialisation, and of course, as a result of that we created many more jobs than we lost. But the pain was significant at the time.</p> <p>And we’ve had rounds of concern. In the 1930s one of the world’s best economists, <strong>John Maynard Keynes,</strong> wrote on this topic. In the 1960s, the Americans were so concerned about what automation would do to permanently undermine jobs that President Johnson at the time established a special commission. By the time the commission was ready to report three years later, the economy had rebounded, unemployment was approaching an all-time low, and they disbanded without submitting their report. And we see this again and again.</p> <p>Now, if I was a chartist, and looked at the last two hundred years of job growth, and new jobs being generated through innovation to replace the jobs that were lost, I’d say it’s all going to be fine. There is no possibility for problems. The trends have been moving in the right direction.</p> <p>But the non-chartists will say to me, “But Alan, this time it<em> is </em>different.” And the potential differences are fundamental. For example, when you’re talking about digital AI doing things, the cost of reproducing the AI and having multiple copies, or millions of copies, is very, very low. Whereas the cost of making millions of steam engines to do a job was very high.</p> <p>And the rate of changing digital technologies to do existing jobs and evolve into new manifestations is very fast. So, it is different. But that doesn’t mean we should panic. Our priority has to be to ensure that we have jobs going in to the future, but there are many ways that we can address that.</p> <p><strong>Gillian O’Shaughnessy:</strong> Now as a scientist you obviously respect innovation. But at times, humans have the edge over machines in your opinion.</p> <p><strong>Alan Finkel:</strong> Oh absolutely. Look, it doesn’t matter how smart a machine is today, it doesn’t have the benefit of the memories, over forty or fifty years, that make us what we are. And those memories shape the way that we respond to current and future events.</p> <p>Now, you could take a robot and give it false memories but <em>you</em> know, <em>I </em>know, the optimists know, it’s not going to be the same. So, there’s something very special about humans. We speak as humans. We react as humans. We have emotions as humans that no one has been able to begin to duplicate.</p> <p>Although there are ways you can make it seem as if a robot or an AI program has a personality, once you probe it, it’s what you would have to say is beauty that is skin deep.</p> <p>Another big difference is just our uniqueness. Gillian, you are <em>you</em> sitting in that studio. And I am here sitting in Canberra. If I was an artificial intelligence, I could be having a conversation simultaneously with a thousand or a million people. That actually undermines the quality of the experience that you would be having with me, if I was having simultaneous conversations with others. There is something special about you being bound in time and in place. We are humans. We are limited in what we can do.</p> <p>We have a flexibility, an ability to have nuanced approaches to all challenges, whether in personal relationships, in job opportunities, or in political debates. With today’s technology, at best artificial intelligence could pretend to address [these] but they absolutely could not come near doing it properly.</p> <p>We have our society. Our interaction with our society. We have religious beliefs. We have cultural beliefs. We have sporting beliefs. We’re unique! We’re human.</p> <p><strong>Gillian O’Shaughnessy</strong> Dr Alan Finkel, our guest on ABC radio Perth. Australia’s Chief Scientist. And we’re looking at robots vs mankind, really. Now you used an example in the article you wrote about, say if we built a CEO robot of a company could it fulfil a large percentage of the duties carried out by a human CEO? And answer was pretty much yes.</p> <p><strong>Alan Finkel:</strong> It could do the day to day tasks. Most day to day tasks lend themselves to being done by conventional machines, or modern and future machines. But the role of a CEO, the role of anyone in management, in fact the role of virtually everybody, is to deal with the unexpected, to be imaginative, to be innovative in their career.</p> <p>What we’ve seen is that when technologies come in, it doesn’t free up time for you. To the contrary, those productivity tools make you work harder. Gillian, do you work harder now in the presence of email and all the various social media tools that you have than you did in the past, or do you find they’re doing so many things easily for you that you’ve got lots and lots of free time?</p> <p><strong>Gillian O’Shaughnessy:</strong> Well you make a very good point there Alan, because I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder!</p> <p><strong>Alan Finkel: </strong>Exactly! And I find the same. So my personal productivity is enormously amplified by the tools that I’ve got. And it makes me work harder!</p> <p><strong>Gillian O’Shaughnessy:</strong> Now for a CEO that’s one thing. But the man on the street. You know the check-out operator, the truck driver, the bus driver, that sort of thing where we’re already seeing people’s positions taken over by robots. It’s a concern.