AI Takes Center Stage at Davos 2024

The World Economic Forum held in Davos in 2024 showcased the significant impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on various aspects of society. With over two dozen sessions dedicated to AI, the event delved into topics ranging from AI in education to AI regulation.

The Presence of AI Experts

The event attracted renowned figures in the AI industry, including Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI; Mustafa Suleyman, CEO of Inflection AI; Andrew Ng, AI pioneer; Yann LeCun, Chief AI scientist at Meta; and Aidan Gomez, CEO of Cohere, among others.

Shift in Focus from “Gee Whiz” to Risk Assessment

While the previous year’s discourse at Davos 2023 mainly revolved around the excitement surrounding the release of ChatGPT, this year’s narrative shifted towards a more tempered evaluation of the risks associated with AI. Chris Padilla, IBM’s VP of government and regulatory affairs, expressed this change in an interview with The Washington Post, stating, “Now, it’s ‘What are the risks? What do we have to do to make AI trustworthy?'”

Several concerns were deliberated upon during the event, including the proliferation of misinformation, job displacement, and the widening economic gap between wealthy and poor nations. The threat of wholesale misinformation and disinformation, particularly in the form of deepfake media, emerged as one of the most discussed AI risks. These deepfakes, which include manipulated photos, videos, and voice clones, can distort reality and erode trust.

“This is kind of just the tip of the iceberg in what could be done with respect to voter suppression or attacks on election workers,” warned Kathleen Carley, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

Efforts to detect deepfakes have proven challenging, as highlighted by Jeremy Kahn in a Fortune article, who emphasized the corrosive nature of distrust on democracy and society.

Recognizing the potential risks, AI consultant Reuven Cohen predicted a flood of deepfake audio, images, and videos in time for the 2024 election. Despite ongoing efforts, a foolproof method to detect these manipulated media has not yet been found.

The anticipation of achieving Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), where AI surpasses human capabilities across various domains, has also sparked debates among experts. While some, like Sam Altman and Aidan Gomez, believe AGI is on the horizon, others, such as Yann LeCun, express skepticism about its imminent arrival.

“Human-level AI is not just around the corner. This is going to take a long time. And it’s going to require new scientific breakthroughs that we don’t know of yet,” stated LeCun in an interview with EL PAÍS.

The general perception of AI among the public is divided, according to the 2024 Edelman Trust Barometer. While some respondents embrace AI and other innovative technologies, others express skepticism and concerns. The report suggests that people are more likely to accept AI if it undergoes thorough scrutiny by scientists and ethicists, grants individuals control over its impact, and promises a better future.

As we navigate the landscape of AI, it is vital to exercise caution and innovation. The long-term effects of AI may not align with our initial expectations, as emphasized by Amara’s Law, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run,” defined by Roy Amara.

While we anticipate both the benefits and potential harm of AI and AGI, it is crucial for individuals and companies to understand how to harness the power of generative AI effectively. Accenture CEO Julie Sweet stresses the importance of connecting the technology to its value and encourages C-suite leaders to learn about AI through workshops offered by the consulting firm.

In conclusion, we find ourselves at a crossroads, where responsible stewardship and innovative spirit can shape a future where AI contributes to human progress without compromising integrity and values. As Gary Grossman, EVP of Technology Practice at Edelman and global lead of the Edelman AI Center of Excellence, aptly describes, “It is for us to harness our collective courage to envision and design a future where AI serves humanity, not the other way around.”

Author: Gary Grossman, EVP of Technology Practice at Edelman and Global Lead of the Edelman AI Center of Excellence

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