Leadership

These Young Global Leaders are driving impact in the age of AI

These Young Global Leaders display the leadership principles needed to drive positive outcomes in an AI-driven future.

These Young Global Leaders display the leadership principles needed to drive positive outcomes in an AI-driven future. Image: Getty Images.

Francois Bonnici
Head of Foundations, World Economic Forum
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Leadership

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting
  • Artificial intelligence entered the mainstream in 2023, largely thanks to generative AI.
  • Leaders around the world have a responsibility to govern this rapidly advancing technology.
  • These Young Global Leaders display the leadership principles needed to drive positive outcomes in an AI-driven future.

With all the buzz surrounding artificial intelligence (AI), it came as a surprise to many when “rizz” was announced as Oxford University Press’ 2023 Word of the Year. Regardless of where you turn, it feels like you just cannot seem to get away from AI, improving at a rate faster than the 1% most productivity experts encourage us humans to improve by daily.

From whispers of discoveries about artificial general intelligence to Ameca, the world’s most advanced AI robot, claiming it wants to be human, the eerie Terminator future from the movies feels closer than we could have ever anticipated. It is easy to question whether machines will take over the world one day.

However, as human creativity and ingenuity continue to push the boundaries of these new technologies, leaders around the world are grappling with practical challenges pertaining to regulation, infrastructure, and even access. In fact, this boom in generative AI is ringing in fears of an "AI arms race" where governments and corporations alike are competing to snag the top spot.

We saw this unfolding in Silicon Valley with the OpenAI governance debacle that pushed tech giant Microsoft to accelerate its ambitions in the space. While the non-profit pioneered research in the field, it has faced challenges around how to responsibly govern its rapidly advancing work – bringing the issue of AI stewardship to the forefront.

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What is a YGL?

Despite these challenges, AI does offer many benefits, including enhanced decision-making, creation of new jobs, and even improved customer experience. Additionally, research from PwC forecasts that AI could boost the global economy by over $15 trillion by 2030, which indicates that integrating AI into the global economy is not merely an option but an imperative.

Which regions gain the most from AI?  young global leaders
Image: PwC

With this in mind, which characteristics must leaders hone to be successful in our AI-driven future?

1. Altruism

As AI capabilities continue to advance at ever-increasing speeds, tomorrow’s leaders need a strong, innate drive to ensure that a future where technology and humanity become one works for everyone. Young Global Leaders (YGL) Mark Pollock, Chairman of Collaborative Cures, who is on a mission to cure paralysis in our lifetime by leveraging technology, is a leader to draw inspiration from.

At just 22, Pollock lost his sight. He responded to this adversity by becoming an adventure athlete. He’s raced across deserts, mountains, and oceans all over the world, including a 43-day trek across Antarctica, becoming the first blind person to race to the South Pole. Not long after this triumph, Pollock fell out of a window and broke his back, rendering him wheelchair bound. These personal challenges inspired Pollock to pour his energies into curing paralysis, but the journey has not been straightforward.

"So many people around the world will not be able to afford these technologies unless we come up with some way of making them available, having them funded for those people", says Pollock. Determined to be part of the solution, Pollock has joined forces with others in the World Economic Forum’s YGL community. "What we managed to do through the YGL Community was bring in people who knew about things that I had no idea about. I do not doubt that other people within the community will be able to help with the challenge we have about making that technology affordable for millions of people around the world," he explains. Like Mark, sincere concern for others' well-being and welfare is how leaders can help us work through some of the tough questions surrounding the implementation and scaling of AI technologies.

2. Equity

Similarly, equity will be an important trait for leaders to hone, as AI will touch upon nearly every aspect of society. With such far-reaching influence, leaders will need to ensure they develop policies and guide the implementation of new technologies in a manner that does not unfairly advantage or disadvantage any individuals or communities. For example, YGL Mariéme Jamme has long exemplified this trait even before the generative AI boom, as she has been on a mission to teach 1 million girls to code by 2030.

As an award-winning technologist and founder of iamtheCODE.org, Jamme has been training and mentoring thousands of girls from underprivileged areas in Africa, South America, and the Middle East. According to her, "the scale of digital illiteracy is so massive." It is these inequalities, which Jamme is no stranger to, that push her to use her power and influence as a leader to make a difference and educate people. Prioritizing equity will be pivotal for maintaining public trust that emerging technologies are developed and applied justly as they start shaping our future.

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3. Action

Like Jamme and Pollock, YGL Arvind Satyam, co-founder of Pano, was driven by horrific scenes of devastation following wildfires in Australia, where he grew up, and is embracing AI technologies to reduce climate threats. Pano is a climate tech company that delivers actionable intelligence to fire professionals for wildfire management. It works by pulling in multiple data sources, starting with cameras the company deploys to look through a landscape and detect smoke.

Using an AI algorithm trained to distinguish smoke, Pano uses satellite imagery to pinpoint where a fire starts and locates it, then shares this visual intelligence with responding agencies and other stakeholders to help stop the spread of fires and limit their impact. From a simple reflection following a vivid image of a kangaroo in a burnt landscape capturing the devastation of Australia’s wildfires, the question "are we doing enough" has driven Satyam ever since. As AI capabilities progress, tomorrow's leaders will need compassion to understand and care about the human experience, and then endeavour to build technologies that consider the diverse ethical and social consequences of decisions on people's lives.

Visionary leadership of Young Global Leaders

As AI technologies continue to develop rapidly, the way forward requires visionary leadership that prioritizes equity, benevolence, and compassion. Leaders like Pollock, Jamme and Satyam show us how leading in the age of AI can embrace innovative technologies, while being mindful of impacts on communities.

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