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The SEC Newgate AI Weekly

AI Concept
By Matthew Ford
18 January 2024
Digital and Insight
artificial intelligence

The SEC Newgate AI Weekly is back and this week it's all about Davos. Read below to hear from one of our digital experts, Matthew Ford, on what the World Economic Forum's 54th annual meeting has to say about AI and what 2024 may have in store.

AI ‘fever’ in Davos – but do we trust it?

This week, thousands of the most influential people in the world have gathered in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum’s 54th Annual Meeting.

CNBC reported that, after years of cryptocurrency firms dominating the main strip, ‘AI fever’ has now taken over, ‘pushing crypto aside as the new cool kid on the block’.

Major companies, including Intel and Salesforce, made AI a prominent part of their offering on the Davos Promenade, with Swiss telecommunications firm Swisscom even hosting an ‘AI House’.

Within the main event too, AI was dominating discussion, along with geopolitical tensions.

AI needs power

OpenAI’s CEO, Sam Altman, was in attendance and warned of the need for an ‘energy breakthrough’ to secure the future of AI, with the technology ‘consuming vastly more power than people have expected’.

UK an early adopter

Global professional services network PwC utilised Davos week to release its annual survey of 4,702 CEOs in 105 countries. The survey showed the UK is one of the frontrunners in adoption of generative AI, with 42% of CEOs having adopted the new technology. This was far ahead of peer countries like Germany (9%) and France (20%).

AI could worsen inequality

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) also used Davos week to release a major report on AI. The headline news was that AI will affect 40% of jobs, replacing some and complementing others. But, worryingly, the technology could worsen inequality between nations as many emerging markets and low-income countries ‘don’t have the infrastructure or skilled workforces to harness the benefits of AI’.

Building trust in AI

The theme for this year’s Davos meeting has been ‘restoring trust’, a topic very relevant to AI. With the speed at which the technology is advancing, its ability to engender both optimism and fear in equal measure, and generative AI’s continued inaccurate ‘hallucinations’, building trust will be essential for companies that utilise AI.

No wonder then that ‘Building Trust in AI’ was the theme of Marc Benioff’s talk at Bloomberg House. The Salesforce CEO was optimistic about future trust in AI. He vehemently juxtaposed the way social media has been poorly regulated for decades with the way in which government ministers from around the world came together, “in a really unique way”, at the UK’s AI Safety Summit, to regulate the technology.

Intel’s CEO, Pat Gelsinger, addressed the theme of trust at his own Davos session, where he predicted that 2024 would be about increasing the accuracy of AI, noting there are “a lot of errors today”.

He gave trust examples of doctors harnessing AI for accurate diagnoses and using AI for self-driving cars, arguing that humans need to get more comfortable with the accuracy of the technology.

But trusting AI in life critical situations, at this relatively early stage of widescale adoption of the technology, is going to be very challenging for society.

A UN warning

Davos week has also made clear the inherent dangers of AI. In addition to the IMF’s warning that AI could worsen inequality, the UN General Secretary, António Guterres, used his platform at the summit to warn that “powerful tech companies are already pursuing profits with a reckless disregard for human rights, personal privacy, and social impact.”

And the WEF’s own Global Risks Report 2024 was filled with fears that AI will be used for nefarious purposes.

AI and elections

WEF has also noted that 2024 is a historic year for elections. 50 countries, representing half the world’s population, including India, Mexico, South Africa and the US, will go to the polls this year.

What role will AI play in influencing these elections and will all democracies be able to withstand the actions of those looking to harness AI for nefarious election purposes?

2024 – an opportunity and a threat

This week in Davos has been about restoring trust and the meeting has really made clear how AI is now part of the mainstream, after dominating the event. But restoring trust for AI is going to be challenging when it’s not clear trust is there to begin with. Trust will be built when we see AI consistently being accurate in its predictions, its decision making and in the information it provides to people. That’s something generative AI failed to do in 2023.

With the technology still fairly new and half the world’s population about to cast a ballot, 2024 is going to be a huge opportunity and threat for AI and people’s trust in it. But either way, the impact of the AI revolution, which will touch on so many aspects of our lives over the next 12 months,  is going to be absolutely fascinating to watch in 2024.