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Misinformation and disinformation driven by misuse of AI among global threats to beware

Misinformation and disinformation, mainly driven by the misuse of Artificial Intelligence, are the leading expected global threats in the next two years, according to the Global Risks Report 2024.

The report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) explores some of the most severe risks expected in two years and over the next decade, against a backdrop of rapid technological change, economic uncertainty, a warming planet, and conflict.

Global risk is defined as the possibility of the occurrence of an event or condition that, if it occurs, would negatively impact a significant proportion of global GDP, population, or natural resources.

Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director at the WEF, said that while many of the risks highlighted in the report could be turned around, the issue remains in the divergence between developed and developing economies, with the latter being hurt most.

“We don’t have the same kind of impetus and incentives for countries to look for greater growth and living standards in developing economies. And not having the resources within those countries with already tighter fiscal space facing the highest impact of climate change. And, in addition, not having the same access to green technology could be boosting opportunities for their populations.” Zahidi said.

Take a look at the top five anticipated global threats over the next two years: Misinformation and disinformation The difference between AI and human-generated content is becoming more difficult to discern, not only for digitally literate individuals but also for detection mechanisms.

The report indicates that as close to three billion people are expected to head to the electoral polls across several economies over the next two years, the widespread use of misinformation and disinformation, and tools to disseminate it, may undermine the legitimacy of newly elected governments, resulting in civil unrest with adverse negative impact.

Extreme weather events

The year 2023 witnessed extreme heat wave recorded in history. The impacts of extreme weather may deplete available economic resources to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Similarly, the environmental challenges drawing from climate change and failure to mitigate and adapt are feared to be the top four threats over the next decade.

Societal polarization and economic downturn are seen as the most interconnected and therefore influential risks in the global risks network, as drivers and possible consequences of numerous risks. Social safety nets and pensions represent important tools in managing longer-term risks associated with demographic trends and societal polarization, stated the report.

Cybercrime and cyber insecurity risks are mostly felt among business leaders in developing economies, with a technology-enabled proliferation of illicit activities in new markets posing numerous implications at the state, company, and individual levels.

Alongside cybersecurity concerns, it could expose businesses to a range of heightened risks, from reputational threats and regulatory scrutiny relating to financial flows and supply chains to impacts on the long-term viability and success of legitimate markets.

The world has become significantly less peaceful over the past decade, with conflict erupting in multiple regions in 2023 while related deaths have witnessed a steep increase in the past four years. This can be attributed to longer-term shifts in geopolitical power, economic fragility, and limits to the efficacy and capacity of international security mechanisms, the report stated.

This is while escalation in any conflict hotspots would radically disrupt global supply chains, financial markets, security dynamics, and political stability, viscerally threatening the sense of security and safety of individuals worldwide.

Over the next 10 years, the most severe threats, as identified in the report are mostly environment-related. These include extreme weather events, critical changes to Earth systems, biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse, natural resource shortages, and misinformation and disinformation. Among opportunities for action to address global risks, it recommends localized strategies leveraging investment and regulation, single breakthrough endeavors, as well as cross-border cooperation.

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