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With nearly half of the world's adult population heading to the polls in a busy election year, concern about the role of artificial intelligence in disrupting the results has topped the list of the biggest risks for 2024, according to a new report.
The World Economic Forum's “Global Risks Report 2024” on Wednesday ranked misinformation and disinformation derived from artificial intelligence — and its effects on societal polarization — ahead of climate change, war and economic vulnerability in the top 10 risks over the next two years.
“AI can build models to influence large numbers of voters in a way that we have never seen before,” Carolina Klint, commercial director for Europe at consultancy Marsh McLennan, which co-authored the report, told CNBC's Silvia Amaro.
“How that plays out will be very important for us to monitor,” she added.
Looking to the future, the balance of risks for the next decade is shifting towards extreme climate conditions and decisive changes in the political world order, with two-thirds of those surveyed expecting a new multipolar or fragmented world to take shape.
The World Economic Forum report, also produced in collaboration with Zurich Insurance Group, surveyed more than 1,400 global risk experts, policy makers and industry leaders in September 2023 about their biggest global concerns.
The combined risks “stretch the world's ability to adapt to its limits,” the report's authors said, calling on leaders to focus on global cooperation and building guardrails for the most disruptive emerging risks.
“An unstable global order characterized by polarization and insecurity, and the worsening impacts of extreme weather and economic uncertainty, is creating an accelerating spread of risks – including misinformation and disinformation,” said Saadia Zahidi, Director-General of the World Economic Forum.
“World leaders must come together to address short-term crises as well as lay the foundation for a more resilient, sustainable and inclusive future,” she added.
The most frequently mentioned risks in the next two years, in order, were: misinformation and disinformation, extreme weather events, societal polarization, cyber insecurity, and armed conflict between states. Also in the top 10 are lack of economic opportunity, inflation, involuntary migration, economic downturn, and pollution.
Extreme climate events, critical change in Earth systems, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, natural resource shortages, and misinformation and disinformation are ranked as the most likely risks over the next 10 years. Negative outcomes resulting from AI technologies have also been identified as a long-term concern.
“AI breakthroughs will radically disrupt risk expectations for organizations, many of which are struggling to respond to threats arising from disinformation, disintermediation, and poor strategic judgment,” Clint said in the report.
“At the same time, companies are having to negotiate supply chains that are becoming more complex due to geopolitics, climate change and cyber threats from a growing number of malicious actors. It will take relentless focus to build resilience at the regulatory, country and international levels – she added: “There is greater collaboration between the public and private sectors – to deal with this rapidly evolving risk landscape.”
The report comes as world leaders are scheduled to meet next week in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual summit of the World Economic Forum, where they will discuss global issues including the ongoing conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, the economy and technology, under the slogan “Rebuilding.” trust.”
It also comes as the world begins a historic year of elections, with Taiwan starting elections this weekend, which are also scheduled to take place in the United States, India, Russia, South Africa and Mexico.
In separate global risks 2024 a report Released on Monday, the Eurasia Group ranked the upcoming US election as the biggest risk of the year, with “ungoverned AI” also ranking in the top five.
Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group, said in a press conference that given the broader ramifications of the election result, the consulting firm had “no choice” but to rank risks ahead of the wars between Russia, Ukraine, Israel and Hamas. .
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