Sinodinos on machine learning

James Riley
Editorial Director

Australians must to embrace digital disruption and automation rather than be scared into inaction over potential job losses, Industry minister Arthur Sinodinos says.

Speaking at the opening of the International Conference on Machine Learning in Sydney at the weekend, Senator Sinodinos said the rise of machine learning will bring new opportunities, as well as its challenges.

“This is the fourth industrial revolution, and the past three have shown us that disruptive change does not result in persistent unemployment. It is not a threat, it’s an opportunity to increase employment and living standards,” he said.

Arthur Sinodinos: The challenges that lay ahead are littered with opportunity

“In the midst of this unpredictability, we have a real opportunity to create our own future. To do so we must have an open dialogue so we can realise the full potential of machine learning and the benefits it can bring us.”

While reports have shown that up to 40 per cent of Australian jobs are at risk from automation in the next decade, Senator Sinodinos said these studies tended to ignore the jobs created by new technology.

“Machine learning not only offers benefits, but also raises concerns, such as the impact on jobs. And its impact will be profound,” he said.

“But these are not new problems. Every government in every era is confronted by changing market forces and economic structures. What those headlines don’t discuss are the jobs and opportunities that will be created.”

The government’s role during this time is to assist with maintaining jobs during this interim period.

“The essential role of government is to respond to structural change with targeted assistance when jobs are at risk, and it’s equally essential that we as a government embrace automation and machine learning so that our industry and researchers can be at the forefront of change and create the jobs of the future.”

Senator Sinodinos’ speech echoes the stance of the Opposition on automation and possible job losses.

Shadow infrastructure spokesman Anthony Albanese recently told a Transport Workers Union national council meeting, that government had a role in assisting those whose jobs would be impacted by automation and machine learning.

“Change can improve our lives. It can free us of certain kinds of labour. It can make life easier in a number of ways,” Mr Albanese said.

“But change is a bit like the free market. If you leave it to its own devices, people can get hurt. That is where the state needs to come in.”

“We need to accept that we can’t stop change. But we need to manage change so that it serves people, rather than victimising them, particularly working people.”

In his speech, Senator Sinodinos also compared the rise of big data to Australia’s famed mining boom.

“Incredible advances in science and technology have put us at the start of another boom with a very different commodity – data. Today, the effect of Moore’s Law over the past decades gives us the potential to store and analyse all of this data at an unprecedented pace.”

He said machine learning also has the potential to improve government processes internally.

“As a government we recognise that it’s also transforming policy-making and service delivery. It’s placing evidence and empiricism where it belongs, at the forefront of a policy-making process.”

“It provides real opportunity for all Australians because it can improve important aspects of our everyday life, from energy to education and medicine to mining,” Senator Sinodinos said.

“The Australian government is leading by example, investing in science and technology to support machine learning. We’re championing the next wave of technology in Australia and we’re heavily focused on building our cyber capabilities.”

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