THE World Economic Forum (WEF) has stated that the biggest immediate risk to the global economy this year is false information enhanced by advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) that threatens to undermine democracy and polarize society.
In the report released by WEF on Wednesday, January 10, 2024, the organization’s variety of environmental concerns represent the greatest long-term threats.
Based on a survey of around 1,500 experts, business leaders, and policymakers, the report was released ahead of the yearly elite gathering of CEOs and world leaders in Davos, Switzerland.
The research highlighted how fast technological advancements are also causing new problems to arise or escalating pre-existing ones, listing misinformation and disinformation as the most serious concern for the next two years.
The authors warn that the growth in generative AI chatbots like ChatGPT means that developing complex synthetic content that can be used to control groups of people won’t be limited any longer to those with specialized abilities.
Next week at the WEF meeting, chief executives from tech companies like Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, OpenAI’s Sam Altman, and chief AI scientists from Meta are anticipated to be in attendance. Artificial intelligence is also likely to be a major topic of discussion.
The report added that billions of people in several nations, including developed economies like the United States, Britain, Indonesia, India, Mexico, and Pakistan, are scheduled to cast ballots this year and next, and this presents a risk for AI-powered misinformation and disinformation.
Carolina Klint, a risk management leader at Marsh, whose parent company Marsh McLennan co-authored the report with Zurich Insurance Group, stated that AI can be leveraged to do deepfakes and to really impact large groups, which drives misinformation.
“Societies could become further polarized as people find it harder to verify facts, Fake information also could be used to fuel questions about the legitimacy of elected governments, which means that democratic processes could be eroded, and it would also drive societal polarization even further,” Klint said.
She added that the rise of AI brings a host of other risks such as empowering malicious actors by making it easier to carry out cyber attacks, such as by automating phishing attempts or creating advanced malware.
“With AI, you don’t need to be the sharpest tool in the shed to be a malicious actor. It can even poison data that is scraped off the internet to train other AI systems, which is incredibly difficult to reverse and could result in further embedding biases into AI models,” she noted.
Climate change was the second major worldwide concern raised by the risk survey participants after misinformation and disinformation.
In the long term defined as 10 years, extreme weather was classified as the No. 1 hazard, followed by four additional environmental-related risks: catastrophic change to Earth systems; biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse; and natural resource shortages.