Yesterday was a very eventful day. I was lucky to get a spot in the UCL panel with Sam Altman, who was interviewed by Azeem Azhar. In the afternoon, I attended the British Academy President’s medal ceremony that recognised the absolutely amazing work Full Fact has been doing defending democracy and honesty across the UK and beyond. This award is also special because it is the first time this prestigious award has been given to a team, instead of an individual. This suits Full Fact values perfectly. I have been a fan of the organisation for many years, from the first time the team came to the Signal AI offices to discuss the growth of “fake news”. More recently, I have also been supporting them in my role of technology advisor.

These two events have one common thread. The threat and challenges of a new era in disinformation. The capabilities of Generative AI are now advanced enough that it is possible to create personalised, emotionally engaging content design to alter and affect the public perception at a global scale. Nowadays, this can be done without major amounts of capital nor technical skills. As Sam Altman pointed out, this is one of the main risks we face, especially given the upcoming UK and US elections. Similarly, Geoffrey Hinton recently pointed out that AI is now “able to produce lots of text automatically so you can get lots of very effective spambots. It will allow authoritarian leaders to manipulate their electorates”.

Sam Altman also mentioned something very important, Generative AI on itself is not as dangerous, however, when combined with the current information distribution channels (in particular social media) it can threaten the pillars of democracy. I believe the next cycle of UK/US elections will be a test for AI-driven misinformation and how governments, and society as a whole, can respond to it. Hopefully, we will prevail agains this attack on democracy and some of our deepest values.

One aspect that was mentioned in both events is how media education for the general public is an absolutely key aspect to minimise the potential impact of disinformation. A public that is better informed will be more able to contrasts and think critically any information they get exposed to. In order to do this effectively, collaboration with respected and neutral bodies such as, in the case of the UK, the Institute for Fiscal Studies or the The Office for National Statistics will be needed.

As I have mentioned before, I believe we are moving towards a world with much more content and “noise”. Given this, the information consumption patterns will rely even more on trust and loyalty to certain media (and/or influencers), possibly polarising us even more politically and socially. This change could be a great opportunity for the more established media brands to recover their influence by capitalising on the trust they have been building over the years, and that they are arguably not gaining with the younger generations. 

It is impossible to know what the future holds but I am confident we need more people like the Full Fact team to make our leaders more accountable and increase the level of honesty in our media and our governments.

Once again, congratulations to the whole Full Fact team for this fantastic, and deserved, recognition.

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