AI, National Security, Critical Infrastructure and Emerging Technology with Alok Patel

Posted on May 4, 2023 in Cyber Security

Join our dynamic duo, Jackson Barnes (REDD’s Business Dev Guru) and Brad Ferris (REDD’s CEO Extraordinaire), as they sit down with Alok Patel, the CEO and Managing Partner of Azcende Venture Capital, which focuses on national security and critical infrastructure.

Don’t miss this πŸ”₯ episode if you’re interested in AI, national security, and emerging technology! We’ll explore Alok’s background in consulting and change management, the challenges of implementing new technologies in various industries, and the impact of technology disruption on critical infrastructure πŸ€”. Additionally, we’ll discuss the role of AI in national security and its potential to transform various sectors, as well as Alok’s insights on the future of AI and its effects on jobs.

Plus, we’ll dive into emerging technology trends and opportunities and learn about Azcende’s plans for the future. So, tune in now to catch all the wisdom and cool insights you won’t find anywhere else! 🎧

#ArtificialIntelligence #NationalSecurity #EmergingTechnologies #TechnologyDisruption #CriticalInfrastructure #AIinSecurity #FutureOfWork #TechnologyAdoption #ChangeManagement #VentureCapital #Innovation #BusinessPodcast #Cybersecurity #SupplyChain #AIInvestment #EdgeComputing #AutonomousSystems #TechIndustry #AIDevelopment #GlobalConflict #AzcendeVentureCapital #Startups #TechnologyTrends #DigitalTransformation


Key Takeaways

  • Alok Patel discusses his background and Azcende Venture Capital’s focus on national security and critical infrastructure.
  • The importance of technology disruption to solve problems and strengthen industries.
  • The role of AI and robotics in national security and critical infrastructure.
  • The potential of AI in creating new opportunities and enhancing productivity.


In this episode of REDD’s Business and Technology Podcast, Jackson Barnes and Brad Ferris sit down with Alok Patel, the CEO and Managing Partner of Azcende Venture Capital. Alok shares his insights on AI, national security, and critical infrastructure. The conversation covers a range of topics from the importance of technology disruption to the role of AI and robotics in national security and critical infrastructure.

Alok Patel’s Background and Azcende Venture Capital

Alok Patel’s journey began with work in management and communications, eventually leading him to the consulting industry. He worked for a government-focused consulting firm called Apis Consulting Group, which he later purchased with two other business partners. From 2008 to 2017, they built up the practice, working on large enterprise projects and leading change management for their clients.

Azcende Venture Capital was founded to address the challenges that industries face due to rapidly evolving technology. Alok emphasises the importance of technology disruption in solving problems and strengthening industries, particularly in the context of national security and critical infrastructure.

The Role of AI and Robotics in National Security and Critical Infrastructure

AI and robotics have a significant role to play in the broader scope of national security. Alok explains that AI is more about the thinking aspect, while robotics refers to the physical domain. These technologies have the potential to create new opportunities and enhance productivity across various industries.

One example of a successful startup in the critical infrastructure space is Redback Technologies, an Australian company specialising in solar energy management and storage using AI. This innovative approach is crucial for powering homes and businesses at the edge, offering a more sustainable and efficient energy solution.

AI, Jobs, and the Future

Alok acknowledges the concerns surrounding AI and job displacement, but he believes that AI can enhance productivity and create new opportunities for workers. He shares his personal experience using chatbot technologies like ChatGPT, which he finds helpful for getting things done faster without necessarily replacing anyone he works with.

Looking ahead, Alok envisions AI playing an even more significant role in various industries, unlocking creativity and potential through advancements like generative AI and edge computing.


Alok Patel’s insights into AI, national security, and critical infrastructure paint a picture of a future where technology disruption offers new opportunities for growth and efficiency. By investing in and supporting emerging technologies, businesses like Azcende Venture Capital are helping to shape this future and ensuring that industries are prepared to face the challenges that lie ahead.

If you’re interested in learning more about Azcende Venture Capital or getting in touch with Alok Patel, you can visit their website or connect with Alok on LinkedIn.

Are you prepared for the future of AI and technology disruption? If you’re interested in exploring how REDD’s managed IT services and managed security services can help your business stay ahead of the curve, reach out to the REDD team today. Our team of experts is ready to work with you to develop personalized solutions that fit your unique needs. Contact us now to learn more about how REDD can help your business thrive in a rapidly changing world.


Speaker 1 (00:02):


Speaker 2 (00:20):

Hello, welcome to Red’s Business and Technology Podcast. I’m your host, Jackson Barnes.

Speaker 3 (00:24):

I’m your co-host Brad

Speaker 2 (00:25):

Ferris. Today we’re sitting down with Och Patel, who’s the CEO and managing partner of Ascend Venture Capital firm, focused on national security and critical infrastructure. Looking forward to getting some insights from you today, a outlook around AI in particular and national security, including infrastructure. Mate, thanks for coming on the show. Do you want to start with introduction to your background?

Speaker 3 (00:43):

Thanks, Jackson. So my background is interesting. It’s a little bit eclectic. I’ve largely been an entrepreneur for the most part. I started out as an engineer, my first project, which I think everything is symmetrical even though you don’t necessarily expect it. It was bloody boring when I did it, which was a GPS guided tractor. And I thought, well, who is ever going to buy a GPS guided tractor? And oh, okay, there you go. Well, I mean, I don’t think you bought anything that I built, but I’m out in the sticks on 20 acres. I love my tractor. Oh, love, love. Great. Well you don’t do you remote controlled GPS tractor? No, no, it look and look, the accuracy of gps back then was terrible. So we had to use infrared beacons in order to support otherwise I’m sure the tractor would’ve ended up in someone else’s like field sound concept, execution, maybe a bit dubious.


