Roberto Cingolani, CEO of Leonardo SpA, during an interview in London, United Kingdom, on Tuesday, January 23, 2024.

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The chief executive of Italian defense group Leonardo said on Friday he was more concerned about the “stupidity” of artificial intelligence users than the threats posed by the technology itself.

His comments come amid repeated warnings about the dangers of AI, with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently urging international political and business leaders to prioritize a global strategy to tackle the technology.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in January, Guterres said the rapid development of AI could lead to “serious unintended consequences”.

“Honestly, what worries me more is the lack of control on the part of people who are still fighting wars after 2,000 years,” Leonardo Cingolani, CEO of Leonardo, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” on Friday .

“With that in mind, AI is a tool. It is a human-made algorithm that is controlled by human-made computers that controls human-made machines. I am more afraid, more worried [about] national stupidity from artificial intelligence to be honest,” he added.

“I have a scientific background, so I definitely consider technology to be neutral. The problem is the user, not the technology itself.”

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AI advocates say the technology could be used to benefit humanity in several ways, including fast-tracking patient diagnoses, helping to model climate change and combating cyberattacks.

However, the International Monetary Fund said in a report published on January 14 that nearly 40% of jobs worldwide could be affected by the rise of AI.

The Washington-based institution also warned that the potential impact of technology on the global labor market is likely to worsen overall inequality in most cases.

Cingolani said defense companies such as Leonardo must make a “big effort” to introduce “large-scale digitization” of their platforms, including the provision of autonomous systems and services powered by AI.

“It’s a complete paradigm shift. It really is a different technological approach to defense and security. It’s a big technological challenge,” he added.

Shares in Leonardo were up more than 4 percent by 8:48 a.m. London time on Friday. The Milan-listed shares are up more than 37% year to date.