The history of 3Ai

In 2017, the 3A Institute was created as the first of the innovation institutes at the Australian National University, intended as structures adjacent to established research and teaching programs to explore new education models and pathways towards the application of research.


3Ai sits within the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) and is a flagship initiative to reimagine a new type of engineering and computing, one that is custom built and fit for the middle of the 21st century.


Who is building, managing and decommissioning our AI-enabled future? This question is at the heart of our mission. We are guiding and accelerating into existence a new branch of engineering centred on cyber-physical systems and artificial intelligence. Our mission is to build the skills and knowledge we need to help shape the future safely, sustainably and responsibly. 


3Ai is a strategic initiative of The Australian National University and as such has its own personality within the ANU brand. The pulse in the 3Ai logo represents a Wi-Fi signal combined with a human ECG signal – it epitomises our aim of keeping humanity in technology.

3Ai presents the School of Cybernetics

The School of Cybernetics was established in early 2021 at the ANU College of Engineering and Computer Science as one of three Schools: Engineering, Computing and Cybernetics.


The School of Cybernetics is now the home of the 3A Institute, and is building upon the foundational work of 3Ai under the leadership of Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell. It carries forward the mission of 3Ai, to create a new branch of engineering to take AI-enabled cyber-physical systems safely, sustainably and responsibly to scale.


The School has three focus areas: the 3A Institute, Systems and Design. Each of these areas are establishing programs that blend education, research and engagement to create a new generation of practitioners who are custom-fit for the middle of the 21st century. The work of 3Ai is focused on cyber-physical systems – next generation technologies characterised by edge computing, sensing technologies, large datasets and connectivity and increasingly sophisticated learning algorithms. It explores not just the technology, but also the social, environmental, cultural, political and regulatory contexts these cyber-physical systems are being built within. Systems will build on the Australian National University’s distinctive history as a centre for systems thinking, providing critical skills to industries and sectors working with complexity. Design will focus on identifying, articulating, and growing a first-of-its-kind design competency, one that isn’t afraid to ask the question “We can build it, but should we?”. As a whole, the School of Cybernetics aims to equip people for the challenges of the future, so that we can all contribute to building a safe, sustainable and responsible world.


Why cybernetics?


Cybernetics started as a remarkable set of conversations that represented an attempt to constitute a new body of knowledge and a new discipline. These conversations were a clear and deliberate examination of the role of technology in our lives and revealed new kinds of possibilities for the future. Cybernetics offers a way of transcending boundaries, of thinking in systems and ensuring that humans, technology and the environment are in the frame as technology advances and transforms the world around us. At the School of Cybernetics, we are curating the next set of conversations, and reimagining cybernetics for the middle of the 21st century. Will you join us in changing the world?

Meet our Director Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell

Artificial intelligence and cyber-physical systems


Genevieve Bell is a cultural anthropologist, technologist and futurist best known for her work at the intersection of cultural practice and technology development.

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Asking the right questions

A message from our Director

What brought Genevieve home to Australia after 20 years in Silicon Valley? Read more about her vision for the 3A Institute and the School of Cybernetics. 

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Cybernetics and systems engineering

Talks by Genevieve Bell

Hear more from Genevieve by exploring her catalogue of talks on our YouTube channel. 

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3Ai is funded through research and training collaborations with partners, speaking opportunities, and through philanthropic donations. 3Ai received initial seed funding from The Australian National University and CSIRO:Data61.


Our 2019 #3Aifirstcohort was supported by KPMG, Macquarie Group and Microsoft.


Full list of funders (current and previous, not including speaking engagements or training contracts):



Department of Defence


Gillian Pearl

Google (grant)


Macquarie Group

Microsoft Australia

The Australian National University

Fancy a chat?

The School of Cybernetics is the home of the 3A Institute, located in the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia. Please use the contact form to get in touch or call us on +61 2 6125 8121