AI disinformation, “biggest global threat in the short term”

In its latest global risks report, the World Economic Forum warns that the proliferation of fake and misleading information generated by sophisticated artificial intelligence poses an immediate threat to global economies and democratic societies. Released ahead of the annual gathering in Davos, the report highlights the findings of a survey involving nearly 1,500 experts, industry executives, and policymakers.

The report identifies fake news and disinformation as the most serious risk over the next two years, emphasizing how rapid technological advancements exacerbate existing challenges. The rise of generative AI chatbots, such as ChatGPT, is noted as a concern, as it enables the creation of highly convincing synthetic content that can manipulate public opinion without requiring specialized skills.

The upcoming Davos meetings are expected to focus on AI, with participation from industry leaders like OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, and Meta’s Chief AI Scientist, Yann LeCun. This is especially pertinent as AI-powered fake news and disinformation could impact elections in several major economies, potentially undermining democratic processes and exacerbating societal polarization.

Carolina Klint, head of risk management at Marsh, warns that AI can also empower malicious actors by facilitating cyberattacks and perpetuating biases in AI models. Additionally, the report highlights climate change as a top global concern, with extreme weather events posing a significant near-term risk and long-term threats related to critical changes in Earth systems, biodiversity loss, and resource shortages.

Klint emphasizes the urgency of addressing these risks, noting that the next decade could be crucial in determining whether irreversible tipping points in climate change are crossed.

Piers Potter


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