The Hobart

Future-Tech Expert On Leadership And Launnie

by Stephanie Williams
Future-Tech Expert On Leadership And Launnie

Tasmanian Amanda Johnstone is a globally acknowledged AI technologist and the founding CEO of Transhuman, a mental health and emotion AI technology company. A trailblazer in leadership and STEM, Amanda is heading home next month for a very special International Women’s Day event with TasICT.

Amanda’s contributions have been celebrated by TIME as a Next Generation Leader and by The CEO Magazine awarding her the Start-up Executive of the Year award, highlighting her impact in social impact technology.

An entrepreneur for over 20 years, it was at the young age of 17, Amanda co-founded award-winning retail chain, Sebachi, in Tasmania. Under the mentor­ship of Cotton On founder, Nigel Austin, Sebachi became one of Australia’s first e-commerce stores in the early 2000’s.

Amanda has always been passionate about social issues, as Australia’s first Youth Development Officer at 18 in local government at the West Tamar Council – she also took on philanthropic roles in management, policy and strategy in suicide prevention at a youth suicide prevention retreat in Tasmania for fifteen years. Her many personal experiences with suicide, inspired Johnstone to invent her proprietary mental health App, ‘“Be A Looper” and EmotionAI technologies.

Tell us about growing up in Tasmania. Was tech a part of your childhood? Growing up in Tasmania was like being in a painting where the hues of technol­ogy started to seep through the canvas as time went by. My childhood was analog in many respects (I’m 37 now, so grew up in the time of no mobile phones until I was in year 6), but I vividly remember the thrill of cobbling together my very own computer, a Frankenstein’s monster of tech, which Mum and I bought piece by piece for a mere $50 from the educa­tion department. It was a thrilling time, booting up that machine to the sound of dial up via an hourly pay as you go con­nection in Kings Meadows, and winning a Microsoft Windows 95 software package felt like claiming a golden ticket to the future. I wasn’t just eager, I was ravenous for knowledge and I still am.

How did you get your start in AI technology and future tech? My foray into AI and future tech has the makings of an ensemble film, where I’m not the sole inventor but rather the orchestrator, harmonising the brilliance of minds like Oliver Rozynski’s ground-breaking EmotionAI concept with the virtuoso per­formances of technologists, scientists, and developers to commercialise and deploy it to the market and protect the data that drives it. That’s my role as the CEO and this is how we’re scripting the narrative of EmotionAI at Transhuman.

My academic waltz with computer science was short lived (a whole semester at Curtain Uni before dropping out), but the real learning comes from the hands-on work of doing. And when I have maestros like Dr. Chris Mattmann from NASA JPL to guide me, every day is a masterclass in innovation!

Social issues are close to your heart. What role does, and can, technology play in helping people? When it comes to the role of technology in social issues, I see it as the great enhancer of our humanity, not its replacement. Technology doesn’t subtract from our human experience; it amplifies it. We’re on the cusp of a renaissance where our digital addiction morphs into meaningful interaction, where we exchange the cold touch of screens for the warmth of spatially computed and tactile handshakes and hugs, where wearables emancipate us from the tether of phones, and where AI and The Internet of Things syncs with The Internet of Bodies, ushering in a revolu­tion in work, wellness, and home life.

In 2023, LinkedIn named you a Top Voice in Artificial Intelligence. What does this recognition mean to you? Being recognised as a LinkedIn Top Voice in AI isn’t just a personal triumph; it’s a clarion call for clarity in a field shrouded in myth, doomsday forecasters and apprehension. It’s a platform that allows me to democratise AI education, to cut through the noise and offer a beacon for those eager to harness this transformative technology in a low barrier to access (free!) way.

You’re coming back to Tassie soon as a guest speaker for International Women’s Day at TasICT. Why is it important to empower women in leadership, especially in STEM fields? Returning to Tassie for International Women’s Day at TasICT isn’t just a homecoming; it’s a mission. Empowering women in leadership and STEM is about curating a chorus of diverse voices, ensuring our technologies reflect a kaleidoscope of perspectives to ensure we don’t build bias into technology by only having one gender or perspective at the table.

