In this episode participants of the virtual excursion will form an idea about what makes the Willandra Lakes area, including Lake Mungo, so distictive. They will see how the lakes environment has been shaped and the natural changes that have occurred over many hundreds of years. Students will see visuals to match geographic terminology.

Landscape formation (2:03)

Episode 5 – Landscape formation


Hi, there. My name is Dr. Catherine Ball. I am an associate professor in the practise of engineering at the Australian National University. But a lot of people know me as The Scientific Futurist, but what does a futurist actually do? Well, it's probably not as science fiction as it sounds. What we like to do is find technology and social implications of things and extrapolate them or try and model them.

And one of the areas I see for Australia is a particular need in terms of skillsets and training and also a burgeoning set of opportunities is in the surveying and the geospatial and the geography landscapes.

So there's three things I'm going to talk to you about today. Have a few minutes on each of them. It might be a bit tight, so if there's any content here that you would like to know more about, please do reach out through my website or through LinkedIn, or through the team at SISP, and I'll see if I can find you some more resources because there are a lot out there.

So the first thing we'll be talking about is the Moon. Then, we'll be talking about Mars. Then, we'll be talking about the metaverse. And you might sort of be thinking, "Well, what on earth has that got to do with spatial and surveying careers?" And the answer is actually everything in terms of the way spatial data is either collected, collated, analysed, or used is now so convergent that you could probably flip between working on a Mars base and a Moon base and working on planning in Sydney really quite easily because the skillsets, and the datasets, and the understanding that you need to plan and build are pretty much the same. You're just working in different, literally different environments when you are making those planning and observations.

So, one of the things about the Moon is especially pertinent to talking with teachers now is that you are holding the brains of Gen Alpha in your hands, particularly if you're working in later primary and also through secondary schools. And so Gen Alpha, who are probably between that age of about seven to 15 at the moment, in about eight years time, will all be fully fledged graduates of either TAFE or university or some kind of industry training programme. And they'll be out in the world, maybe even starting to manage teams and work on some pretty interesting projects.

And one of the best things, in fact there's a couple of really cool things we've got going on in Australia for students that might be interested, is you don't have to be a grade A across maths, physics, and science subjects in order to be involved in surveying and spatial. There are obviously, grade attainments, but you don't have to be that sort of level of deep computer science in quantum, and machine learning, and AI, and that kind of thing to actually have a really interesting fulfilling and while paying career in terms of surveying and spatial not only in Australia, but also globally. And if you think we've got a skill shortage here in Australia, you could probably map that out across pretty much any country in the world.

So, in terms of social mobility and also global mobility, these kinds of careers are really coming online, and people are waiting to fill these. We can't actually get enough people into Australia fast enough to fill some of the gaps in some of these.

Some of our graduate entries, they don't even need to go to higher education or further education. These are graduate entry-level jobs from school. So those of you that are working with a slightly older end of Generation Alpha, you are actually also dealing with Generation Artemis. And so why is this of interest?

This is this idea of getting humans back on the Moon. As of tomorrow... I'm filming this in November, so tomorrow, we should be having a potential launch, fingers crossed, of some of the rocketry going up onto the Artemis projects. But I gather there's been some pretty high winds in Florida that have been over operational restrictions, and so it may be that that gets scrubbed and that's okay. Every time a launch gets scrubbed, we learn something new.

The last thing we want is to have failed launches. This is not something that the public appetite in terms of return to space will have anything to do with, but what on earth has Artemis got to do with surveying and spatial jobs in New South Wales or in Australia? Well, in fact, a lot because one of the things that will be relying upon when we look to the Moon is that we'll be building massive sets of infrastructure. We'll be mapping the Moon's surface, we'll be looking at multimodal datasets that will infer to us. Different types of the rock, and the dust and in the stability of such, where the ices may be, all of the aspects of the Moon that's going to be potentially a further issue or a further opportunity.

And so can you imagine having a brand-new place on which you build? We're going back to absolutely fundamental and foundational ideas of, how do we build? And one of the things people are looking at, actually, is off-planet manufacturing. So they're actually looking at things like additive manufacturer, we might know it as 3D printing, additive manufacture in space. So how many of your schools have a 3D printer, and have you started talking to your students about this idea of off-planet manufacturing?

There are already startups out of Silicon Valley that have got a lot of money behind them, and there are a lot of private space companies that care about this, too. And it's interesting really 'cause people always say to me, as an environmental scientist and someone that cares a lot about planet Earth, why on earth I have an interest in space. Well, if we didn't have a space industry, we would never have the Earth observation gear that we have in order to actually see Mother Earth from space and actually understand how our systems and our cities are working here on planet Earth.

