This is a big year for democracy. Nearly half the world’s population will have the option to vote in a national election in 2024. The last time many of these countries went to the polls, there was no ChatGPT.
These are two topics that keep coming up on panels and side events on the promenade in Davos, Switzerland this week at the World Economic Forum event. Often the questions are about how one will affect the other.
Some of the leaders in artificial intelligence spoke at Davos on Tuesday, and all said they took the threat of AI on elections seriously but were split on the likelihood of disruption.
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella somewhat downplayed the risks. “It’s not like this is the first election where disinformation, or misinformation, and election interference is going to be a real challenge that we all have to tackle,” he said.
Later in the day, OpenAI CEO Sam Altman echoed that sentiment but expressed more uncertainty. “I don’t think this will be the same as before,” he said. “It’s always a mistake to try to fight the last war.”
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates predicted the “bad guys will be more productive” with AI.
Meanwhile, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff suggested social media poses a bigger risk to the democratic process than AI does. “Regulators have not done their job,” he said.
OpenAI, which counts Microsoft as its largest investor, is “quite focused”, Altman said, on reducing the potential for political misuse of its tools, such as ChatGPT and Dall-E.
Altman and Nadella attended a meeting in May with US vice President Kamala Harris to discuss AI risks. OpenAI will soon release for testing a tool that can identify AI-generated content and will digitally watermark material generated by Dall-E, the start-up said on Monday. And it reiterated that use of OpenAI models for political campaigning isn’t allowed.
“Our mind is not at ease,” Altman said. “We’re going to have to watch this incredibly closely this year.”
As for how politics will impact AI, Altman was less concerned. “I believe that America is going to be fine no matter what happens in this election. I believe that AI is going to be fine no matter what happens after this election,” he said.
OpenAI’s vice president of global affairs, Anna Makanju, said she’s encouraged by proposed regulation being put forward by US President Joe Biden and the EU. “What has struck me and has been really remarkable is that the conversation around AI has remained very bipartisan,” she said.
Altman agreed, sort of: “Both parties hate it.” — Brad Stone, with Isabella Ward, (c) 2024 Bloomberg LP