GEN A at Future Shapers Forum 2017

Plan | Create | Inspire

Our GEN A members were among those selected to participate in a new initiative by ANU to connect the next generation of Australia’s leaders from Government, business, research, advocacy, social enterprise and the media. Modelled after the Crawford Forum, Future Shapers 2017 comprised of a series of unique, tailored activities that exposed participants to leading thinkers from across the country and around the world. 

Read a recap of the two and half day summit below. 

George Blades, Senior Associate, Allens 

"On 20 to 22 June I attended the Future Shapers Forum, an initiative of the Sir Roland Wilson Foundation and supported by the Crawford Australian Leadership Forum in Canberra.

The Forum aimed to connect the 'next generation of Australia’s leaders from government, business, research, advocacy, social enterprise and the media'. I was invited to attend as a member of the Asia Society's GEN A program, with support from Allens.

Over the 2.5-day program, we participated in a series of discussions, skills workshops and intimate dinners with experienced and emerging leaders. A personal highlight was the 'Megatrends' session on 'What will shape the future?' The panellists, Parag Khana (international relations expert and writer), Kristin Alford (director of Museum of Discovery, MOD.) and Jeremy Howard (AI researcher in San Francisco) presented a picture of the future in which two key themes emerged:

- First, the degree to which 'deep learning' (a cutting-edge form of AI) will impact society. Deep learning was predicted to have 'more societal impact than climate change', and the legal industry was singled out as a target for dramatic disruption. In the expectation of deeper and broader uses of technology, Jeremy raised the idea of a 'Chief Philosophical Officer' within large corporates – a role to oversee ethical decisions being made in the conduct of business (eg what limitations users can place on their Facebook newsfeeds). It struck me that lawyers, who generally sit outside the profit centres of the business, may be particularly suited to this kind of role. Perhaps if AI takes our pattern-recognition jobs, we still have hope in bridging the divide between 'correct' and 'right'.

- Second, the 'Asian-isation' of the Asian continent. Drawing on China's 'One Belt One Road' trillion dollar infrastructure project (and others), it was predicted that trade will bring together the sub-regions of Asia, and provide Asia with intensified external influence (eg Asia's influence in Africa is already greater than that of the US). Parag predicted that the super Asia, already home to more people than everywhere else combined, will be a 'defining feature' of the next 10 years of our lives. It has already been said that Australia's proximity to and already strong trade relationships with Asia put us in a strong position to profit. Thinking at the micro-level, it makes sense to be keeping close to your contacts across Asia, including at engineering firms, law firms and Linklaters more generally."



GEN A members L-R; George Blades (Allens), Fiona Lawrie (Wesfarmers), Lizzie Castles (ABC), Honor Mclennan (Austrade)

Future Shapers is an initiative of the Sir Roland Wilson Foundation, Australian National University and is supported by the Crawford Australian Leadership Forum, Australian National University.