A messenger from another planet was spreading the gospel of change in Newcastle two weeks ago.
Her name: Kaila Colbin.
Her message: prepare yourself for great technological change.
Colbin is an ambassador for Singularity University, a Silicon Valley think tank and business incubator that aims to educate people about technology change in society.
Singularity University has planned its first Australian Summit for February 2018 in Sydney, with several speakers covering topics on technology and change.
Colbin, who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, curated the organisation’s first summit in New Zealand.
Among her chief interests is artificial intelligence (AI).
“I’m interested in technological unemployment. What are we doing about jobs, that are being replaced by AI,” Colbin says. "Do we have systems, processes and structures in place to retrain people for new jobs. Are we looking effectively at all the possible policy responses to that, in terms of minimum basic income or affirmative action for humans, or a whole range of possibilities we can be thinking about now.”
Among the topics that come into that discussion: provision of a universal basic income and continuous learning.
Colbin points to the notion of society changing its lifestyle model – “Right now, the first third of our life is education, the second third is work and the third is retirement. We have to move away from that model and towards a model where we take those things and we slice them up into thin slices and we shuffle them together.
“So we do a bit of education and them we deploy that out in the real world, then we do some more education and we deploy that in the real world.
“So instead of you’ve learned to be your thing . . . you are that thing for the rest of your life, it is a model of continuous adaptation for the rest of your life because we don’t know what jobs are going to look like 10 or 15 years from now.”
Colbin was keen to visit Newcastle, even for day, because she had heard much about it from the ReNew Newcastle project created by Marcus Westbury. Colbin is heavily involved in the regeneration of Christchurch.
She called it “one of the most fascinating cities to live in in the world”. And acknowledged it has much in common with Newcastle.
“We have similarities in collective sense – our unique position, our scale, the society that we have, the kind of people we have. We have the opportunity to reimagine the way we want to live together in a new way,” Colbin says. “We have the opportunity to be innovative in a way that larger cities struggle with.”
Colbin addressed several groups in Newcastle in her short stay, encouraging attendance the Singular University Australia Summit, where technology and change will be front and centre on the agenda.