So, this idea that there will be Moon bases, there will be technology jobs, there will be technology construction jobs, there will be opportunities to work in the space agency. Dealing with the idea of building environmentally and eco-sensitive projects in Australia, and how we can transfer that knowledge into things like lunar bases and even off-planet space stations and how you build space stations. All of these things come down to that same idea of geospatial and location information and how you use that to actually construct something that's fit for human habitation.

So I'm going to take you a bit further away from planet Earth now and we're going to go to Mars. Something that might be of interest to you is that the XPRIZE just had their finals for the Avatar XPRIZE. Now, what is an avatar? It's not just that movie by James Cameron, though that's fantastic, an avatar is this idea that you might be sat somewhere in a haptic suit, which is a suit where you have all the touching, and the feeling, and the temperature, and everything, you can feel the environment. And there is a robot somewhere else. Be it on Mars, be it on the Moon, be it in a place near, where one of your family members lives, for example.

And you want to go and say, "Hello," to your family member or you want to have a job on the Moon but you don't want to leave planet Earth, you will be controlling an avatar robot, wherever that is. And so why is this important? Well, have a look at some of these avatar robots that have just reached... And, in fact, there were winners, you can go and have a look.

So, if you go to, you can see not only the Avatar XPRIZE, all of the other cool XPRIZEs that are going on. And there are really great resource, actually, especially for kids that are interested in what-ifs and interested in a bit of futurism to see some of these cutting-edge technologies actually happening through some of these grand challenges that are well-funded and operated out of the US at this not-for-profit.

And so this idea of, "What on earth has Mars got to do with, again, geospatial, and surveying, and spatial jobs on Earth?" Well, it's the same thing. What we're doing now is we are mapping, I mean Mars is being mapped with an inch of its life. I mean they're trying to make sure that... There's geopolitics, of course, involved. I mean there's some wonderful discussions in the philosophy and the ethics classroom and not just around spatial, and surveying, and STEM subjects when it comes to this.

As in, who has the right to land-grab on Mars? And when they start using colonial terms, like setting up a colony, is that actually... No, it's a settlement, not a colony. Like, there's a use of language ethics and frameworks that's going to be very interesting for some of this extra Earth, as an off-planet Earth, space-based construction. But again, mapping and having accurate satellite information of planet Earth, we will have satellites around Mars and we'll be doing location information around Mars. It's just a matter of literally years. It's not a matter of decades that we'll be doing this work.

So again, you've got anybody who's sort of early secondary. By the time they finish school, we will have a map of Mars that we probably didn't even realise we were going to have and it's happening now. And it's a mixture of government funding and private funding, and that's really interesting because the space race, never been like that before. And then the thing that's a bit closer to home when we talk about it is the metaverse.

Now, there's something here that crosses over between surveying and spatial and arts and creativity because how we design and build buildings is changing. Here in Brisbane where I currently live, we've had construction sites where they've been building high rises, and what they've done there is they've taken drones, and they've

flown them up to the level at which somebody's living room is going to be on the 22nd floor or wherever. And they have that drone do a full lovely cinematography, sort of map of what that's going to look like. And then, in deep immersive virtual reality, this becomes the view that one has when one looks at Apartment 2212, the 12th apartment on the 22nd floor.

And so you can actually physically be in your apartment build... You're buying off plans, so you're physically in this apartment block, physically looking out of your window at the view that you have of the river, or Brisbane, or the surrounds. And it's real. It's not simulated, it's not a photograph, it's actually a real moving living image that was captured on some high-res cameras that were flown upon a drone. And if you've been following me at all on social media or if you've known me at all, you know that I could go on about drones and geospatial, but that's not what today's about. But this idea that we will be looking at converging technologies and converging technologies around using the artistry of how that virtual reality world is going to interact with humans. Now, obviously, when you're selling an apartment that's a point-of-sale interaction. And I think if any of us have looked at rentals or houses to buy over the last few years, there's been this rise of the 360 walkthrough. I have particular pleasure in those 360 walkthroughs, where you find where the camera's looking at itself in a mirror. Why do I find that... And maybe it's 'cause I liked R2-D2 growing up. I find that so cute. But this idea that we are going to actually need people that understand the beauty, and the creativity, and the human factors of surveying, and the human factors of spatial data and the human factors of building the skeletons of the 6th Industrial Revolution and probably even the 5th Industrial Revolution in terms of how the metaverse is going to actually be a replica for society. One of the things we know that you sort of sometimes think, "Oh, students, they live inside their computer games," except when a computer game is a computer game. It won't be very long, I'd probably say in the next decade, that you might not know what's a computer game and what's not. Because we're going to have multisensory, smell or vision-enabled deep immersive VR where you could lose yourself in a moment, and catch yourself, and recognise, "Oh, crumbs. No, this isn't the real world, is it?" And it's interesting because there was a thing that came out of the UK recently with all of these researchers that work on robotics and they produced all these new laws for robotics. And the first one was a robot must identify itself as being a robot. What we don't have yet that I've seen, and please if anyone's seen it, and please correct me if I'm wrong, and I'll do a bit of extra research on this. But my initial understanding is we don't have it written anywhere that a metaverse has to identify itself as a virtual world. Gosh, the lawyers and the ethicists and the human rights people are going to have field days with this. But again, what does that mean for students that are in school today? Look, we're going to have jobs that combine things like digital twins and gamification. The games industry is worth more than the movies, music, and arts pretty much combined. I mentioned in my synopsis that they sold Weta for 2.4 billion Australian to a games company. Why would a games company care about a studio that makes movies? Well, that studio that makes movies makes them in virtual reality, almost the digital worlds that they've created for some of these massive cinematography and sweeping environments that we get sucked into when we're in the movies. And I'm not talking the 3D glasses that we wore to watch "Avatar." I just mean even watching how the world of, "The Lord of the Rings," for example, was put together. That is a fully immersive world that has been created. That is a metaverse that has been created in digital form, not in the way that

