What are the three current technology trends that will have the greatest impact on our future?

“AI, AI and AI.”

That’s according to the former CEO of Cognea and AI expert, Liesl Yearsley.

“What we are going to see in the next five to ten years is a big shift in the way people make choices about what they do in their lives,” she said.

“I believe we’re going to see a big emergence in personal AI…the news about Amazon Alexa coming is just the beginning.”

Yearsley joined an expert panel to discuss the emergence of new technologies and how they will shape our lives, as part of the Reimagination Thought Leaders’ Summit at the Star on Thursday.

In 2014, Yearsley sold her AI start-up Cognea to IBM for an undisclosed sum. Following the acquisition, she was appointed as Leader of IBM’s AI project, Watson Life, a position she held for 18 months.

“We were doing 60 million interactions at the time we were acquired, and I saw this shift that people were making where they were treating sophisticated AI more and more like a real significant other in their lives.

“They were telling them everything and expecting them to handle tasks.”

Joining Yearsley on the panel was Managing Director at carsales.com, Ajay Bhatia.

“AI has probably had a lot of hype in the past,” he said. “There was hype that it would take over the world and then it died, then it came up again, then it died.”

“But I think it’s very different this time.

“The advances in computing power and the amount of data that is coming through, those two things combined offers a unique opportunity for AI to survive.”

Building the capability

As Chairman of the Board at CSIRO, and a former CEO of Telstra, David Thodey knows exactly what current technology is capable of.

What he isn’t sure of is whether we are ready to use it.

“I think we really need to look at the skillset we’ll need in the future to be able to apply technology to big, audacious problems.”

For Thodey, education is not simply building technical capabilities, rather it is making sure professionals understand how they can use their skills to enact change.

“I think that the skillsets are very different. Yes, you need some good analytical skills and you do need to have digital familiarity, but it’s the integration of technology into solving problems.

“I’m not sure everybody does need to learn coding. But they do need understand the principals of computation and the impact of technology.

“If I’m a geneticist, I don’t need to be an expert in AI, but I need to know what the possibility is of applying AI to that particular issue and that’s why we have specialists in AI, like Liesl.”