Real World Futures

Disruptive Influences - And What To Do With Them

Date: 19 October 2017

QUT’S Room Three Sixty was at standing room only on October 17 when more than 200 innovators and disruptors came together for the Real World Futures conference, Disruptive Influences -  And What To Do With Them.

It was the biggest conference yet in the Real World Futures calendar which has been running since 2015.

The program was designed to give conference participants a view through a variety of windows into the world of digital disruption. We have posted the speakers’ slides on our website, pictures from the day will be posted on Flickr and full videos will be in place by November 1.

The day covered financial services, retailing, social media, health, gaming, learning, robotics, politics and, most importantly, how to be proactive.

The tone was set by the head of Suncorp CEO Customer Marketplace, Ms Pip Marlow, who outlined why an innovation system was important for any business wanting to thrive digitally. And she was followed by the former managing director of Facebook Australia, Mr Stephen Scheeler, who outlined the questions not enough corporations were asking to prepare themselves for disruption.

They included one specific question which had notebooks and pens out in a hurry: How many people in your organisation are working on what to do with voice-activated artificial intelligence? This mattered, he said, because of the rising power of voice as a search tool and AI to power digital activity.

The policy head of Telstra Health, Dr Phuong Pham, talked about how healthcare was going to become more personalised as specialists and GPs developed systems that allowed them better access to medical records. But he discounted the possibility of a “killer app” changing the health system. 

The room was lit up by the surprise power of eSports, a phenomenon which is taking audiences and sponsorship dollars away from traditional sporting events. The major player in Australia is a former QUT student, Mr Nick Vanzetti, who explained what his business was doing. And he was supported by the founders of QUT eSports, Mike Trotter and Dylan Poulus, who also ran and eSports expo on Tuesday afternoon in the university’s showpiece display space, The Cube.

After lunch, the QUT Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Learning and Teaching), Professor Suzi Derbyshire, described the challenges of educating the current generation for the challenges they would face in the workforce by the mid-century. She emphasised the value of continual and different ways of learning and then handed our a learning exercise which required the whole room to crochet with only the help of the resources they could muster (mainly YouTube videos).

The robotics session broke into two parts: QUT’s Distinguished Professor Peter Corke challenged the notion that an overwhelming proportion of the workforce faced job loss due to automation. He drew on new data which suggested the proportion of the population working in declining occupations was 20%, not the level of 47% that had previously believed.

Then his robotic colleague Professor Ron Arkin dealt with the ethical challenges as robots became more part of our lives including, in some cases, with high levels of intimacy. This was a provocative subject, intended to shake thinking on what sort of future unharnessed technology can create.

The final session was the leading Australian political author and commentator, Paul Kelly, on disruption in democracy. His view: the system is broken and is barely reparable. But, in a note of hope in conversation, he agreed on the possibility that the same technology disrupting politics could also empower new voices and restore faith.

The closing note was offered (actually sung) by the PwC Chair in Digital Economy, Professor Marek Kowalkiewicz, who explained the concept of a proactive organisation that could look for opportunities in a disrupted landscape.

David Fagan, QUT October 2017

Content sourced from QUT News Web Service.

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