'It's both over- and underhyped': Young Global Leaders' insights on artificial intelligence

An artificial intelligence conference in Shanghai, China.
An artificial intelligence conference in Shanghai, China.
Image: Reuters/Aly Song
  • Experts, regulators and business leaders must shape the direction of artificial intelligence with caution.
  • Inequalities generated by the technology should not be neglected.
  • Young Global Leaders from 22 countries recently met to discuss about this rapidly evolving technology.

As the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues reshaping how we live and work, it has introduced new demands and expectations for leadership. Artificial intelligence, for better or worse, has not only revolutionized major industries, but will also deeply impact the global economy and beyond. In September, 39 World Economic Forum Young Global Leaders (YGLs) from 22 countries participated in an immersive education module at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST), themed Our AI-Driven Future: Prospects and Pitfalls.

In today's fragmented world of geopolitical tensions, environmental crises and economic downturns fundamentally rooted in mistrust, it is imperative for leaders to take collective action addressing pressing global issues. This inaugural module convened a diverse group of young leaders to Greater China, serving a dual purpose. It provided a panoramic perspective on artificial intelligence while fostering cultural exchange within regional contexts.

We asked four YGLs to share insights on the opportunities and uncertainties associated with an AI-driven future:

'Whether AI turns into a hope or horror depends on how experts shape its direction'

Claire Tsui, Managing Director; Head, Strategic Advisory and Private Asset Group, North Asia, Credit Suisse Hong Kong Branch

WEF and HKUST successfully organized the inaugural AI Education Module, which served as a timely gateway for YGLs to broaden exposures in the fast-developing area of artificial intelligence. In an intensive one-week programme, YGLs were able to learn together various topics in AI including economics, academics, regulations, business applications, music and visual art etc. Coming from various cultural backgrounds and technology literacies, we exchanged thoughts and dialogues on time-pressing topics that create meaningful impact in our respective communities.

The development of artificial intelligence is unstoppable. Whether it will turn into a hope or a horror highly depends on how regulators, business leaders and academic experts shape the direction of its development. Thanks to WEF and HKUST for providing us YGLs this precious opportunity, at this special moment of time, to learn and grow together along this exciting journey.

'We have faced disruptive technologies before – but the pace of change is extraordinary'

Kieron Boyle, CEO, Impact Investing Institute

Somehow, it seems that an AI-driven future is both over- and underhyped. We have faced transformative and disruptive technologies before – that bit is not new – but the pace of change is extraordinary. It may go beyond our ability as societies to manage it.

There are great opportunities in AI for impact investing. It will drive the purpose-driven businesses of the future, tackling the world’s biggest issues. It will provide new ways of identifying the impact of all investments. But the near-term brings challenges. For example, impact investors have often seen employment as a vector for social mobility – the very same jobs that may not exist soon. We need to find inventive solutions to these challenges.

'Optimism about the benefits of artificial intelligence has always been second-nature to me'

Geoffrey See, CEO and Co-Founder, Poko

I was part of the first Bain case team on AI/ML 13 years ago, and later led an AI product from zero to more than 20 million users at a startup using AI to credit score more than 1 billion people in Asia. As such, optimism about the benefits of AI has always been second-nature to me. But this session organized by WEF's YGL team and HKUST was incredibly insightful as it helped sensitize me to other perspectives on AI. I learned the concerns, scepticism and fears around the technology that us practitioners need to address better. I also realized many executives still find AI challenging to implement successfully in non-tech enterprises – an issue I am exploring further with several of my peers from the module.

'The sobering reality is that lack of equal access to these tools will create huge inequalities'

Shani Senbetta, Founder and CEO, Kidame Mart

I participated in the course through my lens of a business leader working in Africa where connectivity and education levels create real barriers to engage in the AI-driven future. It is incumbent upon us as responsible leaders not only to acknowledge this issue, but to take active steps to bridge this digital divide.We learned that for white-collar workers, AI tools are a skill leveller that improves the quality of output overall. However, the sobering reality is that lack of equal access to these tools will create huge inequalities that we must work hard now to address.

Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR)

How is the World Economic Forum creating guardrails for Artificial Intelligence?

In response to the uncertainties surrounding generative AI and the need for robust AI governance frameworks to ensure responsible and beneficial outcomes for all, the Forum’s Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) has launched the AI Governance Alliance.

The Alliance will unite industry leaders, governments, academic institutions, and civil society organizations to champion responsible global design and release of transparent and inclusive AI systems.

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