</p> <p><strong>Alan Finkel: </strong>It is Gillian. It’s a concern but we shouldn’t run from the challenge. Which is what a lot of people do want to do. A few thoughts on that. You describe the number of jobs that will be under threat and it’s true, they will. First of all, I don’t think it will happen as fast as people anticipate. But it will certainly happen. And this is where governments need to step in. Governments need to understand what’s coming at us over the horizon and the fact that we’re having this kind of a discussion. This broad discussion on this topic is important. It’s the first step in developing policy. And Government needs to develop policy responses that embrace retraining and job creation, as well as regulatory responses that set the bounds on what automation, robots and machines can do. So if we say “Oh my gosh! It’s scary. Let’s make digital technology illegal.” then we fail ourselves. If we don’t do anything at all and let everything run rampant then you’re in the situation which would be equivalent to the early days of cars, automobiles or guns.</p> <p>But take automobiles. Automobiles are fundamentally dangerous. And as they became more common, the rate of road deaths and road trauma was increasing massively. But through decades of thoughtful policy development, standards and regulations we have tamed the car and made it our servant. If we’re sensible in our approach going towards the future, we should be able to tame artificial intelligence, robots and automation to make them the servants of human kind. People need to remember that when you’re looking at robots and humans, in my opinion, we humans are the masters. We can turn the robot off.</p> <p><strong>Gillian O’Shaughnessy:</strong> I’m immediately going to open the pod bay door, HAL! I think when there’s a robot or new technology we also see renewed appreciation for humans in a robot-free zone. Or people become more connected to humanity, their own humanity and others.</p> <p><strong>Alan Finkel:</strong> I think that’s true. It’s absolutely impossible to know how people will react going forward. But I would anticipate that if fast food restaurants for example, are totally automated, people would go there to get the cheapest possible food that won’t do them harm. But there will be a growing interest in people going to local cafes, gourmet cafes, which will probably even advertise themselves as being robot free. It will be a human intense zone.</p> <p><strong>Gillian O’Shaughnessy: </strong>Tell us the story Alan, of the robot that was sent to a shopping mall because people wanted to study how it interacted with humans.</p> <p><strong>Alan Finkel: </strong>That was a study that was done in Japan, but it could have been done anywhere. The researchers created a small mobile robot, it was not particularly intelligent. It had a simple rule. It was told to roll around in the courtyard and when it interacted with a human being, it would ask – through a speaker – it would ask the human being to step aside. Which is the opposite of what you’d anticipate that they would have got it to do. So it was asking the human being to step aside to make room for it.</p> <p>And what they found is that when the robot encountered children, the children wouldn’t. And they started teasing the robot. And then a handful of children would get together and they started beating it on the head with bottles, kicking it, holding hands and yelling things at it, and dancing around it. They<em> teased</em> that poor robot and smacked it on the head.</p> <p>Whereas the adults were querulous but stepped aside. What that tells us is that there’s something that we acquire as we grow, from our parents, from our schools that civilises us to have a more embracing approach to things that we don’t understand. It was fascinating. So the rule that they found that helped that robot get around was to avoid human beings who were shorter than 1.4 metres.</p> <p><strong>Gillian O’Shaughnessy:</strong> So generally, in a robot vs human contest, the humans will come out on top. Alan Finkel can I ask you, there’s been growing concern about so called “killer robots” recently among the scientific community and more widely. Elon Musk spoke out about it just this week. What are your thoughts?</p> <p><strong>Alan Finkel: </strong>I share their concern. Any technology that is used as a weapon of war is a concern. Ultimately killer robots collectively are a weapon of mass destruction. So I think it’s extremely important that individual country governments, and collectively governments through the United Nations and other international bodies, treat the control and rules of engagement for these kinds of autonomous killer robots very, very seriously. They’re right up there with chemical weapons, biological weapons, nuclear weapons. We need international agreements to limit the deployment of such devices.</p> <p>You know what it’s like, you can never prevent rogue countries from using any of those weapons of mass destruction that I mentioned. So there will always be counter-balancing obligations on more advanced countries or more stable countries to keep their own stockpiles. But gosh we need rules to limit, as much as we can, the deployment of yet another weapon of mass destruction.</p> <p><strong>Gillian O’Shaughnessy:</strong> So in the end our success in the future will be based on how we place ourselves alongside robot technology.</p> <p><strong>Alan Finkel: </strong>That’s exactly right Gillian. We are obliged not to run from the problem, but stand up and recognise that we, as humans, can be and must be in control of the situation.</p> </div> <div class="field field--name-field-news-categories field--type-entity-reference field--label-above"> <div class="position-above">Categories</div> <ul class="au-tags"> <li><a href="/news/interviews" hreflang="en">Interviews</a></li> </ul> </div> Tue, 05 Sep 2017 00:00:00 +0000 Anonymous 1232 at https://www.chiefscientist.gov.au