A Microsoft economist warns of bad AI actors meddling in elections

The Microsoft logo seen on the building in Redmond, Washington.

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People should worry more about “AI bad actors” than they should about AI productivity exceeding human productivity, Microsoft Chief Economist Michael Schwartz said at a World Economic Forum event on Wednesday.

“Before AI took over all your jobs, it could certainly do a lot of damage in the hands of spammers, people who want to manipulate elections,” Schwartz continued while speaking at a session on harnessing generative AI.

Microsoft first invested $1 billion in OpenAI in 2019, years before the two companies integrated OpenAI’s large GPT language model into Microsoft’s Bing search product. In January, Microsoft announced a new multi-year, multi-billion dollar investment in the company. OpenAI relies on Microsoft to provide the computing ballast that underpins OpenAI products, a relationship that Wells Fargo recently said could lead to up to $30 billion in annual new revenue for Microsoft.

Schwartz has softened his caution about AI by noting that all new technologies, even automobiles, carry some degree of risk when they first hit the market. He noted that “when AI makes us more productive, we as humans should be better off, because we can produce more things.”

OpenAI’s ChatGPT software has sparked a flood of investment in the AI ​​sector. Google It moved to launch a competing chatbot, Bard, sparking a wave of domestic angst over a “failed” rollout. Politicians and regulators have expressed growing concern about the potential impact of AI technology, too.

On Thursday, Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with senior executives from Anthropic, another artificial intelligence company, Google, Microsoft and OpenAI to discuss the responsible development of artificial intelligence, the White House told CNBC on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Federal Trade Commission Chair Lena Khan wrote in a New York Times op-ed on Wednesday warning that “enforcers and regulators must be vigilant.”

“Please remember, it’s much easier to break than to build,” Schwartz noted.

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