Yeah, absolutely. But it was a good control system project and that’s where I started and that got me into project management behind the scenes. I loved selling computers and I sold a lot of computers to a lot of Indians, which being an Indian myself can sometimes be a tough call. They Indians can sometimes have very high expectations and I sold them to a lot of aunt and uncles and that was fun. That took me a lot about computers, a lot about PCs, a lot about software. Through that I ended up getting a job with Mal Steven Jakes working in it and basically doing sort of very IT management, network management and comm’s work. And that then led me through to the consulting industry where I basically worked initially for a government focused consulting firm called Apus Consulting Group, which I eventually bought with two other business partners.


And we built that practice up between 2008 through to 2017. So we did a lot of really big enterprise projects where we were really that integrator between the technical domains and the change management. We led that change management for our clients and we really helped synthesize what were a lot of complex technical needs with the complex business needs, both from a business benefits perspective as well as from the operational objectives perspective. So whether that was SAP in asset management or JD Edwards and HR and crm, a lot of those large projects that we worked on. And really the genesis of that led us into working into the actual physical asset space because we just were really good at managing complex technical tasks and helping support and deliver business outcomes for executives. So the last really wicked project that I had a hand in was basically ask was about how do we answer the question, how do we deliver a fully autonomous rail capability?


And really that experience was really insightful for me and has led me into the work that I do for Ascend. And I think the big thing about autonomous systems and obviously some of the artificial intelligence that’s run, that runs those systems is that it’s more than just about efficiency. And of course that’s where a lot of businesses do focus technology and frankly obviously need technology is to drive efficiency because it leads to more options. It obviously leads to more profitability, but it’s about at what point do we ask the question, well efficiency is not enough or actually efficiency can move us into a position where we’re unable to adapt to change. And it was the observation of this autonomous, autonomous rail operation that kind of really, so the seed for well technology’s actually moving us to a point where we’re at and put of inflection where the whole nature of the business has to change when we implement the kind of technology that is suddenly coming and becoming commercially available.


It is not just being about being hyper efficient, it’s about what is our business doing and what can our business or should our business be doing. So Ascend really took up that challenge because I recognized a lot of big industry customers don’t necessarily want that changed specifically. There’s too much risk in it. It’s not necessarily a profitable immediately they won’t back the kind of technology that might be needed. So maybe it’s better to write checks and help those tech companies go from a great idea into a great business. And obviously we all know where a lot of tech companies, Uber has a great example that has come onto the market and completely revolutionized transportation. And if you had said to someone before Uber was founded, Hey, I’m going to start a taxi company, they look at you and go, you’re a bloody idiot. I’m assuming I can say idiot on the podcast. You good mate? Yeah, excellent. Great. You know, can beat me out if I get too crazy. But that’s the kind of thinking that Ascend applies is looking at disruptive technology and backing it so that we can then grow it and it can become a fabric of critical infrastructure of people’s livelihood.

Speaker 2 (05:47):

So essentially what you’re doing understand is your venture capital into companies that typically around critical infrastructure and technology and national security?

Speaker 3 (05:56):

Is it essentially? Yeah, so the way we see model national security is for Australia it’s a single point of failure. And what that means is if you look at the global geopolitical construct that we’ve got right now, there are some real questions around trade with China, broader global transit, we’ve had a lot of supply issues. There are big issues around fuel reserve. So we have about 20 days fuel reserve at the moment. I mean if that suddenly dried up, COVID had most people running for toilet paper and we were out of toilet paper all over the place even though that was never going to be the problem. So yeah, people running for fuel will be out potentially in a lot shorter than 20 days and then we’re going to have to deal with the other side of that problem. So the way to solve that problem is technology disruption because the right technologies in the right places, it reactivates things like manufacturing.


It solves a problem where we don’t have people that we can bring online fast enough to do the things that we need to be self-sufficient at least for a short period of time as we reactivate our trade routes and our supplies. So how does technology help with that? And essentially you’re running out of fuel and well fuel, I mean look right now, I mean obviously we need more refineries and we need to reactivate them, but one of the issues we had with refineries was labor and I mean BMW and most of the major car manufacturers use robotics in order to build their cars. We were still using largely a human based labor workforce when before the Adelaide car plants were shut down. So that’s where technology really comes into play. That advanced manufacturing is really the fabric of protecting our national security. And I mean national security from a definitional standpoint is really anything that affects the nation’s ability to operate and maintain itself in terms of what is considered business as usual. One of the things that has been more recently touted in the national security and defense base is what’s known as the gray zone. And the gray zone is all about how foreign nations can use their economic influence to exert pressure on nations to influence decision making. And when you think about what’s going on in the world, there are nations out there that have been putting other nations in debt through infrastructure deals that basically mean they can influence the kind of decisions they make on the global scale.


And specifically we are talking about China and China has been doing that in Africa. I mean basically most of the African nations and the human rights Commission basically have some debt owing to China. And it’s these sort of things that we do not want to be in the situation where we are influences exerted because of economic pressure. And so having the right technologies in various supply chains in various industries that overcome what will take time to bring online, it’ll take time to train people, it’ll take time to bring people into that manufacturing space or the variety of industries that will need to activate if something does happen. In terms of a potential global conflict,

Speaker 2 (09:14):

It’s interesting cause that all the countries with trade across accelerated, I guess humanity a fair way, but there’s also a bit of a problem when it comes to national security. So makes a lot of sense.

Speaker 4 (09:24):

Can I just jump in? So I probably didn’t really think of the national security definition the way you just explained it, which was quite interesting. So in the context of your fund, your scope or your mandate, is it that broad?

Speaker 3 (09:36):



When the rubber hits the road, we obviously talk about very specific types of technology and that’s really where the limits are applied. So whether it’s artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, energy tech, space tech or robotics, autonomous systems, that’s really where our limits come into play because we know we have expertise in understanding both how to evaluate the underlying technology but evaluate the business potential, which is really the big thing that delivers returns for investors. And obviously that is one of my priorities as managing partner where my investors care about my ability to deliver returns. And so the evaluation is whilst tech might be great, it’s about what is that in a business and can it rapidly adapt, acquire customers, deliver value to the marketplace? And so that’s why we’ve obviously been limited in terms of the types of technologies we’ll invest in. Yep. AI kind of is probably a little bit broader because of where it can go and AI we’re really referencing the thinking rather than the physical domain, which is what the robotics references. But fundamentally the broader intent of national security is actually quite broad. Yes.

