Davos report says AI-powered misinformation is the world’s biggest short-term threat

A ChapGPT logo is seen on a smartphone in West Chester, Pa., Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
A ChapGPT logo is seen on a smartphone in West Chester, Pa., Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

False and misleading information supercharged with cutting-edge artificial intelligence that threatens to erode democracy and polarize society is the top immediate risk to the global economy, the World Economic Forum says in a report.

In its latest Global Risks Report, the organization also says an array of environmental risks pose the biggest threats in the longer term. The report was released ahead of the annual elite gathering of CEOs and world leaders in the Swiss ski resort town of Davos and is based on a survey of nearly 1,500 experts, industry leaders and policymakers.

The report listed misinformation and disinformation as the most severe risk over the next two years, highlighting how rapid advances in technology also are creating new problems or making existing ones worse.

The authors worry that the boom in generative AI chatbots like ChatGPT means that creating sophisticated synthetic content that can be used to manipulate groups of people won’t be limited any longer to those with specialized skills.

AI-powered misinformation and disinformation is emerging as a risk just as a billions of people in a slew of countries, including large economies like the United States, Britain, Indonesia, India, Mexico, and Pakistan, are set to head to the polls this year and next, the report says.

“You can leverage AI to do deepfakes and to really impact large groups, which really drives misinformation,” says Carolina Klint, a risk management leader at Marsh, whose parent company Marsh McLennan co-authored the report with Zurich Insurance Group.

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