AI and Spirituality Intertwine with Dr Catriona Wallace
Pauline Nguyen and special guest Dr Catriona Wallace
Dr Catriona Wallace is truly an extraordinary human. She has been acknowledged as one of the country’s preeminent scientists and experts in the field of artificial intelligence and the metaverse.
But what I believe makes Catriona (who I affectionately call Doc) deeply incredible is her courage.
Catriona’s journey has been far from linear, but when you hear her reflect on her path, the theme is clear. Justice, a persistent quest for her true self, and an abiding love of this exquisite life.
Starting out as a policewoman not only taught Catriona deep empathy but also all about the things that can hurt humans. This caused her to ask the bigger question of what may harm humanity, society and our Earth in the future. And the answer she came up with was technology.
Pursuing this question led Catriona to become the CEO and Chair of Flamingo AI, the second-only woman-led business to list on the ASX. An impressive feat in itself. But alongside this hero’s journey-career she has always heard the call of spirit.
Initially, Catriona’s spiritual work sat to one side of her career, but recently she has been able to step into a life that deeply entwines her training and knowledge in AI with her spirituality and training as a Shamanic healer.
Catriona believes that sharing knowledge about the responsible use of technology is her true calling. Her message is for us to take pause, and consider the catastrophic and existential risk that is posed by AI to humans, society at large, and to the planet. Raising awareness of this is her true purpose and her true passion.
Catriona has been into the jungle and into the jungle, she will go again. She never steps back from the call of Spirit, just as she never shies away from seeing the truth, in all its darkness and difficulty.
Over a warming cup of Tiger Purrr chai, we explore Catriona’s calling, the ways she has reckoned with her life, and how she is helping make sure humanity survives the future.
Dr Catriona Wallace has been acknowledged as one of the country's preeminent scientists and experts in the field of artificial intelligence and the metaverse.
I first met Catriona, who I affectionately call Doc, in 2013 when I handed over the Telstra Business Awards winner’s baton. At the time Catriona was CEO and Chair of Flamingo AI, the second only woman-led business to list on the ASX.
Catriona is also an Adjunct Professor, keynote speaker and founder of the Responsible Metaverse Alliance. She is also a Shamanic practitioner and recently co-authored the book Checkmate Humanity: How and Why of Responsible AI.
What initially struck me about Catriona was her tremendous intention to support.
Catriona had a calling to connect and reconnect with her spirituality and ancestry, and that’s how we started working together.
For Catriona, as a non-indigenous Australian, going back to Ireland was powerful for Catriona to see where her people were indigenous. She shares there is much we can find in our own heritage if we choose to.
Catriona was living the hero’s journey, the masculine path. As the CEO of an AI company, trying to raise kids as a single mother, there was no time for spirituality.
Catriona shares with us the time she spent in New Mexico, Albuquerque with a tribe and Native American elder, where she apprenticed with them for about two years. She shares how she learnt healing medicine but ultimately was told by Spirit that she needed to go back to the corporate world.
Catriona has just come back from Mexico, and shares how she integrates her experiences into the melange that is life.
The day Catriona sold her AI business was the first time she had sat with any kind of plant medicine. She describes it as torturous - a dark night of the soul.
Catriona shares the insight that the work is not the peak experience, the work is the integration, across all levels of your life.
If we are aware and we have intentions but we do nothing about those and do not integrate them into our life, we live in the pain. Catriona has continued her work doing sacred ceremonies in the Sonora Desert with the Seri people, which she describes as profound.
Catriona shares how this work has now given her a different lens on life. She describes how there are two parts of the spiritual practice - first cleaning out trauma and healing, which leads to the second step which is a new vision or an expanded heart, a multiverse or diamond mind.
Catriona was also a policewoman, though she originally wanted to be a farmer. Catriona shares why becoming a cop was an act of rebellion, as well as stepping into a warrior role. She built confidence, saw a different side of life, and developed a deep empathy for other humans.
|Catriona moved into the technology sphere after an understanding that tech was where the actual harm was going to come to humans that we are not yet seeing.
|Catriona shares what AI is and explains that currently, there are no laws, rules, or regulations that determine how AI is built or can be used. AI will be the most powerful force we've ever dealt with.
|AI presents an existential risk to humanity, ahead of climate change, nuclear war, and a bio-engineered pandemic. There is a 1 in 10 chance that AI will wipe humanity out by the end of the century.
|We often think of AI as humanoid, but Catriona explains that it’s more helpful to think of AI as a new species. Catriona built her own robot called Trinity, which essentially became an extension of herself.
|Catriona recently ran a tech meditation to debate whether robots can have consciousness. She clarifies they will have consciousness, but it will be their own consciousness, not human consciousness.
|Catriona is excited about the concept of trans-humanism - there is so much that can come from it. But she feels we will bi-furcate into two streams of humans - those that embrace technology and those that don’t.
|Catriona explains that a metaverse is a fully immersive virtual world where people come to make social connections. However, what we have currently is the tech giants and startups predominantly run by males building these virtual worlds.
|Catriona has a new organisation called the Responsible Metaverse Alliance, a social purpose organisation focused internationally on working with governments, policymakers, politicians, and regulators, to go straight to the regulation of the metaverse.
|Does the metaverse increase connection or incite disconnection? Catriona shares her perspective on this, including the beautiful advantages and the scary side of that as well.
|Catriona reminds us that the metaverse is very real. It's as real as you and I sitting here in this physical world. Similarly, the medicine room is just as real.
|Catriona shares the three things she would have subtracted from her life to make it easier. Ego and identity, trauma as a teenager and poor relationship choices across her life feature as her top three.
|Catriona has five (five!) children and she shares news about becoming a grandmother.
|Catriona delves into what she would have her children understand about her the most. She also reveals why she shares her Shamanic journey with her children, in order to be her true self.
|I acknowledge Catriona, primarily, for her courage. To not play the game anymore, to see the bigger picture at play.
|Deep love makes Catriona purrr. The deep love of this exquisite life. We’ve all chosen to be here. We just need to remember this.
You can also listen to this podcast on your favourite podcast platforms...
Or watch the interview on YouTube