Life, but not as we know it

By Ketan JoshiAugust 9th, 2018

Consistency is key. There’s comfort to be found in routine, and the predictability of daily life is an important part of what defines us as individuals, as a society and as a country. We commute using cars, trains, buses and trams, we work in a diverse variety of jobs and we rest in a similarly diverse range of homes. Transport, work and domesticity are all set to see some significant shifts over the coming decades though these changes won’t happen so fast that our routines are upset.

Data61’s work in machine learning and artificial intelligence is deeply ingrained in the trajectory of these shifts, which will be driven by the growth of industries in these areas. The act of handing over tasks to quasi-intelligent machines will impact these three facets of daily life – transport, work and the home Once we’ve grown accustomed to these changes, the things we’re used to today will seem weirdly quaint.

The jobs of the future will leverage data. We are seeing value move from physical assets to digital and data based assets, and the combination of these. As every business and sector becomes more data-driven it means we need to focus on skills around understanding, managing and gaining insights around data. On top of this, the population will be slightly older, individuals might have a portfolio of jobs rather than a single full-time job, and the skill of creating your own job might be just as important as the skill of creating your own career. Data61’s ‘Tomorrow’s Digitally Enabled Workforce’ report digs further into these scenarios, highlighting the fact that “We will reach the steeper sections of the exponential growth curves some time beyond 2020”.

Even the simple act of travelling from where you sleep to where you work will be significantly impacted by AI and automation. Autonomous vehicles simply replace human control of the vehicle with a collection of external sensors and on-board algorithms designed to control the vehicle. This raises the possibility of the car becoming a place for work, rest and recreation. There’s still some way to go – Data61’s Queensland Centre for Advanced Technologies (QCAT) is working on the control systems that will be needed to ensure the computer systems on an autonomous vehicle can operate in unpredictable environments. Another traditional component of commuting is congestion – if a city’s fleet of vehicles is fully autonomous and reliably connected, advanced data analysis can be used to optimise flow and reduce congestion. The Advanced Data Analytics in Transport (ADAIT ) team at Data61, who recently showcased their work at the International Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress in Montreal, have worked on the analysis of traffic flows, using machine learning to predict the flow of impact during incidents in traffic. These real-time analytical tools will be vital when you’re sitting in the back of a car on your way into the office.

Once you’ve arrived back at your home in this near-future hypothetical, the influence of machine learning and artificial intelligence doesn’t stop. You might end up having a relaxed, genial conversation with someone in your home – asking them to do you favours like turning the oven on, setting the temperature and playing your favourite show on your VR headset. This conversation might be with an AI chatbot – an interface that will require a software system that intuitively learns from previous experiences to inform future responses. Machine learning – a subset of artificial intelligence that uses pattern recognition and iterative processes to help machines adapt and adjust to changing variables – will drive many of the interfaces that comprise the link between you and the machines your home. You’ll have a direct, detailed insight into the nuances of the operation of your own biology – advanced sensors and software that learns how you work will play a role in the maintenance of your health. Data61’s work on preventative monitoring of health data is a great illustration of how sensors will change personal healthcare in the home.

Megatrends are deep-set trajectories of change that occur at the intersection of numerous trends. They’re slow-moving, towering glaciers – gradual but significant. It’s within the segments of daily life the commute, work and at home that we’ll see the manifestation of much of the raw, novel work that’s being done around artificial intelligence and machine learning right now. Data61’s work is helping to boost the creation of new industries, new jobs and new thinking around the massive, deeply consequential changes that will penetrate work, transport and recreation.