Eric Schmidt speaks during a conference of the National Security Commission for Artificial Intelligence on November 5, 2019 in Washington
Alex Wong | Getty Images
According to a group of experts chaired by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the US is drastically poorly prepared for the age of artificial intelligence.
The National Security Commission for AI warned on a 756-page page report on Monday that China could soon replace the US as the world’s “AI superpower”, saying there are serious military implications to consider.
“America is not ready to defend or compete in the AI era,” wrote Schmidt and vice-chairman Bob Work, who was previously the US deputy secretary of defense. “This is the difficult reality that we have to face.”
The commission began its review in March 2019 and this is its final report for the US President and Congress. The commission’s 15 members include technologists, national security experts, senior executives and academic leaders. Amazon’s next CEO Andy Jassy, Oracle CEO Safra Catz, Microsoft’s scientific director Eric Horvitz, and Google Cloud AI boss Andrew Moore are all members.
Schmidt and Work say the report outlines a “strategy to counter AI threats, use AI responsibly for national security, and win the broader technology competition for our prosperity, security and wellbeing”.
They warn that AI systems are used for the “pursuit of power” and that “AI will not stay in the realm of superpowers or science fiction”.
The report urges President Joe Biden to reject calls for a global ban on highly controversial AI-powered autonomous weapons. China and Russia are unlikely to abide by any treaty they have signed.
“Without ubiquitous AI capabilities and new paradigms of warfare, we will not be able to defend ourselves against AI-enabled threats,” wrote Schmidt and Work.
Samim Wagner, an AI researcher in Berlin, sees things differently and tells CNBC that AI weapons and killer robots will make today’s weapons even more deadly.
“”[Adopting AI weapons] is brutal madness and everyone knows it, but the staff of the tanks from DC to Beijing keep assuring us that it is ‘progress and necessary’. “
He added, “A real discussion of how AI can help promote peace around the world is really needed – but you certainly won’t find it on the agenda of Pentagon employees or intelligence billionaires like Eric Schmidts of the World.” “
China has stated that it wants to be a world leader in AI by 2030 and the report’s authors have said it is important that the US do everything possible to rule out the likelihood of this event.
“We have to win the AI competition, which intensifies strategic competition with China,” said Schmidt and Work. “China’s plans, resources, and progress should affect all Americans. We take seriously China’s ambition to outperform the United States as the world’s AI leader in a decade.”
They added that China’s domestic use of AI “is a terrifying precedent for anyone around the world who values individual freedom”.
The commission calls on the U.S. government to more than double its spending on AI research and development to $ 32 billion a year by 2026.
It is also proposed that a new body be set up to help the country’s president steer US’s broader AI policies, relax immigration laws for talented AI professionals, create a new university to train digitally skilled civil servants, and expedite the introduction of new technologies by US intelligence agencies.
The report also warns that the US must do more to make itself dependent on computer chips and warns of the dangers of such reliance on Taiwan’s TSMC.
“Microelectronics drives all AI, and the US no longer makes the most modern chips in the world,” wrote Schmidt and Work. “Given that the vast majority of state-of-the-art chips are made in a single facility just 110 miles water from our main strategic competitor, we need to reassess the importance of supply chain resilience and security.”