Google’s Eric Schmidt says US could lose lead in AI and Basic Science Research to China

Artificial intelligence is the new frontier, and the Defense Department must invest in this breakthrough or be in danger of not being competitive in the future, said Eric Schmidt, the chairman of the Defense Innovation Board, during a discussion at the Center for a New American Security today.

Schmidt spoke about the Chinese AI program. Their AI strategy calls for the nation to have caught up with the U.S. by 2020 and to be better than the U.S. by 2025, and “by 2030 they will dominate the industry,” he said. “The government said that. Weren’t we the ones who invented this stuff? Weren’t we the ones who were going to exploit all this technology for the betterment of American exceptionalism?”

America must invest in research, Schmidt said. “America is the country that leads in these areas, there is every reason to believe that we can continue with this leadership.”

Schmidt says the US military must catch up in Artificial Intelligence.

He used vision as an example, saying that computers already can watch monotonous things for a long time and then notify a human if something out of the ordinary happens. Tests show, he said, that humans doing the same thing make errors a third of the time. Letting computers do this “seems like the simplest possible thing,” Schmidt said. “And yet, we have this whole tradition of the military standing watch … as if that is a good use of human being.”

AI will not be like humans; it will be different, he said. “The best uses of AI will be in the AI-human collaboration of one type or another,” Schmidt said.

Faster Solutions

He gave a synopsis for the AI problem for the military: “The military is very large and cumbersome. The military as a general rule doesn’t build things, it uses contractors.”

Contractors build what they are asked to build, and the military has not asked for AI systems, he said. “It takes five to 10 to 30 years to go from a spec to the delivery,” Schmidt said. “The core problem is how do you get the leaders, who passionately want to get this stuff done, to deliver these solutions quickly?”

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