#1 State-sponsored Attacks Will Alter the Nature Of Security Threats
It is becoming clearer that the post-Cold-War era is over, and we are transitioning to a multi-polar world. In this new age, malevolent governments will become increasingly emboldened to carry out cyber and physical attacks without the concern of sanction.
Unlike most malicious actors driven by profit today, state adversaries will be motivated to maximise disruption.
Rather than encrypting valuable data with ransomware, wiper malware will be deployed. State-sponsored attacks against critical infrastructure, such as transportation, energy, and undersea cables will be designed to inflict irreversible damage. The recent 23andme breachis an example of how ethnically directed attacks could be designed to sow fear and distrust. Additionally, even the threat of spyware and phishing will cause some activists, journalists, and politicians to self-censor.
#2 AI Legislation Breaches Will Occur, But Will Go Unpunished
With US President Biden’s recently published “Executive order on Safe, Secure and Trustworthy AI” and the European Union’s “AI Act” set for adoption by the European Parliament in mid-2024, codified and enforceable AI legislation is on the verge of becoming reality. However, oversight structures with powers to enforce the rules are currently not in place for either initiative and will take time to build out.
In 2024, the first instances of AI legislation violations will surface – potentially revealed by whistleblowers or significant public AI failures – but no legal action will be taken yet.
#3 AI Will Increase Net-New Carbon Emissions
In an age focused on reducing carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, AI is contributing to the opposite. Organisations often fail to track these emissions under the broader “Scope 3” category. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, found that training a single AI model can emit over 283T of carbon dioxide, equal to emissions from 62.6 gasoline-powered vehicles in a year.
Organisations rely on cloud providers for carbon emission reduction (Amazon targets net-zero by 2040, and Microsoft and Google aim for 2030, with the trajectory influencing global climate change); yet transparency on AI greenhouse gas emissions is limited. Diverse routes to net-zero will determine the level of greenhouse gas emissions.
Some argue that AI can help in better mapping a path to net-zero, but there is concern about whether the damage caused in the process will outweigh the benefits.
#4 ESG Will Transform into GSE to Become the Future of GRC
Previously viewed as a standalone concept, ESG will be increasingly recognised as integral to Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) practices. The ‘E’ in ESG, representing environmental concerns, is becoming synonymous with compliance due to growing environmental regulations. The ‘S’, or social aspect, is merging with risk management, addressing contemporary issues such as ethical supply chains, workplace equity, and modern slavery, which traditional GRC models often overlook. Governance continues to be a crucial component.
The key to organisational adoption and transformation will be understanding that ESG is not an isolated function but is intricately linked with existing GRC capabilities.
This will present opportunities for GRC and Risk Management providers to adapt their current solutions, already deployed within organisations, to enhance ESG effectiveness. This strategy promises mutual benefits, improving compliance and risk management while simultaneously advancing ESG initiatives.
#5 Productivity Will Dominate Workforce Conversations
The skills discussions have shifted significantly over 2023. At the start of the year, HR leaders were still dealing with the ‘productivity conundrum’ – balancing employee flexibility and productivity in a hybrid work setting. There were also concerns about skills shortage, particularly in IT, as organisations prioritised tech-driven transformation and innovation.
Now, the focus is on assessing the pros and cons (mainly ROI) of providing employees with advanced productivity tools. For example, early studies on Microsoft Copilot showed that 70% of users experienced increased productivity. Discussions, including Narayana Murthy’s remarks on 70-hour work weeks, have re-ignited conversations about employee well-being and the impact of technology in enabling employees to achieve more in less time.
Against the backdrop of skills shortages and the need for better employee experience to retain talent, organisations are increasingly adopting/upgrading their productivity tools – starting with their Sales & Marketing functions.
The EC published an initial legislative proposal in 2021, and the European Parliament adopted a revised version as their official position on AI in June 2023, moving the legislation process to its final phase.
This proposed EU AI Act takes a risk management approach to regulating AI. Organisations looking to employ AI must take note: an internal risk management approach to deploying AI would essentially be mandated by the Act. It is likely that other legislative initiatives will follow a similar approach, making the AI Act a potential role model for global legislations (following the trail blazed by the General Data Protection Regulation). The “G7 Hiroshima AI Process”, established at the G7 summit in Japan in May 2023, is a key example of international discussion and collaboration on the topic (with a focus on Generative AI).
Risk Classification and Regulations in the EU AI Act
At the heart of the AI Act is a system to assess the risk level of AI technology, classify the technology (or its use case), and prescribe appropriate regulations to each risk class.
For each of these four risk levels, the AI Act proposes a set of rules and regulations. Evidently, the regulatory focus is on High-Risk AI systems.
Contrasting Approaches: EU AI Act vs. UK’s Pro-Innovation Regulatory Approach
The AI Act has received its share of criticism, and somewhat different approaches are being considered, notably in the UK. One set of criticism revolves around the lack of clarity and vagueness of concepts (particularly around person-related data and systems). Another set of criticism revolves around the strong focus on the protection of rights and individuals and highlights the potential negative economic impact for EU organisations looking to leverage AI, and for EU tech companies developing AI systems.
A white paper by the UK government published in March 2023, perhaps tellingly, named “A pro-innovation approach to AI regulation” emphasises on a “pragmatic, proportionate regulatory approach … to provide a clear, pro-innovation regulatory environment”, The paper talks about an approach aiming to balance the protection of individuals with economic advancements for the UK on its way to become an “AI superpower”.
Further aspects of the EU AI Act are currently being critically discussed. For example, the current text exempts all open-source AI components not part of a medium or higher risk system from regulation but lacks definition and considerations for proliferation.
Adopting AI Risk Management in Organisations: The Singapore Approach
Regardless of how exactly AI regulations will turn out around the world, organisations must start today to adopt AI risk management practices. There is an added complexity: while the EU AI Act does clearly identify high-risk AI systems and example use cases, the realisation of regulatory practices must be tackled with an industry-focused approach.
The approach taken by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) is a primary example of an industry-focused approach to AI risk management. The Veritas Consortium, led by MAS, is a public-private-tech partnership consortium aiming to guide the financial services sector on the responsible use of AI. As there is no AI legislation in Singapore to date, the consortium currently builds on Singapore’s aforementioned “Model Artificial Intelligence Governance Framework”. Additional initiatives are already underway to focus specifically on Generative AI for financial services, and to build a globally aligned framework.
To Comply with Upcoming AI Regulations, Risk Management is the Path Forward
As AI regulation initiatives move from voluntary recommendation to legislation globally, a risk management approach is at the core of all of them. Adding risk management capabilities for AI is the path forward for organisations looking to deploy AI-enhanced solutions and applications. As that task can be daunting, an industry consortium approach can help circumnavigate challenges and align on implementation and realisation strategies for AI risk management across the industry. Until AI legislations are in place, such industry consortia can chart the way for their industry – organisations should seek to participate now to gain a head start with AI.