AI’s impact on warfare will be as big as nuclear weapons’, says ex-Google CEO
- Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt said AI could have as big of an effect on warfare as nuclear weapons did.
- Schmidt told Wired that the US military must deploy AI tools in combat to compete with world powers.
- Schmidt’s remarks come after he invested in Istari, an AI engineering startup.
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Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google, thinks that AI has the power to revolutionize modern warfare.
Schmidt — who became a founding member of the government’s Defense Innovation Board in 2016 — told Wired that the Pentagon has been slow in adapting to new technology and that its tech is due for an upgrade.
AI could be what is needed to lead that change, Schmidt told Wired. In fact, AI technology — drones with sensors, for example — may be just as impactful as nuclear weapons when it comes to changing the state of warfare, he said.
“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,” he said to Wired. “I would argue that [AI-powered] autonomy and decentralized, distributed systems are that powerful.”
Schmidt’s comments come as AI tools like OpenAI’s ChatGPT are playing an increasingly important role in our lives. Businesses across every industry, from healthcare to marketing, are learning to adapt to this new technology.
Schmidt — who co-authored the book “The Age of AI: And Our Human Future” in 2021 — has been been a pioneer of cutting-edge technology like AI for years. Under his leadership. Alphabet, Google’s parent company, launched a slate of projects related to virtual reality and self-driving cars.
In 2017, Schmidt founded Schmidt Futures, a foundation that supports those paving the way towards scientific and technological discovery. He chaired the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence from 2019 to 2021.
Schmidt is now focusing his efforts on bringing AI tech into the US military. He is part of a group of investors that raised $13 million in seed funding for Istari, a startup that launched in May 2022 and uses machine learning to build and test military weapons digitally.
Technologies like Istari can be used to build a stronger US military that can out-compete forces in countries like China, Schmidt told Wired.
“This unlocks the possibility of software-like agility for future physical systems,” he said in the Wired interview. “It is very exciting.”
Schmidt told Wired that the Pentagon should turn to Ukraine’s military response to Russia’s invasion — from converting commercial drones into weapons to 3D-printing components of weaponry — as inspiration for using better tech.
“Let’s imagine we’re going to build a better war-fighting system,” Schmidt said “We would just create a tech company.”
Schmidt has previously expressed his frustration about the pace at which the Pentagon is adapting new technology — particularly AI.
In 2016, he reportedly told the US Army’s top special forces general that “you absolutely suck at machine learning.”
And in a 2020 op-ed in The New York Times, Schmidt wrote that the US government “needs to get back in the game in a serious way” in order for the country to win the technology race against China. He added that artificial intelligence should be a priority for the country.
Tech experts like Jack Poulson, the executive director of Tech Inquiry, a nonprofit, told Wired that Schmidt has the ear of the department of defense. So it’s possible that the former Google chief’s vision may soon become a reality.
“It’s difficult to point to any other CEO with the same level of influence in the national security tech sector,” Poulson said.
A representative for Schmidt declined to comment on this story.