By the age of 85, most people would imagine taking it easy and doting on grandchildren. But for Anne Scott, her days involve working on her PhD about artificial intelligence.
Ms Scott is currently working on her PhD around “The confluence of humans and smart machines: imaging a future world” at Victoria’s Swinburne University of Technology: an amazing topic given that she grew up before computers or the internet had even been invented.
“If I did my PhD back then, I would have had to use a typewriter to write a 100,000-word thesis, but I wouldn’t have even been able to do my PhD topic, because computer science or artificial intelligence didn’t even exist,” she said.
‘If you can, I can’
“When I told my friends and family I was going to start studying my PhD, I thought they would all say, ‘Tell her she’s dreaming’, but everyone has been encouraging and supportive and my family [is] looking forward to coming to my graduation ceremony!
“I want to set an example for senior and retired people that learning is lifelong and you’re never too old to study.”
Two of her three children have postgraduate qualifications, which have inspired Ms Scott to pursue her own.
“I say to my sons — ‘If you can, I can’.”
Ms Scott has long been a firm believer in education. In 1966, she graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree. She has since added to her qualifications with a Master of Education in 1980 and a Graduate Diploma in Education Administration in 1999, all from the University of Melbourne.
She also worked for many years as a school teacher, in both Melbourne and Sydney.
However, Ms Scott is not alone in continuing her education pursuits later in life. According to a spokesperson for Universities Australia, there were 2,098 PhD students aged 60 and over enrolled at Australian universities in 2017.
It is unclear whether Ms Scott is the oldest Australian to undertake this level of qualification, though, based on the current available data, the spokesperson said.
For her research focus, Ms Scott is examining the relationship people have, and could have in the future, with artificial intelligence.
“Confluence means two rivers coming together to form a single river. I am researching how humans and artificial intelligence (AI) are merging and how their confluence can help solve the world’s problems,” she explained.
“We think smart machines are taking over the world, and we’re all going to lose our jobs to them.
“I want to learn how AI has potential value in improving human life on earth, and how we can collaborate with smart machines in the workforce.”
Ms Scott is due to graduate in 2022.
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.
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