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With roughly half of the world’s adult population heading to the polls in a game-changing election year, concerns about the role of artificial intelligence in disrupting results have topped the list of biggest risks for 2024, according to a new report.
The World Economic Forum’s “Global Risks Report 2024,” released Wednesday, ranked disinformation and disinformation derived from artificial intelligence — and its implications for social polarization — ahead of climate change, war and economic weakness among the top 10 risks in the next two years.
“AI can build models for influencing large populations of voters in a way we haven’t seen before,” Carolina Klint, business director for Europe at consultancy Marsh McLennan, who co-produced the report, told CNBC’s Silvia Amaro.
“How that plays out will be pretty important for us to watch,” she added.
Looking ahead, the balance of risks for the next decade is shifting towards extreme weather conditions and critical changes in the political world order, with two-thirds of respondents expecting a new multipolar or fragmented world to take shape.
The WEF report, which was also produced in partnership with Zurich Insurance Group, surveyed more than 1,400 global risk professionals, policymakers and industry leaders in September 2023 on their top global concerns.
The report’s authors said the combined risks are “stretching the world’s adaptive capacity to its limits” and urged leaders to focus on global cooperation and building buffers for the most devastating emerging risks.
“An unstable global order characterized by polarizing narratives and uncertainty, worsening impacts of extreme weather and economic uncertainty are causing an accelerating spread of risks – including disinformation and disinformation,” said Saadia Zahidi, Executive Director of the WEF.
“World leaders must come together to address short-term crises while laying the foundations for a more resilient, sustainable and inclusive future,” she added.
Top 10 global risks
The most cited risks for the following two years were, in that order: disinformation and misinformation, extreme weather events, social polarization, cyber security and interstate armed conflict. Also in the top ten were lack of economic opportunity, inflation, involuntary migration, economic decline and pollution.
Extreme weather events, critical changes to Earth systems, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, natural resource scarcity, and disinformation and disinformation have been identified as the most likely risks in the next 10 years. The unfavorable results of artificial intelligence technologies were also identified as a longer-term problem.
Misinformation and disinformation
Interstate armed conflict
Lack of economic opportunities
Critical change for Earth systems
Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse
Lack of national resources
Misinformation and disinformation
Adverse consequences of AI technologies
“Breakthroughs in artificial intelligence will radically disrupt the risk landscape for organizations that are increasingly facing threats from disinformation, disintermediation and strategic miscalculation,” Klint said in the report.
“At the same time, companies must negotiate supply chains that are more complex due to geopolitics and climate change and cyber threats from a growing number of malicious actors. Building resilience at the organizational, national and international levels will require a relentless focus – and greater collaboration between the public and private sectors – to navigate this rapidly evolving risk environment,” she added.
The news comes as world leaders are set to gather in Davos, Switzerland next week for the annual WEF summit to discuss global issues including ongoing conflicts in Europe and the Middle East, the economy and technology, under the theme of “Rebuilding Trust.”
It also comes as the world embarks on a historic election year, with Taiwan kicking off elections this weekend that are also due to be held in the US, India, Russia, South Africa and Mexico.
In a separate Global Risks to 2024 report published on Monday, Eurasia Group named the upcoming US election as its biggest risk of the year, with “uncontrolled artificial intelligence” also in the top five.
Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group, said at a press briefing that given the wider implications of the election result, the consultancy had “no choice” but to rank the risk ahead of wars between Russia and Ukraine and Israel and Hamas. .