Speaker 4 (10:52):

So you would look at, okay, does it fit that into that definition first and then is it this type of technology, one of the types of technology you mentioned? So it could be hypothetically, it could be robotics in a manufacturing plant like you said.

Speaker 3 (11:05):

Absolutely. Cool.

Speaker 2 (11:06):

Alec wanted to get your insights on the cybersecurity industry in 2023.

Speaker 3 (11:11):

So in 2023, what we saw really two years ago was a change to the critical infrastructure definition which was passed down by the federal government because of the recognition of the vulnerability of infrastructure. And what was really interesting about what they defined as critical infrastructure was more than the typical just utilities energy and basic transportation et cetera. But it almost widened it to almost everything schools, shopping centers, hospitals, all of these things that social infrastructure just as much as the large scale monolithic infrastructure that we’re generally used to in terms of a definition, everything was brought in a scope with what we realize is our way of life is so interconnected right now that you really can’t separate one thing from the other.

Speaker 2 (12:07):

And speaking, I think it extended also to food transport and that kind of stuff, right?

Speaker 3 (12:11):

Absolutely. Industries, absolutely. What is it

Speaker 2 (12:13):

Defined through now? Do you able to share any insights at all?

Speaker 3 (12:15):

So look, I can’t give you the whole list cause I can’t remember the entire list, but certainly the act pretty much defines all of those things from food supplies, agriculture, hospitals, primary healthcare centers, transportation, toll roads. The full list is basically considered by the act now and with the more recent changes around cybersecurity that the new federal government has come in and basically touted because of the attacks on Medicare and sorry, Medibank and Optus, what we’ve seen is a recognition of just how vulnerable we are and frankly the effects that any kind of attack could have. So I think CS energy was last year or maybe the year before potentially, and I mean that was an attack on their corporate infrastructure. So it’s not just the actual physical element in terms of the actual infrastructure, but it could just be their corporate assets that get affected. And so they supply

Speaker 2 (13:17):

10% of the power in Australia,

Speaker 3 (13:20):

Well Queensland I think primarily, but it’s the fact that we need to recognize the correlation between assets are run digitally whilst there might be physical assets, control systems are digital or fundamentally have digital points of access. We’ve put i t on so many devices and the operational technology of which you know would’ve spoken tolan about is quite significant this day and age. We need it in order to ensure the maintenance and the health of these large assets. And so any kind of attack can change the way we perceive these assets and I think that’s where from a broader scope perspective of cyber is, being able to trust infrastructure is critical and the underlying integrity does not just come from having everything patched and it’s why you need trusted partners to be able to bring that recognition of what does that mean to achieve trust and integrity of these assets and infrastructure so people can be free to use things in a meaningful effective way because you know don’t want security impeding productivity because otherwise what will happen is people will find workarounds that could undermine the intent of security in the first place.


That’s the case. It’s a challenge for infrastructure because anything we’re trying to deliver meaningful returns, meaningful operation of these assets and in a lot of cases when you look at the infrastructure available to us it it’s really not sufficient to provide us with what we need. When you consider energy for example, I mean obviously we are paying more for electricity than we ever have before in recent times and we don’t have enough. And so a cyber attack on power generation is a major issue for us right now because redundancy is not to the degree where it could be and should be in order for people to continue to go about their lives and assume business as usual.

Speaker 2 (15:26):

So businesses that are now affected by the new critical infrastructure Act, what does that actually mean for them? What do they have to do?

Speaker 3 (15:32):

Look, the ACT was more about empowering the federal government to be able to manage and intervene when their attacks than it is necessarily specifically actions on for a lot of businesses it has a greater impact on larger infrastructure operators than it does the average basically business that utilizes digital assets. It would be the more recent changes to and introductions of cybersecurity laws that the new government has passed down that create greater obligations around managing their data and security around that. Then the past critical infrastructure bill that was passed I think in 2020

Speaker 2 (16:13):

It’s probably it’s good or I guess this compliance has gone through, but I think a lot of small businesses that are kind of worried their classes critical instruction and the third party supply chain people are looking at as well and get, it’s getting pushed down but they’re not really knowing what to do about it. I think at this point in time is what I’m picking up.

Speaker 3 (16:28):

Yeah, I think that’s where from our perspective, it goes back to that broader national security consideration in that it’s not just each individual part but the hole that needs to be considered and where are they weaknesses in that supply chain or in their partners and what assumptions are being made about data being protected, data being managed, communications taking place. And certainly we’ll talk about it when we talk about more of the specific applications of artificial intelligence, but compute is going take and play a big role in terms of cybersecurity because where we’ve had to centralize a lot of data storage and a lot of data management, which is why cybersecurity is really important because any transmission of data creates an opportunity to inject or potentially undermine data integrity and data trust. Well if you’re computing at the edge, you are also now reducing perhaps the footprint from a security standpoint and you’re centralizing it around that actual physical asset.


So it changes the nature of cybersecurity and that’s something that hasn’t necessarily been considered. It’s actually probably a new dimension to the problem and it’s something that does need to be considered. But I think this is where for me, not necessarily being the cybersecurity expert, but my observation is this is where we need to be strategic and we need to be more broad in our considerations of the challenge and address the high level objectives and the high level of benefits rather than just looking at it from the perspective of the key technical parameters. I mean they obviously need to be addressed and obviously you guys are from my understanding doing a great job doing that and that’s something that’s absolutely necessary. But helping clients and industry understand those broader global implications of why they might be targeted is actually just as important.

