Artificial intelligence will be dangerous in the hands of unscrupulous people, according to Microsoft Corp. Chief Economist Michael Schwarz.

“I am confident AI will be used by bad actors, and yes it will cause real damage,” Schwarz said during a World Economic Forum panel in Geneva on Wednesday. “It can do a lot damage in the hands of spammers with elections and so on.”

AI “clearly” must be regulated, he said, but lawmakers should be cautious and wait until the technology causes “real harm.”

Artificial intelligence tools have come under increased scrutiny as their use exploded in recent months following the debut of ChatGPT. Policymakers are trying to pressure companies to implement safeguards around the emerging technology.

“Once we see real harm, we have to ask ourselves the simple question: ‘Can we regulate that in a way where the good things that will be prevented by this regulation are less important?’” Schwarz said. “The principles should be, the benefits from the regulation to our society should be greater than the cost to our society.”

On Thursday, US Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with the chief executive officers from Microsoft, Alphabet Inc. and OpenAI Inc. to discuss ways to reduce the risk of harm from AI technologies.

Microsoft is working to erecting guardrails to help mitigate the potential danger from AI tools, Schwarz said. The company is already using OpenAI’s ChatGPT in its Bing search product, and Google released its rival Bard chatbot in March.

Schwarz warned that policymakers should be careful not to directly regulate AI training sets. “That would be pretty disastrous,” he said. “If Congress were to make those decisions about training sets, good luck to us.”

Despite the risks, AI can help make humans more productive, he said. “We, as mankind, ought to be better off because we can produce more stuff with less work.”

AI will revolutionize the way most businesses operate, he said, adding that it will take time.

“I like to say AI changes nothing in the short run and it changes everything in the long run,” Schwarz said. “That is true for every single technology that came before.”

AI is expected to be a key driver of turbulence in global labor markets and will play a role in changes for nearly a quarter of global jobs, according to a WEF report published this week.

--With assistance from Amy Thomson.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.