Fast Five with Mary-Anne Williams

Professor Mary-Anne Williams is the Michael J Crouch Chair for Innovation at UNSW where she collaborates to grow entrepreneurship and accelerate innovative thinking throughout Australia. Mary-Anne is passionate about exploring and using AI to make a difference in people’s lives, change what is possible, and reshape how society works! As an expert in the field, we put these Fast Five questions to Mary-Anne about her passion for AI.

Why is AI important in your career?

AI can make you superhuman – able to do the seemingly impossible. Whatever role you have in your career AI skills will help you uncover hidden patterns in data, discover invisible insights, enhance your productivity, build your confidence, and embolden you to be more ambitious in the objectives you can achieve. I design new human-AI interactions to improve human decision-making and human behaviour.


What aspect of AI are you most interested in or passionate about?  

I use AI to make life fairer and more fun. AI has uncovered deep bias in society that creates barriers for vulnerable people and widespread inequality across society. AI is a powerful tool for discovery, and it allows me to explore how the human mind works and to design innovation for better healthcare, educational experiences, financial outcomes and robot capabilities.


In your daily life, what are the positive impacts of AI that you see playing out in our society?

AI is being used to solve big challenges that humanity is facing like climate change, drug discovery, food security, and healthcare. AI is transforming industries with smart agriculture, predictive medical diagnosis, and safe driverless vehicles. AI is also being used to transform people’s lives by nudging them to exercise more, adopt better nutritional habits, and become better at saving money. AI can help us find smarter ways to make business, government and society more sustainable and beneficial.


Why do you think it is important to empower young Australians with access to AI education?  

It is fun to use AI to solve problems because you can make a difference in people’s lives, change what is possible, and reshape how society works. Our human environment is becoming increasingly digital. People are overwhelmed by lots of data and are unable to make good decisions without tools like AI. The ability to use AI tools is necessary if you want to design, create, explore, and exploit digital opportunities to build and shape the future.

What advice would you give young Australians who want to learn more about and eventually work in AI?  

If you want to change the world, it’s much easier if you are a superhuman. You can already travel at the speed of light with zoom, and if you can learn to summon AI you can make a big difference, change people’s lives, and make business, government and society serve everyone, not just a privileged few. AI tools are not hard to use. They are just like a fancy calculator that converts data into predictions, recommendations, and decisions. Amazon, Netflix, Uber and Airbnb use data and AI tools to help you find gifts, movies, drivers, and places to stay. Imagine trying to do any job today without being able to use a calculator to instantly, accurately and reliably multiply numbers. In the future, we will all need to be able to use AI tools to convert data into predictions, recommendations, and decisions. So do not delay, get started today! And find a way to make learning AI fun. If you enjoy developing AI skills, you will try harder to master them and reap the rewards.

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