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Lack of regulation in AI named as top global risk in 2017

Posted: 12 January 2017 | By Darcie Thompson-Fields

The annual Global Risks report from the World Economic Forum has said that unregulated technological progress is one of the greatest threats to global prosperity, peace and stability.

The report, published ahead of the WEF conference in Davos next week, claims that regulation is trailing far behind technological innovation and that without action, “could lead to the destruction of untold jobs and businesses and catalyse major social upheaval”.

The survey called on some 750 experts assessed 30 global risks, as well as 13 underlying trends that could amplify them or alter the interconnections between them. Wealth disparity, climate change and governing of emerging technologies such as AI were the three key trends that emerged.

Disruptive times

“We live in disruptive times where technological progress also creates challenges. Without proper governance and re-skilling of workers, technology will eliminate jobs faster than it creates them,” said Cecilia Reyes, chief risk officer of Zurich Insurance Group.

“Governments can no longer provide historical levels of social protection and an anti-establishment narrative has gained traction, with new political leaders blaming globalisation for society’s challenges, creating a vicious cycle in which lower economic growth will only amplify inequality. Cooperation is essential to avoid the further deterioration of government finances and the exacerbation of social unrest.”

The global risks that may result from the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ also came under scrutiny in the Report’s Global Risks Perception Survey. Based on analysis of 12 emerging technologies, experts identified artificial intelligence and robotics as having the highest potential for negative consequences and the greatest need for better governance. Notwithstanding its potential to “drive economic growth and solve complex challenges”, experts also named it as the top driver of economic, geopolitical and technological risks among the 12 technologies.

Investment in AI 10 times higher now than five years ago

“Artificial intelligence will enable us to address some of the great issues of our age, such as climate change and population growth, much more effectively.” Said John Drzik, president of global risk & specialities, Marsh.

“With investment into AI now ten times higher than it was five years ago, rapid advances are already being made. However, increased reliance on AI will dramatically exacerbate existing risks, such as cyber, making the development of mitigation measures just as crucial.”