Fact Check: Klaus Schwab's 'Right Hand' Did NOT Say Aliens From WEF's Laboratories Will Rule The World

Fact Check

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Fact Check: Klaus Schwab's 'Right Hand' Did NOT Say Aliens From WEF's Laboratories Will Rule The World Out Of Context

Did the World Economic Forum (WEF) leader's "right hand" announce "the end of humankind", as aliens being created in the WEF's laboratories will invade and rule the world? No, that's not true: The man described as Klaus Schwab's "right hand", professor Yuval Noah Harari, does not work for WEF or Schwab and was comparing artificial intelligence (AI) with aliens in order to describe its challenges unless if it is not contained.

The claim originated from a video published on TikTok on September 18, 2023, by user @iondragoshoreabarezerva (archived here), with the following captions as graphic overlay:

Schwab's right hand says that in five years some aliens from their own laboratories will come and rule us. Is the WEF preparing some super-humans? A human-AI mix? Is the World Economic Forum running experiments on people?

(The text was translated from Romanian to English by Lead Stories staff.)

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

TikTok screenshot

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Tue Sep 19 11:46:15 2023 UTC)

The user makes these claims based on The Economist's short promotional clip for their recent interview with author, professor and WEF contributor, Yuval Noah Harari, and British artificial intelligence researcher and entrepreneur Mustafa Suleyman, who talked about AI's impact on employment and geopolitics, how it should be regulated, and whether it could ever have agency.

The promo juxtaposes different bits from one of Harari's answers, leaving important context out. In his answer in full length, Harari is replying to a moderator's question (starting at min 32:27 in full length interview) whether AI can be contained under current global political tensions.

Harari says this is the biggest problem, adding:

If it was a question of humankind versus a common threat of these new intelligent alien agents here on Earth, then yes, I think that there are ways we can contain them. But if humans are divided among themselves and are in an arms race, then it becomes almost impossible to contain this alien intelligence. And I'm tending to think of it more in terms of really, an alien invasion. Like somebody coming and telling us that there is an alien fleet of spaceships coming from planet Zircon or whatever, with highly intelligent beings, they'll be here in five years and take over the planet, maybe they'll be nice, maybe they'll solve cancer and climate change, but we are not sure. This is what we are facing, except that the aliens are not coming in spaceships from planet Zircon, they're coming from the laboratory.

When Harari mentions aliens, his interview partner Mustafa, says that "this is an unhelpful characterization of the nature of AI" because an alien would have by default agency, but AI is designed to work as a tool. Harari sort of agrees and adds to his initial idea, that AI could potentially grow to have agency, which is "very frightening" and that "we can try to prevent them from having agency".

Harari then emphasizes the need for containing artificial intelligence, saying that "an external entity" should be developed, an institution outside the private sector that should have the economic and technological resources and the public trust in order to work to prevent AI from developing its own agency.

In a bit that can be seen in the promo clip, Harari is not predicting "the end of humankind"; he's saying that AI's development marks "the end of human-dominated history".

Yuval Noah Harari is an author and history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem who gave several public speeches at WEF events in 2018 and 2020. His name is not on the list of people of the board of trustees, managing board or executive committee - the bodies that govern the WEF. Other Lead Stories fact-checks about the World Economic Forum can be found here. Lead Stories fact-checks debunking claims involving Harari are here.

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