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US Capitol, January 2021.

Aurora Samperio via Reuters Connect

Congress keeps it old school

Last June, the House of Representatives banned staff use of ChatGPT — the free version at least. Now, it’s telling staffers that use of Microsoft’s Copilot, a tool built on the same large language model as ChatGPT, is also prohibited.

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Anthropic releases the Claude 3 series model, Suqian, Jiangsu province, China, March 5, 2024

Photo by CFOTO/Sipa USA via Reuters

Hard Numbers: Amazon’s AI ambitions, what to use ChatGPT for, energy crisis, Enter Stargate

2.75 billion: Amazon invested an additional $2.75 billion in the AI startup Anthropic, which makes the popular chatbot Claude, brings their total investment to around $4 billion, while Google also has a $2 billion stake in the company. The big tech giants like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft, with its $13 billion deal with OpenAI, have chosen investments and strategic partnerships instead of buying startups outright. Amazon also announced it’ll spend $150 billion on data centers over the next 15 years to support its AI ambitions.

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Mustafa Suleyman, Co-Founder and CEO at Inflection AI, attends the 54th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, in Davos, Switzerland, January 18, 2024.

REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

An inflection point for Microsoft

Microsoft made headlines last week, hiring Mustafa Suleyman to lead its internal AI group. Suleyman is a big name in the world of artificial intelligence, namely because he co-founded the influential British research lab DeepMind that was acquired by Google in 2014 for over $500 million. But in hiring Suleyman, Microsoft also kinda, maybe, sorta acquired his current AI startup, called Inflection AI.

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Mustafa Suleyman CEO and co-founder of Inflection AI speaks during the Axios BFD event in New York City, U.S., October 12, 2023.

REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Microsoft's big-name hire

What a splash! Microsoft announced earlier today that it has hired one of the most prominent figures in the AI revolution: Mustafa Suleyman. Suleyman co-founded the British AI research lab DeepMind, which Google acquired for £400 million in 2014 (~$656 million).

Suleyman will run a new division called Microsoft AI, overseeing its Copilot and Bing products, among others. Microsoft has become a major player in generative AI through its $13 billion investment in ChatGPT-maker OpenAI, whose deep-learning language models now fuel Microsoft's own AI offerings. He will focus on advancing consumer products — in other words, getting you to use this cutting-edge tech.

File photo dated May 16, 2023 shows Samuel Altman, CEO, OpenAI, offers his opening statement during a Senate Committee hearing

Lamkey Rod/CNP/ABACA via Reuters Connect

OpenAI’s Altman incident under investigation

Two investigations may soon shed light on one of the biggest mysteries in Silicon Valley: Why was Sam Altman fired from OpenAI?

To recap, the OpenAI board fired Altman in November, saying he was not “consistently candid in his communications,” but it failed to provide specifics (the big mystery). OpenAI’s staff and lead investor, Microsoft, immediately protested the ouster and successfully campaigned for Altman’s reinstatement – and for fresh faces on the nonprofit board.

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2024 is the ‘Voldemort’ of election years, says Ian Bremmer
2024 is the ‘Voldemort’ of election years, says Ian Bremmer | Global Stage

2024 is the ‘Voldemort’ of election years, says Ian Bremmer

Critical elections are occurring across the globe this year, with a record number of people — roughly half the global population — set to head to the polls in dozens of countries.

During a Global Stage panel at the Munich Security Conference, Eurasia Group Founder and President Ian Bremmer described 2024 as the “Voldemort of election years.”

“Voldemort is the name that should not be spoken in the ‘Harry Potter’ series … This is the year that people have been very concerned about but have kind of hoped that they could push off,” says Bremmer. This is not just because there are so many elections occurring amid historic levels of distrust in key institutions, but also because the United States — the most powerful country in the world — is also “one of the most politically dysfunctional,” he explains.

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Tech accord on AI & elections will help manage the ‘new reality,’ says Microsoft’s Brad Smith
Tech accord on AI & elections will help manage the ‘new reality' | Brad Smith | Global Stage

Tech accord on AI & elections will help manage the ‘new reality,’ says Microsoft’s Brad Smith

At the Munich Security Conference, leading tech companies unveiled a new accord that committed them to combating AI-generated content that could disrupt elections.

During a Global Stage panel on the sidelines of this year’s conference, Microsoft Vice Chair and President Brad Smith said the accord would not completely solve the problem of deceptive AI content but would help “manage this new reality in a way that will make a difference and really serve all of the elections… between now and the end of the year.”

As Smith explains, the accord is designed to bring the tech industry together to preserve the “authenticity of content,” including via the creation of content credentials. The industry will also work to detect deepfakes and provide candidates with a mechanism to report them, says Smith, while also taking steps to “promote transparency and education.”

The conversation was part of the Global Stage series, produced by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft. These discussions convene heads of state, business leaders, technology experts from around the world for critical debate about the geopolitical and technology trends shaping our world.

