How has your career developed since you first started work?
After completing my law degree, I decided not to go into corporate law. I wanted to see the world. So I applied for the graduate program at DFAT. After a few years in Canberra, I got my chance, heading off as a diplomat to Lebanon with a headful of Arabic. It was an intense time, even by Middle Eastern standards. The Arab Spring and war in Syria broke soon after our arrival. My wife and I nonetheless immersed ourselves in Lebanese culture and the generosity of its people. We had our first child in Beirut. After returning to Canberra, I worked on Israel before being selected for a role in the Foreign Minister’s office. A short time later, I became the Prime Minister’s US and Middle East adviser and occasional speechwriter. I loved the responsibility of working on the biggest foreign policy issues of the day. But ultimately, I wanted a new challenge. So I find myself today in this dynamic agency, where every day is different and any idea might be pursued.
What are the three books you love and why?
The best books still haunt me. They come to me in reflective moments, offering up their advice. The Grapes of Wrath taught me to remember the little guy: good people can fall down when faced with bad luck and the wolfishly unscrupulous. Crime and Punishment warned me about hubris: not all of us are destined to be Napoleon, and shouldn’t try to be. Catcher in the Rye reminded me to value the everyday: it’s the ordinary moments that make a life worth living.
Do you love or hate technology – why?
I love technology. I bore my friends and family regularly with theories on AI, superintelligence, machine learning, cryogenics and nanotechnology. I’m particularly taken by Jeremy Rifkin’s Third Industrial Revolution. The premise is that renewable energy, electric vehicles and the internet will coalesce to form a massive internet of things. If Rifkin is right, and I’m pretty sure he is, the way we do business, govern society, educate our children and engage in civic life is about to change forever, and for the better.