Here’s what you missed at Collision 2024

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Maeve Harris
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Take a look at some of the highlights from our last event in Toronto as we begin our new journey: Web Summit Vancouver 2025.

Godfather of AI warns of AI’s threats to humanity

Governments should force AI companies to run safety experiments, insisted Geoffrey Hinton, the Godfather of AI.

Geoffrey claimed that AI posed a whole variety of significant threats to humanity – not just the risk of enslavement. These threats include autonomous weapons – which will creep up and be “intent on killing you” – bioterrorism, cybercrime, fake videos corrupting elections, and surveillance by authoritarian regimes.

Image of Geoffrey Hinton, Godfather of AI, on Centre Stage at Collision: Ramsey Cardy/Web Summit

Regarding the existential threat posed by AI, Geoffrey said that if it gets to a point where firms have “things [that are] not quite as intelligent as us”, governments need to step in.

“The only thing powerful enough to make the big companies invest significant amounts of money in doing experiments on that … is governments. So I think governments should be involved in forcing the big AI companies to do lots of safety experiments.”

Boeing whistleblower lays it bare

Boeing whistleblower Sam Salehpour discussed his motivations for sharing the truth in public, and the consequences of this decision.

“I guess nobody wants to wake up in the morning and say ‘I’m a whistleblower’,” Sam told the Toronto audience. 

“I have promised myself any time I see evidence that is going to result in loss of life, I’m going to speak up,” added Sam.

However, Sam admitted that blowing the whistle required strength, and left him in fear of his life – especially following the recent suicide of Boeing whistleblower John Barnett, as well as the untimely death of another whistleblower at the age of 45.

“We had a second whistleblower, 45 years of age, and he passed away,” Sam said. “So a lot of times right now, when I have dinner, I say, ‘Is this going to be my last supper?’”

Booking.com projects 900 percent increase in travel scams

AI is set to drive a tsunami of online scams according to booking.com’s chief information security officer, Marnie Wilking. 

According to Marnie, there has already been “anywhere from a 500-900 percent increase” in scams in the past 18 months, placing particular blame with large language model ChatGPT. 

As reported in BBC, Marnie said there had been a particularly marked increase in phishing – where people are tricked into handing over their financial details – since generative AI tools like ChatGPT burst onto the market.

“Of course, we’ve had phishing since the dawn of email, but the uptick started shortly after ChatGPT got launched,” said Marnie. “The attackers are definitely using AI to launch attacks that mimic emails far better than anything that they’ve done to date,” the security officer said.

So what’s the best way to beat AI? With AI: “We’ve set up AI models to detect those and either block them from getting on there to begin or take it down before there’s any booking.”

Enriching the fan experience with AI

Entrepreneur and tennis legend Maria Sharapova shared insights on the transformative impact of AI on tennis. She discussed how technological advancements are reshaping the sport and enhancing fan engagement.

The former Grand Slam winner expressed enthusiasm for AI’s role in modern tennis, reflecting on the transition from human line judges to automated systems.

Image of Maria Sharapova and group of people with arms up in the air: David Fitzgerald/Web Summit

“I think the acceptance of AI is really important,” Maria remarked. “I look back to when the line calls were made by humans, and when the challenge system came into place, we were all extremely hesitant.“

Maria went on to talk about how AI can enrich the fan experience by providing in-depth information about the players. “As a player, you walk on the court, knowing that a fan is informed about your game and results, it makes for a better experience as an athlete. It’s more engaging.”

“Most of the time, when you go to a sporting event, I’d say 80 percent of the time, people don’t really know the underdogs. So I think the experience becomes so much richer when they are engaged and know exactly about this young player across the net, who might be number one in the world.”

AI spurns rise in personalised scams

Chief executive of Toronto-based 1Password Jeff Shiner urged the public to heed AI integration, claiming advanced technology is giving hackers and scammers a leg up.

“AI … is going to be able to sit there and target you individually and say something that is particular to you or comes from somebody that you may know,” Shiner said, as reported by CityNews Toronto.

“It is going to have a topic that is going to resonate with you and it will be very difficult for you as a human to know whether that’s true or not.”

Cyber attacks, according to Jeff, will no longer be comically easy to spot as they have been in the past. Rather, hackers will use AI to pose as people’s employers and those close to victims, similar to an incident that took place in Hong Kong earlier this year in which a finance worker was duped into sending US$25 million to fraudsters who used deepfake technology to pose as his employer’s chief financial officer.

But this won’t mean an end to traditional threats, warned Shiner. Instead, these attacks will be even more powerful.

“They’ll just be a lot more intelligent, and they’ll be able to be done at scale in ways that haven’t been done before,” Shiner said.

Khosla rebukes regulators

Billionaire investor and Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla launched a scathing attack on antitrust regulators in the US and Europe, stating that Federal Trade Commission (FTC) chairperson Lina Khan should not be in a position to be in charge of enforcing antitrust and consumer protection laws.

Asked about Lina’s view that she did not see her role as being the “nation’s champion”, Vinod said of the FTC chair: “She’s not a rational human being. She doesn’t understand business, she shouldn’t be in that role.”

Vinod, whose firm has more than US$15 billion of assets under management across numerous areas of tech, was then asked to share a message to the FTC or the US Department of Justice, which is currently investigating Microsoft and Nvidia.

Vinod replied by suggesting that the regulators were going too far, and that this was the wrong approach for the US economy.

“Look, antitrust is a good thing to have in any country, any economic system,” said Vinod, before adding that “antitrust over-enforced, or over-executed, is bad economic policy.”

TikTok bidder backs social media health warnings

Frank McCourt, the billionaire businessman bidding to buy TikTok, has strongly backed calls for social media to carry health warnings such as those on tobacco products.

The McCourt Global founder agreed with the US surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy, who recently suggested that social media users should be shown a warning message that the platforms are “associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents”.

Image of Frank McCourt (left), founder of McCourt Global and Julie Pace, executive editor at Associated Press on stage at Collision 2024: Vaughn Ridley/Web Summit 

In a newspaper article published by The New York Times, Vivek referred to social media as “an important contributor” to the current mental health crisis among young adults.

However, Frank went further, calling it “an epidemic”, and referred to US campaigns for regulation by parents who have lost children to the negative effects of social media: “I think exactly the same thing is going to happen here [in Canada], where parents are seeing the epidemic.”

“[The US] surgeon general is bringing attention to it. Many other people are doing the same. I think this movement is happening as we sit here,” said Frank.

OnlyFans CEO says creators key to AI integration

OnlyFans CEO Keily Blair claims the company is “trying to figure out what’s the opportunity and what’s the threat” associated with integrating AI into the platform, but is ruling out avatars that might compete with human content creators for attention or engagement.

“When we think about AI integration into our platform, we want to be very sensitive to build AI that enhances our creators’ experience and doesn’t cannibalize them,” Keily said.

The CEO went on to say that if the company was to, for example, create AI avatars for the platform, it would be “competing with creators for that attention, for those eyeballs, and we don’t want to do that.”

Ideally, AI integration for OnlyFans would enhance the user experience, but also be transparent, so users are aware that artificial intelligence is being used. But this is something further down the line.

“We haven’t cracked that nut yet, so I don’t want to pretend that we have all the answers to the questions here, but [AI integration is] something that we’re actively working on, and we’re listening to our creator community,” said Keily.

We are coming to Qatar in 2025. Don’t miss out.

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