Speaker 2 (18:22):

I think the education piece has got a long way to go and it is the third party supply chain side is also another thing that needs to be considered strongly, which I think people are doing as well. But if you look at latitude of financial services that actually that ransomware breach was actually what data breach was actually led in from their IT provider dxc. So you really have to be careful these days who you partner with for everything, whether it’s any third party system you’ve got all that kind of thing. I think there was an ideal breach as well that was basically a third party supply chain as well. So this is be getting more and more important. What’s an example you’ve got of a successful startup that’s helped in the Australia in critical infrastructure?

Speaker 3 (19:01):

So a good example that we’ve seen that they’ve been around for a little while now is redback technology. So they’re in the solar space and they’ve used AI to be able to better map the utilization and management of solar energy. Did they make batteries as well? Yeah, they do. Yeah, so they’re a great example and what I like about that example and a lot of what’s changing with startups is because inherently startups don’t have a lot of capital to throw around and so they need to solve problems without the underlying infrastructure that big incumbents have been able to rely upon. And so ultimately it’s that benefit where they try and solve the same problem with a lot less money, but usually in a manner with new technology that’s more distributed rather than centralized. That’s where we gain a lot of benefits from that distributed networked infrastructure. Obviously it’s where it introduces greater opportunities for threats to play a role because obviously when you’ve got networked assets or net network infrastructure, then obviously you’ve got more points of threats and threat interface. But fundamentally it allows us to adapt to an evolved need where single sourced power or water, well, I mean that itself is probably a greater risk that we’ve not considered over the last two or three decades.

Speaker 2 (20:28):

So what did technologies actually do with Australian Korean infrastructure?

Speaker 3 (20:32):

So, well the way I reference it is that because they’re deeply embedded from an energy perspective, that’s the critical infrastructure power is probably one of the most vital aspects definitely for people today for whether it’s a small business or whether it’s major industry. And so for me, the way I’m classifying it is as being highly relevant to power management, power generation. That to me is a vital element of critical instruction.

Speaker 4 (20:56):

This is power at the edge effectively, isn’t it? Yeah, absolutely. I got off track on the last podcast we did this, I love this. I have looked up red back before, but there’s a bunch of different technologies trying to do this thing and I guess hopefully one day they all kind of converged. So it’s not so difficult to actually do this. So I’ve got 40 kilowatts of batteries and 30 kilowatts of solar. But the problem is not the problem. I mean the complication with solar is the sun shines during the day and you got to put it somewhere and use it at the night and someone like me. So I do end up exporting a lot even with all those batteries, but that’s got to go somewhere. And I think the issue is to your point around the critical infrastructure, well if there’s one source of generation and that gets taken down, then we’ve got a problem.


On the flip side, if you’ve got this disaggregated generation, they all need to talk to each other and communicate. So then you get into the cyber aspects. Well if once someone cuts that network effectively, then you lose it from that end. But at least the people at the edge, and this was kind of a thing I think as well, part of the smart cities is where they would have the storage and the batteries and they’d kind of pull it. So I think technology’s, I know Amber is another one I’ve seen that’s doing something similar and it’s really cool. I use two technologies, seller edge and M phase and I’m still trying to work out what’s the best way to plug all these things and I don’t think that’s been solved. I think there’s quite a few companies and that are working on it, but it’s still, I think there’s a lot of regulation, there’s absolutely red tape to go through, but I can’t wait. I mean I love that around energy and totally from the perspective you guys are taking around. Well it’s actually really important that we get this right guys, so No, that’s cool.

Speaker 2 (22:33):

Are they Brisbane based back? I think they

Speaker 3 (22:34):

Are Queensland based here. They may Logan. Yeah.

Speaker 2 (22:37):

Cool. Alright, let’s pivot it a little bit to AI

Speaker 4 (22:41):

Enough take it in this case.

Speaker 2 (22:44):

Let’s pivot a little bit to ai. So I know you’ll big on artificial intelligence and where that industry is going. I know you can’t obviously go into mining detail about current works that you are doing with the Navy, but do you want to go into, I guess some of your experience in the Na Navy’s leveraging AI for success?

Speaker 3 (23:00):

Sure. So my moonlighting job is I’m an active reservist for the Royal Australian Navy. And so I work in war renovation Navy in particular the director of directorate of Navy ai. And so whilst I’ll say this as a private citizen as opposed to a representative of the Navy, what Navy’s been doing is looking at various applications of artificial intelligence to basically deliver upon strategic plans set by previous and current chief of Navy and those key lines, which it’s public facing documents. So it’s not like I’m exposing any kind of government secrets. I’d get into a lot of trouble and probably lose my security clearance if I did give anything away, but I won’t be doing that if anyone important is listening or some or DSD is listening. Fundamentally, it’s things like our ability to sustain our fleet. It’s our ability to project lethality and deliver support and capability to basically both our fleet, our personnel, and then any kind of our war fighting capability.


And really there’s various aspects in a report was published, I think it was last year or the year before last, which was the AI strategy for 2040. And a good way of talking about the way they were thinking about artificial intelligence was humans on the loop, humans in the loop or AI being the loop itself, which is really various ways of looking at artificial intelligence being used across that cyber physical domain. And really, if I talk broadly for a second in the broader defense environment, because people operate really in that physical domain, technology is about how do we assist people to do things more, more effectively in that physical domain. It’s not ever really just purely digital unless you’re working purely in that digital information effects, information warfare, electronic warfare space for pretty much everyone else. We’re working on something physically. And so that’s one of the reasons also why from an ascend standpoint, we really like this space because that’s the stuff that’s really going to make, makes people lives better because we still live in a physical world. It’s not the matrix yet. So we can’t just manifest anything that we need whenever we need it. It’s basically all Star Trek, which is a far better projection of the human future than the Matrix.