Watch the full conversation here: How to protect elections in the age of AI

How to protect elections in the age of AI
VOD - Munich 2024: Protecting Elections in the Age of AI

How to protect elections in the age of AI

Half of the world’s population will have the chance to head to the polls this year in dozens of critical elections worldwide. These votes, which will shape policy and democracy for years to come, come amid light-speed development in artificial intelligence. As Eurasia Group noted in its 2024 Top Risk entitled “Ungoverned AI,” generative AI could be used by domestic and foreign actors – we’re looking at you, Russia – to impact campaigns and undermine trust in democracy.

To meet the moment, GZERO Media, on the ground at the 2024 Munich Security Conference, held a Global Stage discussion on Feb. 17 entitled “Protecting Elections in the Age of AI.” We spoke with Brad Smith, vice chair and president of Microsoft; Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group and GZERO Media; Fiona Hill, senior fellow for the Center on the United States and Europe at Brookings; Eva Maydell, an EU parliamentarian and a lead negotiator of the EU Chips Act and Artificial Intelligence Act; Kersti Kaljulaid, the former president of Estonia; with European correspondent Maria Tadeo moderating. The program also featured interviews with Kyriakos Mitsotakis, Greece’s prime minister, and Benedikt Franke, CEO and vice-chair of the Munich Security Conference. These thought leaders and experts discussed the implications of the rapid rise of AI amid this historic election year.

The group started by delving into what Bremmer has referred to as the “Voldemort” of years surrounding elections, to look at how election interference and disinformation have evolved since 2016.

“This is the year that people have been very concerned about, but have kind of hoped that they could push off. It's not just because there are elections all over the world and trust in institutions is deteriorating, it's also because the most powerful country in the world, and it's not becoming less powerful, is also one of the most politically dysfunctional,” says Bremmer, referring to the US.

The 2024 US presidential election “is maximally distrust-laden,” says Bremmer, adding that it’s “really hard to have a free and fair election in the US that all of its population” believes is legitimate.

And the worry is that AI could complicate the landscape even further.

Hill agreed that there’s cause for concern but underscored that people should not “panic” to a point where they’re “paralyzed” and “not taking action.”

“Panic is not an option given the stakes,” says Hill, adding, “There are negative aspects of all of this, but there's also the kind of question that we have to grapple with is how when legitimate competitors or opposition movements that otherwise beleaguered decide to use AI tools, that then also has an impact.”

There’s no doubt that AI can be used for nefarious purposes. Deepfakes can fool even the most discerning eye. Disinformation has already been rampant across the internet in recent election cycles and helped sow major divisions in many countries well before AI tools — far more sophisticated than your average meme — were widely available.

“With new tools and products that use generative AI, including from a company like ours, somebody can create a very realistic video, audio, or image. Just think about the different ways it can be used. Somebody can use it and they can make a video of themself, and they can make clear in the video that this is AI generated. That is one way a political candidate, even one who is in prison can speak,” says Smith, alluding to ex-Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent use of AI from behind bars.

Along these lines, there are many serious, valid concerns about the impact AI can have on elections and democracy more generally — particularly at a time when people are exhibiting rising levels of distrust in key institutions.

“It's very important to acknowledge a lot of the important developments that AI and emerging tech can bring to support our economic development,” says Maydell, adding, “but in the same time, especially this year, we need to be very sober about some of those threats that are in a way threatening the very fabric of our democratic societies.

As Maydell noted, this evolving new technology can be harnessed for good and bad. Can AI be used as a tool to protect candidates and the integrity of the electoral process?

A number of major tech companies, including Microsoft, signed an accord at the Munich Security Conference on Friday to help thwart and combat AI-related election interference.

“It's all about trying to put ourselves in a position, not to solve this problem completely, I don't think that's possible, but to manage this new reality in a way that will make a difference,” says Smith. The Microsoft president says the accord brings the tech sector together to preserve the authenticity of content, including by working to detect deepfakes and providing candidates with a mechanism to report any that are created about them.

“We'll work together to promote transparency and public education. This clearly is going to require a lot of work with civil society, with others around the world to help the public be ready,” says Smith.

But is enough being done?

“It's good that both politicians and the companies and society as a whole now has a better understanding where this is all leading us and we are collectively taking actions,” says Kaljulaid, but this is just a “first step” and “next steps need to follow.”

A balance will need to be found between legislating the challenges presented by AI and giving tech companies space to collaborate, innovate and address problems on their own.

“Democracy is always in jeopardy. Every generation has to answer the call to defend it,” says Smith, adding, “Now it's our turn. It's our turn as a generation of people to say that technology always changes, but democracy is a value that we hold timeless. So let's do what it takes to defend it, to preserve and promote it.”

The livestream was part of the Global Stage series, produced by GZERO in partnership with Microsoft. These discussions convene heads of state, business leaders, and technology experts from around the world for critical debate about the geopolitical and technology trends shaping our world.

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