Defence experts discuss ethical AI, while NSW wants to ensure AI in government places customers at the centre

By Shannon Jenkins

Wednesday August 14, 2019

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds and chief defence scientist Professor Tanya Monro Source: @lindareynoldswa

Experts from across the globe have gathered in Canberra to explore the ethics of artificial intelligence in a range of defence contexts, including weapons systems, business management, and decision support tools. 

A collaboration between the Defence Science and Technology Group, Plan Jericho, and the Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence Cooperative Research Centre, the workshop hosted representatives from the Australian Defence Force, Centre for Defence Leadership and Ethics, industry, and universities.

Chief Defence Scientist Professor Tanya Monro — who recently received the 2019 South Australian Award for Excellence in Women’s Leadership — said the workshop aimed to analyse ethical principles for AI and autonomous systems that will inform military leadership.

“This is about developing relevant ethical principles to facilitate communication between software engineers, integrators, and operators during the development and operation of military AI systems,” she said.

“The objective of the workshop was to bring together the best national and international people in the field, work through incredibly complex moral issues, and create a roadmap for ethical AI into the future.”

Air Vice-Marshal Cath Roberts, Head of Air Force Capability, said investing in AI, predictive analytics, natural language processing, and heuristics is key to future success.

“We must be sure that these technologies are trusted, ethical and transparent before we bring them into service,” Roberts said.

“Our focus is on how to ensure appropriate action and moral responsibility for decisions, and continuously evaluating which decisions can be made by machines and which must be made by humans.” 

Read more about lessons from the Ethical AI for Defence workshop in Mandarin Premium.

On the same day as the workshop concluded, Monro was acknowledged at the Leadership Symposium in Adelaide for advancing gender equality in Australia.

Minister for Defence Linda Reynolds said the award recognised Monro as a “role model” for women in STEM, a leading scientist and an organisational leader.

“Defence is fortunate to have an exceptional leader in Professor Monro, who is responsible for delivering science and technology for national security,” Reynolds said.

Monro was appointed Chief Defence Scientist in March. Before this, she “delivered significant organisational transformation and positive cultural change” in her role as Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation and the University of South Australia.

During her time at UniSA, Monro personally funded a scheme designed to help women manage their research commitments and the demands of a new baby by covering a range of expenses.

Monro was a founding sponsor of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) initiative, which aims to increase the number of women in senior roles in Australian universities. 

NSW government to host AI summit

The New South Wales government will host its first AI Thought Leaders Summit in November this year to ensure government agencies place customers at the centre and AI is used to drive better outcomes.

The summit will be hosted by Victor Dominello, the NSW minister for customer service, and will bring together key stakeholders to collaborate on how to use AI for society’s benefit. It will focus on the state’s AI ecosystem and will identify next steps to shape the future direction of AI use in NSW, including testing the NSW AI ethics framework and AI strategy that are currently in development.

The summit will include community leaders, academia, industry, government and scientific representatives. They will bring their insights to the full day event to ideate and develop future policy ideas, and next steps to make these ideas a reality. The Department of Customer Service will review the ideas which come from the summit.

The summit will be held on Friday 29 November 2019 at Parliament House. More information, including key themes, will be made available on this page in the coming weeks. If you would like to be notified of any updates, please indicate your interest by emailing to [email protected]

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