Michael Milford is a professor at the Queensland University of Technology, as well as Australian Research Council Future Fellow, and Microsoft Research Faculty Fellow. He is the Deputy Director of QUT Centre for Robotics, as well as Associate Investigator at the QUT Centre for the Digital Economy. He is also a fantastic keynote speaker and a lifelong educational entrepreneur. Here’s what he told us in about himself.
What is your research focus?
My ultimate research focus is to understand intelligence, both natural and artificial. To do so, my research group focuses on spatial intelligence. Everything that moves – humans, animals, robots, drones, autonomous vehicles -critically relies on this understanding of space and an ability to navigate it. It’s also one of the most tangible and observable (both behaviourally and neurally) aspects of intelligence and hence offers a wonderful gateway into understanding intelligence.
What excites you most about the digital economy?
We’ve learnt through long experience that working with hardware – mechanical robots, batteries, physical systems – is hard. Steady progress will continue to be made there but the biggest opportunity for paradigm shifts is in the digital domain, and it will be driven by the interplay of economics, societal factors and digitally-deployed technologies like artificial intelligence.
Are you an optimist or pessimist about the future?
I’m a cynical optimist who tries to balance consideration of the smaller, more immediate issues with the more risky but completely transformative ones. Artificial intelligence and robotics are a great example of this – we need to work on making sure these technologies have a more immediate beneficial impact (where especially given the major challenges today whilst retaining enough, non-hyped, attention on the long term, big picture potential like artificial general intelligence.
Finish this sentence: In 2050, there will be a completely perplexing (from our current standpoint) combination of highly advanced technologies that are well integrated into and (hopefully mostly) benefiting society and things that are little changed from 2020.