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WEF: Misinformation, Weather Top Worldwide Risks

FILE - A ChapGPT logo is seen on a smartphone in West Chester, Pa., on December 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
FILE - A ChapGPT logo is seen on a smartphone in West Chester, Pa., on December 6, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
World Economic Forum: Misinformation, Weather Top Worldwide Risks
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A report from the World Economic Forum says misinformation and disinformation are the most severe risks facing the world over the next two years.

The group released its latest Global Risks Report Wednesday.

The report said artificial intelligence (AI) can increase false or misleading information and is an immediate risk to the worldwide economy. The World Economic Forum (WEF) report warned that bad information threatens to weaken democracy and polarize groups of people.

The report is based on a survey of nearly 1,500 experts, industry leaders, and politicians. It is being released before the yearly WEF meeting in the vacation town of Davos, Switzerland.

The writers are concerned that the fast progress of AI technology like ChatGPT might mean that groups can be manipulated by people without any specialized skills.

AI will be discussed next week at the Davos meeting. Technology company leaders including OpenAI chief Sam Altman, Microsoft head Satya Nadella, and industry experts like Meta’s chief AI scientist, Yann LeCun, are expected to attend.

The report says misinformation and disinformation that is created using AI is becoming a risk just as billions of people in several countries are going to vote this year and next year. Those countries include the United States, Britain, Indonesia, India, Mexico, and Pakistan.

Carolina Klint is a risk expert at Marsh, whose parent company Marsh McLennan co-wrote the report with Zurich Insurance Group. She said people can use AI to make deepfakes and to really affect large groups “…which really drives misinformation.”

Deepfakes are videos that contain realistic images which are false and show people doing and saying things that never happened.

Societies could become further polarized” as people find it harder to tell what is true, she said. False information also could be used to fuel questions about whether governments are elected fairly. Klint said, that “… means that democratic processes could be eroded, and it would also drive societal polarization even further.”

The rise of AI brings other risks, she said. It could give power to harmful actors by making it easier to carry out online attacks.

Klint said with AI, a person does not need to be intelligent to become a harmful actor.

It can even affect data that is taken from the internet to develop other AI systems. She said this is difficult to correct and could result in further bias in AI systems.

The report said extreme weather is the second most worrying short term risk.

The report also said that, over the next 10 years, extreme weather events were more important than misinformation and disinformation. Weather was followed by environmental risks that include changes to the Earth’s systems; loss of wildlife and collapse of natural systems; and shortages of natural resources.

I’m Gregory Stachel.

Gregory Stachel adapted this story for VOA Learning English using information from Reuters and The Associated Press.


Words in This Story

polarize v. to cause (people or opinions) to separate into opposing groups

survey –n. a kind of study in which a group of people are asked their opinions about a subject

manipulate v. to deal with or control (someone or something) in a clever and usually unfair or selfish way

society n. people in general thought of as living together in organized communities with shared laws, traditions, and values

erode v. to gradually destroy something or make it weaker over a period of time; to be destroyed or made weaker in this way

bias n. a tendency to support one side of an argument over another