Do you want to go here or? Yeah, yeah, it’s like, yeah, well 2030 it’ll be the matrix. It’ll be Star Trek hopefully Star Trek we’ll down. Did the AI tell you that mate chat, G P T? But yes, so from a Navy standpoint it’s about understanding how it is that we can help our force be better at what they need to do to support the ADF and its variety of objectives. I mean, as a great example, we did a lot of work around covid assist and the bush fires. How do we better plan and manage our workforce? All of those various aspects of improving everything from planning through to execution of our taskings. That’s what we are doing. And the great thing about it is we learn so much through applying it. We do have a lot of data. I mean defense has been known to have a lot of data and we can use that data to be able to learn and craft new ways of doing things and then generally experiment.

Speaker 2 (26:34):

So you are basically one day a week or so, so working with the Navy on various AI work.

Speaker 3 (26:42):

Yeah, exactly. Cool. So I mean sometimes it’s a little bit more, sometimes it’s a little bit less, yeah, just depends on what’s needed. But basically I provide support and I’m really bringing that industry, the reason why I was brought in was because my industry experience in understanding how to operationalize autonomous systems, I mean obviously as I mentioned asking that question around delivering a fully autonomous rail operation. I mean the model that frankly I was recommending, which was around building an entire capability around that autonomous system, it’s that thinking, which is usually extremely uncomfortable, but in my mind, absolutely necessary.

Speaker 2 (27:21):

It’s good actually though, they should get that third party experts in, not just in internal cause they the same ideas being in the Navy for a long time. Absolutely. External advice. That makes a lot of sense. Absolutely. So what’s your experience with the evolution of AI 20 years ago versus now? What? What’s happened in that space?

Speaker 3 (27:39):

So look, the way I see the evolution of AI is if I bring in scope analytics. So for the most part, Excel was really the infancy of being able to be novel about the way we represent data and use data to help us make better decisions.

Speaker 2 (27:55):

Excel still blows people minds sometimes.

Speaker 3 (27:57):

And look, I mean it’s going to probably continue to with the way Microsoft’s trying to use ai, generative AI as part of its development of the Office suite. So that I see that element of the really light aspects of machine learning was something that we had but didn’t necessarily know about because let’s face it was in dark corners of universities that were using neural networks to evaluate decisions and do very basic taskings like chess and Deep Mind obviously, which showed that it can beat a grand master at go. I mean, fundamentally that’s where it’s been for the most part. And we’ve used that experience to help teach us about the capabilities of AI as people in their research academia look at ways of really beating the Turing test and fundamentally allowing artificial intelligence to fully human being from thinking it’s whether it’s a computer or a human.

Speaker 2 (29:02):

You see crazy stuff online about AI taking over and then praising Hitler and all this weird stuff with chatbots. So as a, we’ll, we’ll see what happens in the past, but there’s a lot of hype around it now with chatt obviously and the job that’s going to change. Let’s talk about that for a second actually. And then I want to get your insight on what’s AI going to look like in 2030 in seven years time. But what are your thoughts on chappy tippy T? How fast is that and AI in general going to take out jobs and that kind of thing?

Speaker 3 (29:30):

So I have a love hate relationship with chat pt. Okay. It’s great to get a a third party reference about, you can ask them almost anything. It obviously has some biases, some of them being political. I mean there’s a lot of people that say, oh, ask it a question about the former president of the United States, or ask it a question about the current president of the United States. And it has an answer for one and it has no answer for the other. So I think that’s kind of interesting that it’s already been programmed to have certain biases. My concern with chat’s E P T, is it’s taking away the one thing that is truly human, which is creativity. And that is the one thing that we need to be striving to maintain was it is the one thing that is most valuable about any, and frankly every human being is that we can be creative in any domain, whether it’s engineering, whether it’s, it’s not just restricted

Speaker 4 (30:23):

To arts. This is an interesting philosophical conversation then. So I would, I’m by no means an expert, but since Lanie actually came on and I was saying earlier, I’ve been playing with it and I now consider it a core tool that I use on a daily basis. And it’s interesting the comment around creativity create, what does creativity mean? And so I’ve just found I adjust so I don’t go into chat GB two and say do this thing for me and then it spits out an answer. It’s call and response almost, which you could argue blues music or something, right? Yeah. Call response, what’s going to come back, what am I going to give back? So it’s an interesting round, I can see your point around the way you could use it. And I guess we’re just talking about what, what’s AI going to do for jobs and for people.


And I can only speak from my personal experience and I have found it to just as a tool that can help me get things done faster. I don’t think it replaces anyone that I work with per se. I think it can definitely enhance the productivity of some people if you know how to use it. But I’m probably a pretty basic user. But the creativity, the way use, I found it interesting because I have gone back and forth with it quite a lot and I do find it’s a different spin absolutely. On creativity. Absolutely. To some extent.

Speaker 3 (31:44):

And look, it’s interesting, I mean the point you made, and I think it’s important, I think for those of us that aren’t fearful of having to be inventive in the idea of solving a problem when you don’t necessarily understand all aspects of the problem. I mean to me that’s creativity chat C B T is not bad in the context of a back and forth because you’re using it like a tool. But when people start referencing, Hey, I asked Chad and this is a real statement that a real person made, I asked Chad g p t to write my procurement strategy and it didn’t do very well. And I’m thinking in the back of my head, well it will. And that’s where for me, I have great concerns. Some people do see it as making their job easier and what they don’t realize making their job redundant because they don’t want to work.

Speaker 4 (32:39):

So when you say when, well it will, is that after you challenge it? Because I’ve found, I’ve pushed it, I’m like how far? And I’ll, I’ll say like, Chad, g b T, come on mate, you can do better than that kind of thing. Absolutely,

Speaker 2 (32:50):

Absolutely. And that’s what people don’t do now. Think people will go in there, jump on there and say, Hey, write me you an ad for this for example, and we’ll spit out something really vanilla. You haven’t given enough context though and you need to ask it more questions. You need to, you’re back and forth until you get something good. It’s almost like you need to use a bit of creativity to use the tool properly, if that makes sense. Absolutely. But I also find it quite funny that you said creativity was something that shouldn’t be lost and is important to remember because I think one of the first things that’s being supplemented now is probably more that marketing kind of collateral and marketing’s meant to be the creative industry. So it’s kind of weird how that works, right?

