Former Google CEO predicts nuclear-powered AI systems on military bases surrounded by machine guns

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Forward-looking: What does the future of the most powerful AI systems look like? Eric Schmidt, the former CEO and Chairman of Google, thinks they’ll be on army bases, powered by a nuclear power source and surrounded by machine guns.

Schmidt believes that eventually, the US and China will have a small number of extremely powerful AI systems that have the capability for autonomous invention.

The former Google boss says these capabilities will exceed what the US government wants its citizens to have without permission. He also said it will be important to keep it out of the hands of international competitors.

“They will be housed in an army base, powered by some nuclear power source and surrounded by barbed wire and machine guns,” he explained in an interview with Noema Magazine.

Schmidt also touched on the subject of an AI going rogue in China and getting access to a weapon that it then launches, not understanding the consequences of such actions – a danger that partly comes from AI not having the benefits of human experience.

We’ve seen plenty of examples of countries integrating artificial intelligence into their militaries’ weapons and craft. In April, the US Air Force announced it had successfully tested an AI-controlled fighter jet in dogfights against human pilots. The trend recently led to the US promising to never put AI in control of nuclear weapons systems, and called on China and Russia to make the same pledge.

Schmidt’s prediction might not be as farfetched as it sounds. The US continues to restrict the export of the most powerful AI chips to China, which has led to some innovative ways of getting hold of them. China, meanwhile, wants to lessen its reliance on American technology and is against allowing any of its IPs to go to its rival, as illustrated by its unwillingness to sell TikTok. Beijing placed the TikTok algorithm on a restricted list of technologies in 2020 that prevents its export without government approval.

Schmidt left Google parent Alphabet in 2020 having served as CEO and chairman from 2001 to 2011. Since his departure, he has invested in AI startups and co-authored a book called The Age of AI: And Our Human Future, which examines the way the technology is transforming society and the potential dangers it presents.

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Rob Thubron