Ex-Google CEO says AI as revolutionary for warfare as nuclear weapons

Ex-CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, advocated for implementing AI for the U.S. military use to compete against China and other rivals.
Baba Tamim
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Getty Images 

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has advocated for the military use of artificial intelligence (AI) to build a more robust and adaptable defense system for the United States against China and other rivals. 

AI could be just as revolutionary for warfare as nuclear weapons, argued Schmidt, according to an interview published by Wired on Tuesday.

"Every once in a while, a new weapon, a new technology comes along that changes things," he told Wired

"Einstein wrote a letter to Roosevelt in the 1930s saying that there is this new technology—nuclear weapons—that could change war, which it clearly did. I would argue that [AI-powered] autonomy and decentralized, distributed systems are that powerful."

He stated that the Pentagon must adapt to new technology more quickly, noting that the government has been slow to change.

Schmidt claims to be accelerating efforts to use advanced AI to power the US military and has already raised $13 million in seed funding for Istari.

The start-up, Istari, which he co-founded, uses machine learning (ML) to build and test military weapons digitally. 

"The Istari team is bringing internet-type usability to models and simulations," he said. 

"This unlocks the possibility of software-like agility for future physical systems—it is very exciting."

AI-warfare and China

Schmidt feels tech companies like Istari can be used to build stronger AI defenses that can compete with forces in countries like China, "attempting to bring Silicon Valley technology and thinking to the US military."

"Let's imagine we're going to build a better war-fighting system," which would essentially be a massive revamp of the world's most powerful military force, described the former CEO. 

"We would just create a tech company," he continued by outlining an internet of things scenario with a lethal twist. 

"It would build a large number of inexpensive devices that were highly mobile, that were attritable, and those devices—or drones—would have sensors or weapons, and they would be networked together."

Schmidt stated at a gathering last fall that the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI) changed his life by raising his awareness of China's threat to the U.S. 

He declared, "We're facing a very significant challenge from a very, very focused competitor that knows what they're doing." 

Schmidt also believes that the Pentagon should take inspiration from Ukraine's military response to Russia's invasion in order to use better technology.

He acknowledged in his Wired interview that the department needed to update its AI strategy and characterized the military as "great human beings inside a bad system" that is sluggish to adopt new technologies.

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