you could use it to sell anything, but the backbone behind everything that they do is spatial. The backbone behind the accuracy of when we watch... When the actors have the funny dots on them, that is a spatial job is putting those dots on the actors and moving them into CGI. That is a spatial job that involves spatial data and movement about where somebody is in 3D, well, 4D, space-time. And so this idea that we will have inside the new metaverse, land grabs. I mean, Nike, were talking the other day about having 3 million views at their very first metaverse store, but it was really clunky and it looked really fake. And when you tried the trainers on, it looked like one of those filters that we have on Instagram. But look at how far those filters have come on Instagram compared to what they were. And we can all look like a celebrity, or dress up like a celebrity, all that kind of stuff. All of that involves spatial information. All of that involves data that has 3D points in space and time. And so this idea that when we're building, and it was Lucy Turnbull that talked about this around Sydney, particularly, was, how do we build cities that are safe for women? So would you have a metaverse that's like a humanitarian metaverse, for-good-type metaverse where you would trial out: What is the lighting? Where are the CCTV? Where are the factors where this might become an issue? You get some of the women that are working on some of these programmes and actually say, "Okay, is this a safe place for women? How do we fight obesity with how we build cities and towns? How do we building in green spaces? How do we support good mental health in our communities when people are in high rises? What are the things that we need to put in?" And you can plan all of that and scenario-plan all of that inside a metaverse. And it's all spatial, and it's all to do with surveying and spatial, and it's nothing to do with going out in the street and putting a pole down and things. It's actually... I mean, that is important. It's actually the idea that spatial and surveying jobs are more than just that. They have a huge digital opportunity around them. It's a growth area and it's a need for Australia to fill some of these jobs. I think I'll probably leave you with this idea of the things that I've been talking about with DFAT recently. And one of the things we are looking at or what I've been looking at is how do we help people scenario-plan in the event of a disaster? So a bushfire's going to hit, a tsunami's going to hit, a flood's going to hit, how do we take all the mapping? And some of these are the pieces of software that have been developed that are specifically aimed at one problem and put them in a multimodal framework. How do we actually accelerate how that technology is going to work? And this is where Industry 5.0 kicks in. And I've talked about that before, and you may have seen my work on Industry 5.0 before because now we're actually racing into 6.0. But 5.0 is starting to scale upon us. And one of these things about 5.0 is: How do we use technology for the betterment of society? And I can't think of an easier way than using 5.0 for betterment of society than making our towns and cities safer, happier, and healthier places for the people that live in them. And also the bush, and also people that live regionally and remotely. How do we make some of these places safer against floods? How do you work out where power lines are going to be? Where do you put in the renewables grids? Where do you put in the solar farms? Where do you put the shipping container full of batteries for when the power gets knocked out? How do we future-proof... It's not even future. How do we present-proof some of our communities in Australia and with our friends across the Pacific to be able to deal with emergencies? And so there's lots of ways, I'm sure, that when you talk with your students and think with your students about jobs in this area, this is much more than just mapping. Everybody can map. There's a piece of software that I know with drones that you just hit, and it maps, and it produces a map out for

you, and you're like, "That's great." No, you've got to think about the reason why you are using that technology and why you are creating that dataset. And that actually is the key here. And yeah, I'm just really excited, as you can probably tell. There's a lot going on in this space. Anyway, so I hope I've given you some food for thought. The Moon, Mars, and the Metaverse around what surveying and geospatial jobs might be looking like in the next five to 10 years. And thanks so much for your time. I appreciate all that you do. Teachers are my favourite people. You're the best innovators with some of this knowledge. And so if there's any thoughts that you have about how we can communicate some of these ideas, or if any resources need to get made, or connections need to get made, or relationships need to be created, you just feel free to reach out, and I'm happy to connect you up with the people that I know in this area. Okay, everyone stay safe and well, thanks so much.

[End of transcript]

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