The history of our First People was fascinatingly juxtaposed with our technological future at last Friday’s TEDxSydney event in Bega.
Indigenous writer and historian from Mallacoota Bruce Pascoe was the first speaker in the third session of the event on June 15, live streamed to the Bega Valley Commemorative Civic Centre.
Mr Pascoe discussed his research that challenges the notion that Indigenous Australians operated simply as a hunter/gatherer society.
Based on the journals of early colonial explorers, Mr Pascoe instead discovered much more complex agricultural methods were developed, such as the harvesting of grain, and the planting and maintenance of large yam pastures.
He said he was “exploding the myth” Indigenous Australians “did nothing with the land”.
Records documented “fields of yams that stretched to the horizon” and “miles of stooped grain in the ‘dead’ heart of the country”.
However, he said much of the agricultural viability of central Australia was attributed to “God’s work”.
“This was not God’s work, but the intensive management of the land by Aboriginal people,” Mr Pascoe said.
“Some of Australia’s best soil was bereft of trees, in order to plant crops and provide food for a population.”
Mr Pascoe said everyone needed to better recognise the ingenuity of the First Australians.
“Aboriginal Australians not only invented bread, they created society,” he said.
Intriguingly, Mr Pascoe was followed on stage by a talk on artificial intelligence by Dr Fang Chen, from the Universities of New South Wales and Sydney.
Dr Chen’s discussion focused on the idea of “trust” between humans and AI.
She was on a team that installed more than 3000 sensors on the Sydney Harbour Bridge that measure and record all movements and stresses on the construction, issuing warnings should something go awry.
“When we drive on to the bridge, we trust this AI implicitly, even on a construction that is being used for much more than it was ever intended,” Dr Chen said.
“To the average user, AI is just a black box – we are working towards increasing the transparency of the black box and therefore increasing humans’ reliance and trust in AI.”
This was the second year the TEDxSydney event has been streamed to Bega, with the support of local hosting partner About Regional.
It’s theme for 2018 was “HumanKind” and included speakers such as unconventional Australian priest Rod Bower, mathematics teacher Eddie Woo and celebrated actress and writer Magda Szubanski.