It is easy to imagine teaching people how to begin a new career when the field they will be entering is already established. But when it is so new that many sectors of the market don’t even understand it themselves, what do you do?
It’s a question research fellow Dr Amy McLennan from ANU’s 3A Institute has likely thought a lot about. She runs a new masters program in the field of artificial intelligence.
“Many people think of the future as a thing that’s ‘out there’. We think of it [in terms of] ‘everything we do today is building the future’. We can’t necessarily predict it but we can create it … how do we imagine the future, talk about it and build for it?” she says.
For Dr McLennan, this isn’t a conversation that should only involve the technically minded.
“The more we can include different perspectives, the better we can talk about and imagine what we might want in the future before we build it,” Dr McLennan says.
It is a philosophy that was integral to the design of a new master’s program studying artificial intelligence. Titled Master of Applied Cybernetics, the course appeals to Australians keen to work in the emerging field.
“There has been huge interest. There is recognition that there is a gap and that building a new applied science to think about building a future we all want to live in, or managing AI safely to scale, is important,” says Dr McLennan.
Course convenors took a new approach to choosing their first cohort, selecting them for their combined merits rather than as a group of individuals.
“The sixteen students were selected for diversity as a group,” she says.
The result meant that in year one, the student body included a diplomat, an intellectual property rights public servant, a high school maths teacher, a systems engineer, an economist and a theatre stage manager and a social worker: “Many of these are areas we don’t traditionally understand as being computer science fields,” Dr McLennan says.
While the approach led to some interesting recruitment challenges, Dr McLennan says it’s smart thinking.
“As far as we know we are the first in the world to think about recruiting for a master’s program like that. But the world around us will be connected by systems, so we need a lot of people in that conversation,” she says.
Regardless of how different industries begin to utilise the power of AI, Dr McLennan believes those studying it will benefit from changing their approach from problem-solving to question asking.
“Solving problems will certainly achieve some outcomes. [But] it will keep you focused on identifying problems rather than imagining what future you want to build. We find if you can build the skill of asking good questions, that takes you a long way to understanding technological systems,” Dr McLennan says.
Study: 3Ai Master of Applied Cybernetics, taught at the Australian National University
Skills: At the moment there’s no one straight line to get into a job in AI, but Dr McLennan says the fact that it will soon be in almost every field means sticking to your passion can pay. “Find your happy place and explore it,” she says.
Tips: Those who succeed in the field of artificial intelligence will be comfortable thinking differently. Look outside your own areas of knowledge for inspiration.
Source: Thanks smh.com