Dr Catriona Wallace On The Importance Of Embracing AI and Digital Change

By Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
on 21 July 2022

Sydney-based Dr Catriona Wallace has earned her stripes as a global expert leading the way in artificial intelligence (AI). She is executive director of the Gradient Institute (Responsible AI) and adjunct professor at the Australian Graduate School of Management.

She is the CEO of Ethical AI Advisory, the Chair of Venture Capital fund Boab AI and she was the Founder of Flamingo AI, one of the first Artificial Intelligence companies to list on the Australian Securities Exchange, with headquarters in New York and Sydney. And she’s about to release her book Checkmate Humanity: the how and why of Responsible AI.

For us at Women Love Tech, she speaks our language. She has a passion for encouraging women to pursue careers in STEM and leadership, and she has deep insights in the fields of gender equality, diversity and inclusion.

In a recent partnership with ServiceNow, the digital workflow company, Dr Wallace produced the report Australia’s Digital Gold Rush: the technology trends and cultural shifts set to influence work and life in the next 10 years. The key trends (see below) outline the importance of embracing AI and how it will increasingly interconnect with nearly everything we do.

Here, we talk to Dr Wallace about her Digital Gold research around AI and workplace trends set to transform our every day lives from how we work to how we sleep, ethical AI, human-machine teams, digital identity and how diverse perspectives will transform the next decade.

By 2030, she predicts AI-powered ‘robot’ colleagues will be a key part of business teams, helping to combat skills shortages, as we undergo significant post-pandemic digital transformation.

Dr Wallace also strongly encourages women to consider a career in tech, particularly in AI.

“We actually need women at the table,” she says. “We need them at the table designing this technology. We need them at the table assessing the data sets, making sure women are properly represented. We need them monitoring the outcomes, the harms and unintended consequences of AI to make sure women are not hurt or discriminated against. It’s a big call to action for women to join the tech community because one it’s an awesome career and it’s super cool, but we need you.”

She also announced how her future plan is to concentrate on the metaverse, or virtual worlds. This week, she launched The Responsible Metaverse Alliance (RMA) together with the Australian Human Rights Commissioner Lorraine Finlay, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, NSW Minister for Customer Service and Digital Government Victor Dominello and other international commentators of the metarverse. RMA’s remit is to support ‘the development of the metaverse, so that they are handled responsibly from a perspective of design, deployment, safety, culture, inclusion, operations and function’.

Dr Wallace firmly believes the RMA’s objective to build a framework to govern the currently unregulated world of the metaverse going forward is an achievable goal.

“I am very hopeful,” she says. “I will still play in the Responsible AI field. In fact, I’ve got a book being launched on August 16 called Checkmate Humanity: the how and why of Responsible AI and with my co-authors – two other professors of the University of NSW – we are already looking at Checkmate Humanity: the how and why of the Metaverse as the next book. So I will certainly be dedicating 150 per cent of my time in Australia and internationally to the Responsible Metaverse Alliance, and we do encourage people to come along and join us.

“We’ve launched the website today https://responsiblemetaverse.org/. This is something we (Australia) can take the lead on, and build a responsible and safe place, but we will be up against the tech giants to do that.”

Dr Catriona Wallace’s Key findings in Australia’s Digital Gold Rush Report

The report, which included insights from meta-analysis, primary research, and interviews with business executives, highlights 2022 as a turning point for digital investments, with corporate spending on technology increasing by 65% compared to 20201, and advances in AI making it cheaper and more widely used. At the same time, the pandemic has changed how people think about and engage with technology, providing the catalyst to transform the nation’s relationship with all things digital.

The report reveals four societal trends, including the emergence of ‘machine-mates’ (human-AI teams), the rise of hyper-personalisation for both employees and consumers, the ethical considerations that will drive AI-adoption, and the notion of issues diversity, where businesses will be more active in managing employee disagreement on some of the nation’s most divisive issues.

  1. The emergence of ‘machine mates’ (human-AI teams)

AI will move from tools to teammates, with widespread virtual assistants’ helping people complete every-day tasks and work. Digital employees will be considered intelligent, valuable co-workers, and by 2025, machines will spend more time completing work than humans.

  1. Be yourself, know me & my digital identity: the rise of hyper-personalisation for both employees & customers

The worker of 2030 will prioritise self-care, take ‘me time’ more frequently & have a side hustle that they openly discuss with their employer. Bosses will be expected to know their staff better, appreciate them more and help them find balance – and they’ll use AI to do it.

  1. Ethical considerations will drive AI-adoption

AI ethics will move from an academic discussion to business strategy. Employees and customers will choose to work with brands that demonstrate, not just talk about ethics, accessibility and fairness.

  1. Issues diversity will redefine team success

Employers will embrace a “divided we stand, united we work” mentality. “Agree to disagree” will become the norm for societal issues like vaccinations, climate change, pandemics and technology. Managers will need to focus on finding value in divergent perspectives.

Dr Catriona Wallace said each of the trends would be underpinned and enabled by the rapid development of AI: “Over the next decade, AI will become even more wide-spread in life and work; in fact, we will interact with it hundreds of times a day, including when we’re sleeping.”

ServiceNow Chief Innovation Officer Dave Wright said embedding AI strategies within the workplace would be a priority for executives over the next 10 years: “How organisations plan and respond to this digital gold rush will make or break their future success. With just 16% of executives saying they have a clearly defined strategy for digital, and when the benefits from technology investments are increasing, the opportunity is clear.”

The full report can be accessed here: The Digital Gold Rush in Australia


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