Confidence, Concern, and AI: Exploring the Impacts of New-Age Intelligence


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Confidence, Concern, and AI: Exploring the Impacts of New-Age Intelligence

By Alex Passett

It’s plain as day, y’all – AI is transforming industry solutions. NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang has maintained how we’re currently in the midst of “the iPhone moment of artificial intelligence,” and he’s absolutely correct. Be it the iPhone, the advent of the World Wide Web, you name it; technologies like these take the world by storm.

It is our duty, then, to weather it.

Hear me out. This past February, Future of Work Expo in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, (part of the broad #TECHSUPERSHOW experience) hosted Eric Vaughan, CEO of IgniteTech and GFI Software (i.e. two companies who were also Diamond sponsors of Generative AI Expo, as well). Vaughan led a keynote presentation titled “AI or Bust: The Non-Negotiable Revolution,” and he noted right away how he, like so many of us, struggles with massive global changes that technologies like the aforementioned herald.

Before the internet and smartphones became mainstream, concerns were of a hyper-rampant nature, if you will. News anchors and even industry experts in the clips that Vaughan played were incredibly guarded when it came to becoming exponentially interconnected via internet usage (and later, basically getting accustomed to having a computer and a whole world of knowledge in your pocket). So when Vaughan segued into what’s been coined as modern “AI revolution anxiety,” it makes sense vis-à-vis our track record as human beings enduring the growing pains of societal change driven by leaps in technological progress. (Read that full story covering Vaughan’s keynote here.)

The long-story-short of it? Change can be scary, but it can be approached with responsible confidence alongside legitimate concern. These are not mutually exclusive.

Tapping the gold mine of AI is (and will surely continue to be, into the foreseeable future and then some) of great interest to casual individuals and innovation-bent megacorporations alike, and to a myriad of those in between. AI offers actionable solutions for resolving super-complex tasks via efficient automation and generative potential out the wazoo, but alongside the excitement therein exists a healthy dose of precaution. AI must be wielded sensibly, and its proliferation shouldn’t be without careful consideration.

Especially, you know, during a U.S. election year. (Or during Ukraine’s ongoing war against Russia, or amid the horrid conflicts between Israel and Palestine.)

Clearly, geopolitical turmoil is broiling, and tools like AI should remain as such; powerful, change-propelling tools, rather than digital ammunition used to manipulate during already intense times.

In this vein, we have McAfee, a global name in online protection. I remember old-school McAfee diskettes and antivirus CD-ROMs from back in the day, and in present day the company is still going strong when it comes to worry-free, all-in-one privacy and online security.

Last month, McAfee released its latest research exploring the impacts of AI; particularly, the rise of AI-powered deepfakes and the possible damage on consumers ahead of major elections. The data, from research conducted in early 2024 with 7,000 people globally, revealed that “roughly one in four (23%) Americans said they recently came across a political deepfake,” but that the actual number of those exposed to deepfakes “is actually expected to be much higher, given the sophistication of AI technologies and a lack of awareness when it comes to deciphering what is and isn’t legitimate.”

To us, this calls back to Vaughan’s note about “AI revolution anxiety.” If we wish to be active proponents of meaningful progress, then misinformation that undermines public trust is a direct hinderance to this endeavor.

“And it’s not only highly trained, malicious actors or adversarial governments creating deepfakes as this election season ramps up,” said Steve Grobman, McAfee’s CTO. “It is now something anyone can do in an afternoon. The tools to create cloned audio and deepfake video are readily available and take only a few hours to master, and it takes just seconds to convince you that it's all real. The ease with which AI can manipulate voices and visuals raises critical questions about the authenticity of content, particularly during a critical election year.”

“In many ways,” Grobman added, “democracy is on the ballot this year thanks to AI.”

But the good news, per McAfee representatives like Grobman, is that consumers can take proactive steps to stay informed and safeguard against disinformation and deepfake scams. New-age con artists aren’t the only ones studying AI and putting it to use; experts in AI-generated content are hard at work, supporting others in discerning what’s real and what isn’t.

According to McAfee, staying safe and promoting information integrity looks like the following:

  • Verify sources before sharing information. Use fact-checking tools and reputable news sources to validate information before passing it along to your friends and family.
  • Be cautious of distorted images. Fabricated images and videos aren’t perfect. If you look closely, you can often spot the difference between real and fake. For example, AI-created art often adds extra fingers or creates faces that look “blurry.”
  • Listen for overtly robotic voices. Most politicians are practiced public speakers, so genuine speeches are likely to sound professional and rehearsed. AI voices often make awkward pauses, clip words short, or put unnatural emphasis in the wrong places.
  • Keep an eye out for emotionally charged content. While politics undoubtedly toughs through some sensitive topics, if you see a post or “news report” that makes you incredibly angry or very sad, step away. Much like phishing emails that urge readers to act without thinking, fake news reports stir up a frenzy to sway your thinking.
  • Invest in tools to help identify online scams. McAfee’s portfolio of products includes innovative protection features, such as McAfee Scam Protection, that detects and protects you in real time from never-before-seen threats and scams – whether that’s dangerous links shared on text, email, search results, or social media. In addition, McAfee recently announced deepfake detection is on the horizon, furthering McAfee's commitment to use AI to fight AI scams and help arm consumers with the ability to detect deepfakes.

Moreover, new research from Ernst & Young LLP (EY) serves as a vital reminder of how cybersecurity threats – borne of AI or not – should be thwarted before they leave consumers vulnerable. EY’s “2024 Human Risk in Cybersecurity Survey” details additional insights for those in search of cybersecurity awareness and best practices.

"With new threats emerging on a near-constant basis fueled by geopolitical tensions, shifting regulations and the rapid integration of new technologies, including AI, the risk landscape has become even more complicated," said Jim Guinn, II, EY Americas Cybersecurity Leader. "Want to secure your organization today and in the future? Put humans at the center of your cyber strategy and enlist your people as protectors on the frontlines, arming them with knowledge, training and a dose of healthy skepticism about all digital interactions."

To be clear, none of this article has been meant to paint any singular force of change as a Big Bad Wolf-type entity that threatens to expose people and enact terror. (We live in an age chock-full of gray areas that are too gray, in a sense, to be so bleakly defined.) We want resources like GenAI to be harnessed reliably and for the betterment of society as a whole, whether or not it’s a tension-ravaging election year.

Let’s remain smart, vigilant, and take matters one step at a time, readers.

From there, time will tell.

Edited by Greg Tavarez
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