Ex-Google CEO Says AI Will Be As Revolutionary For Warfare As Nuclear Weapons

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.

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.”

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.”

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

The role of government is not simply to regulate AI, Schmidt said. It must simultaneously promote the technology. Alongside a regulatory plan, Schmidt suggested every country should have a “how-do-we-win-AI” plan.

Looking to Europe, he described the admirable model of deep and long-term investment in big physics challenges. The CERN particle accelerator is one of many examples. But Schmidt does not see commensurate levels of investment in AI. “That’s a huge mistake, and it’s going to hurt them,” 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 said that technology will likely change how humanity perceives the world. He gave the example of a podcast created a month ago by generative AI tools of an interview between Joe Rogan and Steve Jobs, who died in 2011 and was Schmidt’s close friend. Schmidt said listening to the podcast was a “shock to my existence, to my system.”

“When I heard Steve’s voice synthesized by a computer as though he was alive today, talking in his style with his insights, I almost started crying,” he said.

Schmidt said that while the tools can do a significant amount of good, they can also cause harm — something he said he witnessed through his experience as Google’s CEO.

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.

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