AI risk on the rise

Artificial intelligence (AI) is now a top-tier concern for risk experts, according to the latest edition of AXA’s Future Risks Report.

The big climber in the experts’ risk rankings was AI, jumping to 4th this year from 14th last year. Axa found that 64% of risk experts, and 70% of the general public, believe there should be a break in research into AI and other disruptive technologies. 

When we asked what prompted experts to choose this risk, the most popular answer was the potential of advanced AI to pose an existential threat to mankind. However, AI risks are not even present in the public’s top ten, and the lack of awareness of these risks is particularly important in Europe. 

Pandemic risk was the significant faller in the experts’ ranking, down from 5th last year to 9th this year – a dramatic decline after topping the list in 2020. But the general public have not moved on from worrying about pandemic risk – they still rank it 2nd, with concern running highest in the Africa and Asia regions. 

Job displacement

The potential for generative AI to displace jobs at scale is reflected in a sharp rise in the rankings this year for risks related to the future of work – up to 12th from 17th last year. We also saw a rise, from 33% to 37%, in the proportion of experts choosing this risk who said they were primarily motivated by automation fears. 

When asked what public authorities should prioritise in handling this risk, experts were almost twice as likely as last year (31% vs 16%) to mention raising awareness – indicating 

a belief that stakeholders have yet to fully grasp the far-reaching implications of recent technological developments for ensuring a sustainable future for the workforce. 

The future of work is a particular concern in Asia, where the risk rose to 9th from 16th last year. As a region that has traditionally been an early adopter of advanced technology, Asian markets may be more aware of the potential impact on the work landscape. 

Cyber security

Cyber security returned to a strong second place this year. While it displaced geopolitical instability into third, these risks continue to be closely related. This year, for the first time, 

we offered “cyber war” as an option for experts to explain why they chose this risk – and it was the second most common answer among experts in the US. Overall, like last year, a 

6 shutdown of essential services and critical infrastructure was the most-mentioned concern. 

Cyber is also entering for the 1st time in the general public’s top 3. 

Climate change is however once again the top-ranked risk for experts and the general public alike, although a lower percentage of experts than last year selected it as their top risk. Concern about climate change is broadening: for the first time this year, it was top ranked by both experts and the general public in every region. 

A growing climate-related concern in 2023’s survey, especially for insurance tied agents and brokers, is the backlash in some jurisdictions against companies for their commitments on ESG. 

When asked whether people are more or less vulnerable to risks than they were
five years ago, experts increasingly say “more vulnerable” at both country level (84% this year, a rise from 76% in 2020) and city level (73%, up from 64% in 2020). 

Again, in this year’s survey, experts take a generally pessimistic view of public authorities’ preparedness for the emergence of future risks. Only 7% of experts think authorities are prepared for AI risk, for example – the lowest of all the risks in the survey. Just 15% think authorities are prepared for the emergence of their top risk, climate change – and in Europe and America, this figure is as low as 10% and 9% respectively. 

However, in other parts of the survey it is possible to detect cautiously rising optimism. 

Appreciation for insurance

This year’s survey found a growing appreciation of the important role of insurers in tackling future risk (cited by 74% of the general public, up from 69% in 2022). 

74% of people think that the role of insurers in the protection against these emerging risks will be important. 

Commenting on the findings, AXA CEO Thomas Buberl said: “Faced with these hybrid threats and the scale of the challenges involved, and despite a general perception of increasing vulnerability, I detect a renewed sense of hope and confidence: 85% of experts and 78% of the public believe “a collective form of progress benefiting individuals, economies and society is still within reach”. 

“This progress depends on risk prevention, heightened awareness, and open dialogue between institutions, political decision- makers and private sector players. Only consensus will enable us to act collectively and effectively.”

“I am convinced that the future should not be a risk. This conviction, which was the central message of our latest brand campaign, will be at the heart of our next strategic plan. As a global insurer, our ambition is to protect as many people as possible against risks, to benefit individuals, economies and societal progress.”

“Faced with these hybrid threats and the scale of the challenges involved, and despite a general perception of increasing vulnerability, I detect a renewed sense of hope and confidence: 85% of experts and 78% of the public believe “a collective form of progress benefiting individuals, economies and society is still within reach”.

Thomas Buberl, AXA

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