Speaker 3 (33:26):

Yeah. Well think that’s another thing that the effect that we are going to see is a lot of what was considered a value. The copywriters and the various people that used to do what was mundane for a lot of people, but a core element of their job. I mean writing cvs, I mean I know people that have paid people to write resume for them and frankly you could basically art chat, chat g pt, I’ve

Speaker 4 (33:54):

Done, I’ve not cvs, but definitely position descriptions. Absolutely. Job descriptions,

Speaker 2 (33:58):

Definitely resume riders would be shit their pants right now.

Speaker 4 (34:00):

Yeah. Just again it’s, it’s never ever given me something on first go that I could use quite often. But if I think of I had sat down with a blank page, how long would it take me to get to the outcome? What do I have got to this outcome?


Because I’m the kind of person, if I’ve got something on the page can, I’m much faster at editing, but going from a blank piece of paper, you know, almost get the writer’s block, create creativity creator’s block and you just stare at the blank page. But then I can go, okay cool, let’s have a crack, let’s start. Not very good actually I want to talk about this. And then it’s actually stimulating my creative process if you like. When I get a sensory input, I’m like, oh yeah, and it sparks things and okay, actually I want to talk this. And then you’re massaging kind of like project managing chapter, gt PT actually. So it’s, look, I dunno what the right answer is. It’s just interesting. I have spent quite a lot of time with it just trying out different things. But that position description is one because I’m not a techie, but we’re in a tech industry.


I know all the tech stacks we use, but I’m not an expert in any of them. But I can go to chat G B T and it can give quite a lot of information. I can study that information, I can go right, okay, actually focus on that bit more about this, bit more about that. So I find it fas, I do find it fascinating and I find it, I love sitting down with it, just happen to go and see what happens. Yes, that blues vest, Byron in my caravan chat with chat GB t don before it started and before my CAM family came down having these kinds of conversations

Speaker 2 (35:30):

With me. God, it’s definitely an amazing template created for sure. Where do you think that this space is going

Speaker 3 (35:36):

In the next kind of 10 years? So Microsoft’s already announced its co-pilot, which is a product that is looks


Wow. Yeah. And I think what co-pilot demonstrates is areas for ai, which might be subtle in its use and its benefit. And then we’ll have other types of AI that will be far more pervasive in the way they engage with us. So it would be my expectation or my general guess that Apple would probably be a little bit more directing, empowering Siri with probably more active taskings with the way it engages people on the phone. I wouldn’t be surprised with Google and their Bard basically doing these similar things where various aspects of Microsoft and their utilization of generative AI will probably see some back of house applications perhaps in the administrative, the IT admin space where it might be about managing policies, recommending changes to policies, potentially automatically recommending patching and things like that. Some really fundamental things that might again, take really the bottom end of any kind of job or industry. And basically providing levels of automation or being a recommender system, recognizing the difference between what has been done, what needs to be done or what could be done. So we would

Speaker 4 (37:04):

Just love that because then instead of taking away a job, it just repurpose is a job to me. It’s like okay, we don’t have to do that, so now we can do this.

Speaker 3 (37:13):

Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. And look, my business school professor, he says quite consistently, humanity should not be afraid of artificial intelligence as long as it’s not stuck in the old ways. And I think that’s really the biggest thing. And

Speaker 4 (37:32):

When you say the old

Speaker 3 (37:33):

Ways, so just doing the way we’ve always done it. Right. Okay. So I mean Eisenhower, Dwight d Eisenhower has got a great saying and it’s like neither a wisener man or a brave man ties himself to the tracks of history and lets the train of tomorrow run ’em over. I mean that’s a great message where businesses need to recognize the fact that hey, this job, it’s been a great job, but it’s over. You’re going to do something better. An example in the construction industry, I’ve often asked, and I’ve actually made a comment to a journal where we’re talking about robotics and a robot can build a brick wall 30% faster with something like 30 to 40% more structural integrity than a human. But we’re still using people and they’re saying, oh well that’s going to take jobs. And I said yes and no. So yes, it’ll take the job of someone that’s just building straight brick walls, but when people built buildings, they were artisans.


I mean you think of the cathedrals that we have in Brisbane alone, they’re over a hundred years old and they were built by people that were passionate about the work they did. They weren’t just turning up for a paycheck. And that’s what we need to go back to when we go back to people doing things because they loved the work they did, not just because it was a paycheck. And I think that’s where AI is going to force a lot of people that have been working in the bottom end of the office productivity environment, which unfortunately for them, they will have to ask tougher questions around growth. I mean the best things never came from just sitting on your couch. They came from doing hard work and this is what’s words

Speaker 4 (39:18):

Of wisdom there. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (39:21):

So that’s the challenge. And look, it’s just going to get more and more pervasive as generative ai. I mean do is announce their new products Firefly? Yeah, yeah, exactly. Wow.

Speaker 4 (39:32):

Actually I haven’t heard

Speaker 2 (39:33):

About that actually. What

Speaker 3 (39:34):

Are they doing? Yeah, so you can now instruct their suite firefly basically to change brushes or provide support to achieve any kind of potential artwork or effect that you want to. It’s incredible.

Speaker 4 (39:47):

Yeah, the example I saw was you’d have a photo of a cottage in a field and it’s a bright nice summer’s day and then you could, it’s kind of a, what’s the one? The text visual mod mod mid journey. Yeah, it’s

Speaker 3 (40:00):

Kind of,

Speaker 4 (40:01):

Wow. I actually logged into Mid Journey the other day when I was having my chay te I’m going to try this mid journey thing. And I’m like, oh my god, it’s on Discord. And it was a bit too hard for me that train track coming back. But I’d seen, I do use Adobe Suite obviously for a lot of things and I’m not an artist and I do, it does take me a long time to get artwork done and I just saw this, I’m like, oh my God, this is going to make me able to actually, you can see what you want and it’s going to actually let me do it myself. But yeah, the example was kind of mid journey where you can have an image and you can type in, okay, this is a cottage in a nice field, it’s summer, the sun’s shining, it looks like a bright summer day. You can go, okay, make this look like a winter scene. And then it’s like snow frost. It just, it’s amazing. It looked, yeah, it was cool. And there’s a bunch of other tools, but yeah, it looks, I don’t think it’s out yet. I think you can get on a beta

Speaker 3 (40:47):

Program. Yeah, I think it’s been,

Speaker 4 (40:49):

I’m not sure I was, how much are you going to charge for this one? Adobe?

