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What Keeps Me Up At Night: Soul Machines' Elinor Swery

Dr. Elinor Swery gets excited about using technology to make the world a better place. With a background in Mechanical Engineering, she now works at Soul Machines as a solutions architect, working with international companies to deliver Artificial Humans and humanise the way in which we interact with technology. She has worked in various industries, from utilities and automotive to banking and telecommunication all the while focusing on improving process and user experiences through the enablement and adoption of AI technologies. Here's what keeps her up at night. 

What worries you the most about technology?
 
That we won’t have enough people with the right skills to really make the most of all the advancements. I see it in my industry already. It is so difficult to find people with the skills and experiences that we are looking for and in a way that’s holding us back from progress.
 
What’s your scariest prediction for the future?
 
That we could lose in-person interactions all together. Technology has been able to bring us closer together, but it also means that we don’t think long about moving overseas away from our friends and family.
 
What’s your most encouraging prediction for the future?
 
I hope that in a number of years we will get to a stage that knowledge will be completely democratised. We have already made great leaps in that direction. You no longer need to be privileged to go to university in order to gain a certain skill; provided that you have an internet connection you can learn anything you want.
 
What do you think New Zealand will look like as a country in 2038?
 
No one will own a car, autonomous vehicles will take us anywhere we need to. I also think that more and more people will move out of the big urban centres and work remotely from rural locations. No traffic nor housing shortage – rather positive I think!
 
What’s your social media usage like?

I am fairly active on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. I really do enjoy using these tools to stay up to date with what is happening around the world and also keep in touch with my friends and family.
 
Do you try limit how much personal information is available about you online?
 
Not really. When I was around 20, I made an active decision the person that I am on social media would be a reflection of who I am in real life. I remember that a lot of people were worried at that stage that a ‘potential employer’ would judge them based on their profile and this could jeopardise their future. I am proud of who I am both off and online and don’t have much to hide. I also love it when I get suggestion/ads for things that are relevant to me. If by sharing more information about me my life improves my day to day, then I am all for it!
 
What will be dead in the next five years? (Products, companies, trends, etc)
 
Flash memory sticks, listening to music on the radio and watching traditional TV.
 
What do you hope will be invented in the next five years?
 
A robot that will be able to clean the entire house: kitchen, bathroom, windows, everything. A robot vacuum cleaner is just not enough.
 
Will the robots become sentient and kill us all?
 
I wouldn’t be in the business of creating Artificial Humans if I thought this was true!
 
How likely is it that we’re living in a simulation?
 
I have always dabbled with that thought. If we are, then there are some impressive computing capabilities working behind the scenes!
 
How far should we take human enhancement? (Bionic limbs, computer chips in brains, designer babies)
 
In a way, we have always played a part in selecting features for our offspring. When we choose a partner, we subconsciously look for qualities that we want to see in our children. I am not sure where to draw the line in terms of artificial enhancements. Ultimately, the most important consideration would be to assess whether it improves our lives (without jeopardising other people’s lives).
 
If you are not counting sheep, what are you counting?
 
Don’t worry. I don’t have problems falling asleep.
 
What is it about the future that gets you up in the next morning?
 
The prospect of making lives even better by tackling some of the biggest challenges.
 

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