- Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images
- The billionaire believes that the US government needs to do more to maintain its lead in artificial intelligence. China released an AI strategy in July, which revealed that it plans to become a world leader in the field by 2030.
Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, has warned that China is poised to overtake the US in the field of artificial intelligence (AI) if the US government doesn’t act soon.
Speaking at the Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Summit on Wednesday, the former Google CEO said: “Trust me, these Chinese people are good.”
He added: “They are going to use this technology for both commercial as well as military objectives with all sorts of implications.”
China published its AI strategy in July and said that it wanted to be the world leader in AI by 2030.
“It’s pretty simple,” said Schmidt, who claims to have read the report. “By 2020 they will have caught up. By 2025 they will be better than us. And by 2030 they will dominate the industries of AI. Just stop for a sec. The [Chinese] government said that.”
Schmidt added: “Weren’t we the ones in charge of AI dominance here in our country? Weren’t we the ones that invented this stuff? Weren’t we the ones that were going to go exploit the benefits of all this technology for betterment and American exceptionalism in our own arrogant view?”
While the US has Google, Facebook, Microsoft, IBM, OpenAI and others, China has its own enormous tech giants aggressively pursuing AI research. Examples include Alibaba, Baidu, and Tencent, to name but a few.
Chinese programmers excel in Google coding competitions
Schmidt said that Chinese people “tend to win many of the top spots” in Google’s coding competitions.
“If you have any kind of prejudice or concern that somehow their system and their educational system is not going to produce the kind of people that I’m talking about, you’re wrong.”
- Reuters/Muhammad Hamed
He believes that AI already has a role to play in the US military. One obvious application is “watching,” according to Schmidt. “Roughly speaking people’s ability to watch continuous scenes with no change is not 100%,” he said. “Whereas computers can watch a scene, which is monotonous for a very, very long time and then they’ll alert you for a change.
“That seems like the simplest possible thing yet we have this whole tradition of the military standing watch as if that’s a good use of human beings.”
Schmidt also said the military needs to find a way to offer AI experts more money if it wants to recruit them.
“We’re in a situation where those kinds of people, graduating out of Carnegie Mellon and others, are in the highest demand I’ve ever seen with huge multimillion dollar packages in their twenties. That’s how valuable these people are in the market places.”
The US government should also make it easier for top AI talent to come to the US from around the world, Schmidt said.
“Shockingly some of the best people are in countries we won’t let into America,’ he said. “Iran produces some of the smartest and top computer scientists in the world. I want them here. I want them working for Alphabet and Google. It’s crazy not to let these people in.”