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AI Dominates Talks at Davos 2024 – Investors and Regulators Focus on Digital Inclusion

Last Updated January 18, 2024 7:50 AM
Samantha Dunn
Last Updated January 18, 2024 7:50 AM

         Key Takeaways

  • AI regulation takes center stage at the World Economic Forum.
  • The event centers around the theme of ‘Rebuilding Trust.’
  • Google and Microsoft representatives share thoughts on the future of AI governance

More than 300 meet in Davos at the World Economic Forum ‘s Annual Meeting, including more than 60 heads of state and government.

With regulators, industry leaders, and politicians participating in talks from January 15 to January 19, 2024, one of the key focuses of this year’s event is Generative AI.

Key Updates From Davos

This year’s World Economic Forum focuses on “Rebuilding Trust,” with one of the four key themes being Artificial Intelligence as a Driving Force for the Economy and Society.

With a heavy presence from technology companies such as Google and Microsoft contributing to conversations on generative AI, there is a clear shift in the focus from cryptocurrency to AI.

Dante Disparte, CSO of  Circle, told CNBC:

“Today, there are very few crypto houses along the Promenade. They’re all AI houses, which is good … That suggests that [crypto] is becoming a background technology … I get to become a vintage player.”

Ripple CEO, Brad Garlinghouse, also commented  on the shift in interest to AI, noting: “I think every new technology goes through a hype cycle … I think AI is also a technology here to stay, transformational in a lot of ways … but also not exactly clear what the business models are [and] how it’s going to play out.”

Brad Smith, Microsoft President, joined a session to discuss the future of AI governance alongside Vera Jourová, Vice-President for Values and Transparency at the European Commission, who noted: “the regulation is the precondition to cover the risks, but the rest remains to be free for creativity and positive thinking – and in Europe we are well placed”.

Digital Inclusion Debate

One of the panels  hosted by CNBC’s Karen Tso centered around the debate of AI as a great equalizer, and the need to bridge the gap between AI’s potential and practical implementation. Representatives from government and business leaders debated the need to balance innovation with societal risks.

Amandeep Singh Gill, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology, provided his views on how AI can change the direction of progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “The jury is still out on how, and in what manner, AI can change the direction of progress on the sustainable development goals”, the Secretary-General noted, adding “AI will not rescue SDGs”.

Rwanda’s Minister of Information Communication Technology and Innovation, Paula Ingabire, said AI was more of an opportunity than a challenge for the Global South but digital literacy and the cost of devices need to be addressed.

Regulators Comment on AI

In a panel titled 360 in AI Regulation , Vera Jourová, European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, joined Josephine Teo, the  Minister of Communications and Information of Singapore, Brad Smith, Vice-Chair and President, Microsoft Corp, and Arati Prabhakar, the White House Director of Office of Science and Technology to talk about how the AI industry will work alongside regulators.

Microsoft President Brad Smith described how AI will be a “collaborative international process. “There’s so many shared values between us and the European Union”, White House representative Prabhakar added.

The conversation centered on how AI development and regulation have significant overlap, particularly between Europe and the US. The power of AI, as something that must be managed, was brought up in the talk by Prabhakar, who reiterated President Biden’s statement of “promise and peril .”

Current Risk Landscape

The annual meeting in Switzerland included an accompanying Global Risks Report  that explores some of the key risks we will face over the next decade. AI-generated misinformation and disinformation was the second highest risk predicted to present a material crisis in 2024.

Risk landscape graph at the World Economic Forum.
The latest Global Risks Report highlighted some of the risks associated with AI. Image: World Economic Forum

While the 2024 gathering of world leaders focused on AI, it also marked another year of the crypto industry’s participation. Following the recent approval of the first spot Bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF), prominent figures in the crypto space are expected to leverage this event to further bolster support for the industry, capitalizing on the momentum generated by the ETF’s introduction.

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