Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Robot priests can bless you, advise you, and even perform your funeral


Jakkii says: Have you ever thought to yourself, I wish I could receive spiritual guidance from a robot? Well, now you can! The multi-denominational religious robots are here to help “reignite your passion for your faith.” I can’t say I’d ever considered religion as an area with a problem it needed AI or robots to solve, but apparently – here we are. And just when you thought clergy jobs were probably safe… 

As more religious communities begin to incorporate robotics — in some cases, AI-powered and in others, not — it stands to change how people experience faith. It may also alter how we engage in ethical reasoning and decision-making, which is a big part of religion. (emphasis added)

And, boom. That’s a biggie, is it not? AI-driven religion may alter how we reason, ethically, and how we make decisions. Anyone else’s alarm bells immediately sounding? Of course, the cynical side of me would suggest that perhaps how religion presently affects our ethical reasoning and decision-making could probably use a shake-up, and humans are far from perfect as it is. But there is something quite eerie to me about the idea of morality as dictated by machine learning, and ethical decision-making as determined by a decision tree, or otherwise in some manner of black and white or computer-based logical reasoning that doesn’t make sense, isn’t necessarily apparent. 

The article offers some interesting insights into both theology and this dilemma of seeking guidance from AI and, potentially, another area in which human contact is lost. Importantly, however, it also provides a counterpoint – perhaps simply by being non-human, and possibly gender-neutral, a robot is more trustworthy and approachable for some. 

It’s an interesting role of robots and AI to reflect upon, as it raises many questions about ethics, decision-making and spirituality, alongside religion and faith. I’ve been watching that new show The Righteous Gemstones lately, and in that vein what I’ll be thinking about for the next while is evangelical robots, preaching and singing and shouting – and making a fortune.


Artificial intelligence helps detect sepsis in Sydney emergency departments


Joel says: Sepsis is a serious and potentially deadly condition caused by your body’s chemical response used to fight off infections. It claims the lives of approximately 5000 Australian lives each year, but Naren Gunja, the Chief Medical Information Officer for the western Sydney area has already implemented methods of detecting it earlier and the tool is powered by artificial intelligence.

The AI tool is known as the ED Sepsis Alert and it’s currently running on emergency department computers at Westmead, Blacktown, Auburn and Mount Druitt hospitals. From the time patients are admitted and tests begin, a computer system is collecting their data and storing it in the medical database. From here, using the patient’s symptoms and medical history the AI system is able to alert the clinician if it believes that the patient is at risk of sepsis so they can start treatment plans for it. 

Sepsis can often be hard to detect as there is no test to detect it and it’s visible symptoms mostly being the same as the flu and other common sicknesses, so having a method to detect it early has already started to save lives. In the first 8 months after being rolled out, 1/5th of sepsis diagnosis’ at these hospitals were detected by the AI-driven ED Sepsis Alert. 

This could be the start of something big in both the medical and AI fields, where this technology could go from here is endless. With many life threatening diseases having better odds of survival if detected early, I love the idea that someday this technology may birth a similar tool that could possibly detect forms of cancer, heart disease or other deadly diseases.


How the world’s hottest new tourist spot has changed the fortunes of a small village


Helen says: I enjoy a good story, particularly one that relates to travel and the environment. This one is about a small fishing village Oslob, in the Philippines. In recent years it has become a tourism hot spot, which initially set off my alarm bells as I imagined a quaint village and its surrounds ruined. However, surprisingly, with this newfound popularity, a number of positive changes have transpired. Nearby is home to endangered whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, and swimming with them is proving popular with tourists. Offering this experience has contributed to lifting locals from the poverty line, improving gender balance in the community and interestingly, by creating an alternative income to fishing, has positively impacted surrounding coral reefs and marine life.  

There are calls to stop tourism to this village (I would hazard a guess that these critics don’t live locally) but for locals to continue to benefit from this type of tourism, their ongoing stewardship of whale sharks and the surrounding environment is critical to their success. The challenge will be in finding the right balance of visitors permitted in to support this industry whilst ensuring the achievements in preserving their environment continue.