Speaker 2 (40:53):

It’s going to be a lucrative, I guess the next 10 years in terms of what businesses charge for stuff that are first to market and kind of capture.

Speaker 4 (40:58):

So again, I see that going back to the creativity conversation for me, not being amazing at drawing a Photoshop but still having a vision if you like. Something like that to me, I haven’t used it, but just based on the marketing video I saw, I’m like, that should help actually unlock a lot of creativity for people like me who haven’t had the time to learn those tools, you have to put in a lot of effort. It’s kind of like, I don’t know, I was into music in the music industry, but the dawn of these things and the democratization if you like, of the music industry, you used to have to get a million dollars minimum to go into a big studio with all the gear and the amps and the big mixing board. But literally if you’ve got half a brain with this microphone and this computer, I mean you can make a number one hit on the charts. And so I see Firefly kind of like can help you get your vision, make your vision a reality artistically.

Speaker 3 (41:54):

Absolutely. And look, I think what the challenge is to put a bit of an investment and financial hat on is, well what are you paying for though? And what will people pay for? So I think where those people that are selling tools and have recognized the value of AI and its utilization from a capability stand for standpoint, the challenge will be the value of creativity. When some creativity will be perceived to be, well I could just buy that a dub suite and achieve that outcome. I guess

Speaker 4 (42:29):

A final,

Speaker 3 (42:29):

If you see what I mean.

Speaker 4 (42:30):

I see what you mean. So the example in music and what people have said, it’s like, okay, well it’s actually, I use the word democratize cause it’s now anyone who actually has talent can make a song. You’re not limited by the music, the record labels or the music companies or who’s the best at schmoozing or whatever. So I guess in that example with the Adobe one, I would almost go, well, someone’s going to have a better vision, who’s got the best vision and can get the tool to get you the best outcome because now it’s a much more level playing field Look, and I said some of this is a very philosophical and deep questions. What does Star Trek tell us? I don’t know.

Speaker 2 (43:09):

No, it’s going to be an interesting next,

Speaker 4 (43:11):

Bring us back on track. Yeah, bring us back on track, Jackson.

Speaker 2 (43:16):

It’s definitely going to be interesting. There’s be a lot going to be, a lot of data. It’s going to be, and like a processing power, it’s going to be required for all these kind of tools coming out and where it’s going to be store, it’s going to be wild time in the IT industry. It’s not going anywhere. It’s going to get more crazy. Let’s put a little bit to defense tech, something that yet you are big on. What is defense tech?

Speaker 3 (43:32):

So defense tech is what we are calling emerging technology in the early stage startup space. So defense has always been inventive, innovative. I mean Alan Shing during World War II came up with a computer to decipher enigma encoders GPS defense capability because we didn’t know where our ships were, where basically our assets were. The internet, which was initially known as arpanet, was defense project. So critical aspects of the information age all came from defense. Darpa, Siri was actually a DARPA project that they rejected and obviously what ended up happening was obviously Apple bought the capability. So this is DAPA and invention in the defense environment is not something that is uncommon. It has just been that since World War II and the Cold War defense as an industry and as an organization being the actual departments of defense across the west primarily moved from being about performance to being about economics.


How do we buy things cheaply? We need to maintain supply because the world was largely at peace. I mean, yes, we had Afghanistan, but the reality is that was a very isolated environment that most of the world didn’t see the effect of beyond the Americans, beyond those that were involved. And it was easy to manage the logistical requirements because fundamentally it was contained within one nation. Now obviously we’re facing a potentially very different environment should the world fall into some form of global conflict. And now as a point of evidence is that people are taking this seriously. I mean even Australia’s future fund in their portfolio construction report from last year recognized hot and Cold Wars as being something that will impact people’s portfolios. P G I M, another investment manager also recognized hot and cold wars as being a fundamental question mark and challenge for supply chains and investments in the near and medium term future.


So the reality is defense tech, coming back to your question is about that opportunity where actually what’s happened is because a lot of technology’s been democratized, actually a lot of the novel applications of how do you make this available to the masses has actually happened outside of defense, not inside defense because defense has been more focused on doing thing particular things well in a particular way at a relatively controlled economic cost. Now let’s ignore the fact that there’s a bunch of budget blowouts, so let’s ignore that aspect. But the reality is it’s been economically driven. It’s the opportunities that we’ve seen in the broader environment where people don’t realize that their technology actually could be vital for defense applications. And we’re not necessarily talking about lethal capability. I mean that is definitely there, but for us, what we think is actually defense is now move the needle’s.


Now moving back to being performance centric, you’ll hear a lot of references to asymmetric capability, which is really their way of saying, can we do more with less and can we do it extremely well? And it’s that kind of thinking that we’re applying and we’re relating to as defense tech and it’s what we’re obviously looking at investing in because it’s where we can see an organization that’s hungry to find answers to a variety of problems and we learn and grow or startups will learn and grow through that experience and just build better products or build a better business. And through the process of any particular goal, global conflict, should that happen, even if it is a cold war, well there’ll be a marketplace and things like orcas, which is obviously the Australian UK and US Alliance, that is a fundamental opportunity that very few businesses have recognized the benefit of because for the first time we have the ability to transfer technologies and build businesses in both the UK and the US rapidly cause of that treaty.

