Eric Schmidt Warns China’s AI Industry Will Dominate U.S. by 2030


China will eclipse the U.S. in artificial intelligence technologies and then blow by American capabilities unless U.S. officials commit themselves to an AI development strategy, said Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.

Along with his duties at Alphabet, Schmidt also leads the Defense Innovation Board where he’s helping shape the Pentagon’s strategy to re-engage with American’s commercial technology companies. He has already warned defense leaders they need to drastically increase their investment in AI or risk allowing the U.S. military to fall behind the Chinese.

Schmidt spoke at the Center for a New American Security, a Washington D.C.-based think-tank, Wednesday, a day after hosting the Defense Innovation Board’s latest board meeting in Crystal City, Va. At CNAS, Schmidt said the Chinese will “dominate” AI industries by 2030.

China published its national AI strategy this past summer in which it outlines its investments and plans to become the world’s leaders in the rapidly advancing field.

“By 2020 [the Chinese] will have caught up,” Schmidt said. “By 2025 they will be better than us. And by 2030 they will dominate the industries of AI.”

Schmidt criticized America’s immigration policies and emphasized the importance of recruiting the best technological minds to come and work in America.

“Some of the very best people are in countries that we won’t let into America. Would you rather have them building AI somewhere else, or rather have them here?” Schmidt asked the crowd.

He highlighted the computer science talent in countries like Iran saying he wants “them working at Alphabet and Google.”

Schmidt emphasized his concerns with the lack of urgency and commitment from America’s political leaders saying the U.S “needs to get its act together as a country.” “Trust me, these Chinese people are good.”

The U.S. military can’t be depended on to lead the development of AI like it might have with past technologies like GPS. Schmidt explained that the military’s dependence on contractors limits their ability to innovate and develop technologies at a fast enough rate.

“The military is very large and cumbersome. The military as a general rule doesn’t build things, it uses contractors,” he said.

Although military leaders have spoken about the importance of AI, Schmidt said those leaders have not done enough to ask contractors to develop the AI systems the military will need.

“The core problem is how do you get the leaders, who passionately want to get this stuff done, to deliver these solutions quickly?” Schmidt asked.

The U.S., unfortunately, is not moving fast enough, he said.

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