Ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt warns that AI could do more harm than good

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has given voice to how AI could be “misused by evil people."
Christopher McFadden
AI could be used by bad people for bad things, Schmidt says.


On Wednesday, CNBC reported that ex-Google Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Eric Schmidt warned about the future of artificial intelligence (AI). By his estimation, AI could pose existential risks for the public, and governments need to know how to ensure the technology is not “misused by evil people.”

At The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit in London, Schmidt said his concern is that AI is an “existential risk.” “And existential risk is defined as many, many, many, many people harmed or killed,” Schmidt said.

“There are scenarios, not today, but reasonably soon, where these systems will be able to find zero-day exploits in cyber issues or discover new kinds of biology. Now, this is fiction today, but its reasoning is likely to be true. And when that happens, we want to be ready to know how to make sure these things are not misused by evil people,” he said.

Zero-day exploits, in case you are unaware, is a term used to refer to security vulnerabilities found by hackers in software and systems. Schmidt, CEO of Google from 2001 to 2011, did not have a clear view of how AI should be regulated but said it is a “broader question for society.”

According to him, the possibility of a new regulatory agency solely focused on regulating AI in the U.S. seems unlikely.

Schmidt was part of the National Security Commission on AI in the U.S. which in 2019 began a review of the technology, including a potential regulatory framework. The commission published its review in 2021, warning that the U.S. was underprepared for the age of AI.

This admits Schmidt to a growing club of prominent technologists and entrepreneurs who are attempting to raise awareness of the potential threat of AI if not implemented with great care.

The CEO of OpenAI, Sam Altman, shared in March that he holds some concerns about the advancement of artificial intelligence. He admitted to feeling a bit uneasy about the possibility of authoritarian governments utilizing the technology. Similarly, Tesla's CEO Elon Musk has expressed his belief that AI poses a significant risk to civilization.

The CEO of Google and Alphabet, Sundar Pichai, recently oversaw the launch of Bard AI, the company's own chatbot. Pichai acknowledges that this technology will have a significant impact on every product of every company, and society needs to be prepared for the changes it brings.

Recently, there have been significant developments in AI technology with the releases of Bard and ChatGPT within a span of six months. This has sparked discussions among technologists and policymakers about the future of AI, its trajectory, and the necessary regulations to be put in place. Comments like Schmidt's will only add extra pressure on regulators to be seen to do something.

But, whether that is a good thing or not, we'll let you decide.

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