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National jobs summit a chance for Australia to hit reset on artificial intelligence, say business leaders

Earlier this week an artificial intelligence-powered rapper was dropped from its label (yes, it had a label) after its algorithm learned to use racial slurs in its lyrics.

More usefully, a recent AI trial at Queensland’s Princess Alexandra Hospital was able to give early warnings as much as eight hours before a patient’s condition was predicted to decline.

Artificial technology is about to send a “tidal wave” of disruption through the way we work, according to a once-in-a-decade forecast by CSIRO, the national science agency.

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

AI technology is forecast to replace as much as half of the work that is done today by 2030.

According to the head of CSIRO’s Data 61 Institute, Jon Whittle, you are likely already interacting with artificial intelligence all the time — you just may not realise it.

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

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

Creative and emotional work just as exposed to automation

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

The authors said by 2030 as many as 5 million Australians may need to change their occupation because of automation, with WA’s East Pilbara, Penrith in western Sydney, Mackay in Queensland, West Coast in Tasmania and Port Pirie north of Adelaide among the most exposed local government areas.

Even work that was widely thought to be immune to automation, particularly creative and emotional industries, is quickly proving to be just as exposed.

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