What are you working on next? As for what’s on the horizon, Transhuman is charting new territories with Fortune 500 companies, steering them through the landscape of EmotionAI.

Love this

Cold Water Wake Up Call
It seems everywhere I turn someone is talking about or participating in cold water swimming right now.
A Short Geelong Getaway
Since the Spirit of Tasmania terminal moved from Melbourne to Geelong late last year, a visit to Geelong has been on the radar.
27 Hobart Friends Get Snipping For One Off Wine
The borders were declared shut in Tasmania on the 30th of March, 2020; the first stare to do so amid the COVID- 19 pandemic and hard lockdown of Hobart followed.
Danphe Nepalese and Indian Food + Peppermint Bay Bar and Bistro
Nepalese food is a comfort in our house. Having spent much time trekking and mountain climbing in Nepal as a younger man, Nepalese food is something I always love to go back to.
That’s DR Hannah Gadsby To You
From Smithton to Netflix and the Emmys stage, Tasmanian stand up comic Hannah Gadsby has forged an unlikely path. Following on from the massive success of her shows Nanette and Douglas, Hannah brings her new show Body of Work to Hobart this month.
PODCAST: Incat founder Robert Clifford on why electric boats are the future
Robert Clifford is the founder of Incat, a Hobart company building fast ferries for the world. Always looking to future opportunities, he has identified where Hobart sits in the next wave of transportation. For more of this interview listen to The Hobart Magazine podcast.
Is Tourism Ready For More Forestry Wars?
Tasmanian forests are special. They’re home to centuries-old trees, including the tallest flowering trees on the planet, and support unique native species. Yet not everyone agrees on how these forests should be managed.
Hobart Chefs: When The Obsession Becomes Real
Tasmania’s brand as a foodie haven is cemented. But within the local hospitality industry there are those who love to use local produce...and those who are next-level obsessed with it. We spoke to a bunch of Hobart chefs who are top of the game when it comes to fostering relationships with local farmers and growers.
Did You Know Australia’s First Female Doctor Was Hobartian?
Tasmania, despite its small size and population in comparison to the mainland, has produced more than its proportionally predicted percentage of significant figures and heroes of Australian history. 
Return Travellers Adding Pressure to Hobart Housing
For all of us 2020 was a year like no other, punctuated by rapid change and plenty of new challenges. For vulnerable people in Tasmania, including people facing homelessness, those on low incomes and those facing increasingly higher rents, it was very challenging. We are seeing a growing demand for homes in Tassie from international travellers returning home, people moving for work and others seeking the lifestyle that our Apple Isle has to offer.
AboutContributeAdvertiseNewsletter Sign UpContact
May 2024

Stay up to date with everything happening at the Hobart Magazine.

Thank you to Luke Brokensha for mobilising his friends and local residents recently to host two rubbish clean ups along the Hobart Rivulet after heavy rains.
The warm weather returns...hello summer.
Need a laugh? Check out @theinspiredunemployed feed on Instagram.
Moto Vecchia Cafe in Bellerive and Czegs Cafe in Richmond have joined the Clarence City Council dementia program, creating dementia-friendly spaces for all patrons.
It’s hard to believe it’s not standard practice to have a working phone in every aged care room - shared phones make private conversations impossible and increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Tacks on the tracks. Mountain bikers beware of tacks being left on certain tracks on the mountain.
Just when you think your cousins are alright. NZ Opposition Leader Judith Collins took aim at Tassie during her recent (unsuccessful) campaign, calling us Australia’s “poor cousin.” She also seems worried about us nabbing tech businesses, “It’s a lovely part of the world but do you necessarily want to go there with your high- tech business? Possibly not,” she said. We beg to differ!