How Generation-Z Will Revolutionize The Workplace


Jakkii says: In this short read, the author presents four main arguments for how Gen Z will “revolutionise the workplace”:

  1. Their high-tech minds don’t trump human needs.
  2. Their desire for work-life balance is deep.
  3. Feedback is a necessity.
  4. They have a good mindset about failure and feedback.

Much as I have before, I would argue strongly that, with the possible exception of describing their minds as “high-tech,” these are representative of people and the current climate in knowledge work in the West, and not exclusive to a single cohort or generation. While I would agree the differences in how we experience life as we develop impact our views, perspectives and expectations, I think we discount both the impact of institutions on individuals, and the impact the world around us and the changing nature of work (and our expectations of work and the workplace) has on us – no matter our age.  

I would suggest there are, in 2019, many workers of all generations still in the workforce who desire human interaction and a positive work-life balance, need feedback on performance, development and improvement, and who understand that failure should lead to learning and isn’t necessarily a poor outcome. I don’t believe there will be some sudden revolution in the workplace, any more than any other generation has managed to cause such simply by turning 18 or finishing uni and getting a job, though I do think these types of attitudes the author posits Gen Z possess are useful to both Gen Z employees and to the workplace more generally. 

What I think is much more pressing to explore is how prepared Gen Z are – or aren’t – for automation and work of the future, and their capacity to respond, adapt and change. Of course, once again, it’s not just Gen Z for whom that’s a concern – it affects all of us still in the workforce, and is a political and social issue as much as it is an individual employee or organisation one. And, for those not yet in the workforce – the tail end of Gen Z and the subsequent Gen Alpha – how is our education system preparing them, right from primary school through to vocational training and higher education? What policies do our major parties have in place to address these issues? What about addressing reskilling existing workers who will be displaced by automation? We need more focus on how to manage these issues and less focus on pretending fossil fuels and resources are the future, and far less focus on penalising those who need access to our safety nets like Newstart, because without a considered way forward with a budget to support it, we’ll only see more and more people out of work without the skills to move into alternative jobs. 


This Week in Social Media

Politics, democracy and regulation

Privacy and data

Cybersecurity and safety

Society and culture

Extremism and hate speech

Moderation and misinformation

Marketing, advertising and PR


Facebook’s Libra and Calibra

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This week: chicken wars – don’t be chicken, eat the balls; and ring my bell. Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.

The stories this week

01:21 – KFC launches fake fried chicken nuggets

15:51 – Amazon’s Ring, the doorbell surveillance network

Other stories we bring up

Beyond Meat’s stock and IPO

Subway’s meatless meatball sub

Obsession with beef is killing leather industry

Paper in PLOS ONE on attitudes to in vitro meat

The attitudes to in vitro meat survey of potential consumers in the United States

Tesla announced its Model 3 interiors are now completely free of leather

Our earlier discussion of the Chicken of Tomorrow

Amazon’s Ring is working with police

More on Ring’s practices

Our previous discussion on Ring and smart doorbells

Our podcast episode with Dan ArielySleep trackers can make insomnia worse

Is our obsession with health data making us crazy?

Our previous discussion of Strava

Our previous discussion of DNA policing

US border officials are denying entry to travelers over others’ social media


DISRUPT.SYDNEY™ 2019: Rethinking Success

DISRUPT.SYDNEY, in its seventh year, is Australia’s first and oldest disruption conference.

This year we’re looking at what it means to be successful in a world increasingly concerned with disruption, sustainability, inequality and changing notions of work.

With two Q&A panels, parallel workshops after lunch, and an interactive futures session on deep fakes in the afternoon DISRUPT.SYDNEY 2019 will have plenty of discussion and ideas with which to engage and challenge. Join the discussion on 20 September at the University of Sydney Castlereagh St campus.

For more information and to register, visit  – Ask us about our discount code!

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