Speaker 2 (47:55):

Interesting. I know some of the effects that happened in the economy big time when the UK Ukraine, Russia war sparked started last year was that was wild, what happened there? So definitely, especially if the China, God forbid, does anything, it’s going to change significantly and it’s going to be massive, I guess impact to the economy and otherwise. What are some of the challenges the defense has with ai?

Speaker 3 (48:20):

So I mean the big one is ethical implications of using AI because depending on how it’s used, if it has any effect on how it makes a decision that could affect a person’s life, livelihood or the implication on another nation, that is a critical decision that needs to be considered. And for the West, we are very much full within the rules based order. And so everything we do will have a consequence. And if you consider our references to the chewing test, I mean if AI becomes sentient and can fool a human being and then can make decisions, well that’s not necessarily a good thing for defense. If it means a decision can be made that basically kills a person or does damage to another defense asset. So ethics is a major issue for us and issue because we’ve got to ask a lot of questions and we’ve got to do that very quickly. And that is the fundamental challenge that defense has is it needs to figure things out very quickly with technology that is evolving really faster than sometimes you can implement it.

Speaker 2 (49:36):

Yeah, I remember the odd story of Elon Maow. He donated starlink to over the Ukraine, then he realized that they were using that to basically get communication to drones and then drop bombs on people and then ripped them out straight away. So there’s definitely some crazy examples. Alright, let’s pivot a little bit AK to emerging technology, something you are very passionate about, what’s happening in the emerging technology space?

Speaker 3 (50:04):

So there’s a lot happening in emerging tech. Obviously AI is a great enabler and we’re seeing a lot of change there and that’s really challenging and creating opportunities across things like energy technologies. So there’s modular batteries, new ways of being able to establish batteries and then manage those batteries from a space tech perspective. I mean that’s been massively in Australia where we have actually our own space agency. We have an astronaut that’s going to be going to the ISS in near course. She started her training, which is also equally exciting. One of the fundamental aspects we’ve seen in the space tech space, which is more than just satellites, it’s the underlying environmental systems that we’re starting to develop. So as Elon basically pushes humanity to Mars, the questions that we’ve got to ask ourselves is how can we live on Mars? And it’s funny because for me what’s exciting is well, if we can live on Mars, we’re going to have to recycle carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen and carbon.


And well isn’t that exactly what the whole idea of decarbonization is all about? And so what we need to operate at high degrees of performance in outer space in Mars actually solves earth’s biggest problem. And that’s one of the reasons why we built this fund. It’s basically to be able to identify and take these novel weird approaches that really aren’t that uncommon in terms of market applications, but it’s just not necessarily being perceived as being close enough to being used commercially. And certainly from an infrastructure standpoint, well it’s a model that most infrastructure investors don’t want because they write a hundred million checks. And so they want one big asset that does one thing really well that has reliable growth. They don’t want kind of networked assets that have multiple points of management that need more technology because they see that as more risk. And sure there is definitely more risk, but we also need to accept that risk.


Just like we accept technology doing a lot of things that it never used to do before the manufacturing line. People rode horses and built things one at a time. And manufacturing lines are something that we accept now. Robotics in car manufacturing, we accept. We don’t expect, I mean there are some people that still manufacture them and they’re very expensive cars that very few people can buy, but for the most part, everything else is robotics, including surgery for a lot of people. We do a lot of robotic surgery now. So we’ve got to accept that aspect. And it’s sort of where, if we go back to where we begin and it’s where national security really is that existential requirement that’s coming that’s already here for Australia and it’s already in the discourse. I mean the number of times I’ve seen potential war with China geopolitical unrest in the region as being in the news for everybody to watch, not just, you know, have to go to a special channel or wait for a special report.


It is happening almost at least on a weekly basis if not a daily basis at times. And so it’s aspect that we’ve all got to come to consciousness and emerging tech really can solve a lot of problems in a creative way that will change the way we do things. But it will probably give us a lot of freedom that we never thought we would have and introduce new opportunities just like Uber has introduced an opportunity that wouldn’t think people would want to do as in drive a stranger around in their own car. But that’s now a thing. And we get frustrated when we can’t get an Uber and we use a taxi. It’s kind of weird now, right? It’s literally inverted. Yeah,

Speaker 2 (54:00):


Speaker 3 (54:00):


Speaker 2 (54:01):

We spoke that before with the working from moment, right? Everyone’s running home with covid and then staying home, not wanting to come in and that kind of thing. It’s a weird time with this. I think all technology and emerging tech and AI is almost going too fast, have to protract a little bit. So it’s just weird evolution. Yeah. What’s next for Ascend and Patel?

Speaker 3 (54:20):

So really for us, the two things that we’re going to be doing at a rate of speed is continuing to support the education of the industry around national security and how it is a single point of failure for a lot of businesses. And it’s about how technology disruption is really both part of that threat, but also the opportunity that they have in front of them because it allows them to take the time to help support change for their people, which is going to be absolutely vital. But people need time and how do you manage the fact that you don’t have everyone available? We don’t have a new workforce that’s ready to do new things in new ways with new capability. So we’ve got to balance this use of this technology whilst we’re supporting people changing and doing things new ways so we can utilize the technology to great effect.


So that’s one of our priorities. And the other is finding great startups that we want to write checks to and help them be pivotal to Australia’s success as it builds really for the first time. A whole bunch of sovereign capability that allows us to be a leader. If we’d commercialized wifi, there would be so much money in the Australian federal government that we could literally plate everything in gold and still have change. And we didn’t do that. And that’s something that I don’t want Australia to miss and that’s one of the reasons why sends around to find technologies like that back them and make them basically global standards that everyone loves.

Speaker 2 (55:52):

Yeah, awesome. There’s looking forward to it. And mate, thanks for coming in. Everyone, someone wants to reach out to you, how can they find you?

Speaker 3 (55:58):

So we’ve got our website, we’ve got LinkedIn, follow me, chase us there and we’ll get back to you.

Speaker 2 (56:04):



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