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Google Exec: China to Outpace US in Artificial Intelligence by 2025

Artificial intelligence. Graphic Illustration courtesy of T2 Telehealth and Technology
Artificial intelligence. Graphic Illustration courtesy of T2 Telehealth and Technology

The chairman of the Defense Innovation Board said Wednesday that China will surpass the United States in artificial intelligence in just seven years if America doesn't change its mindset.

The Chinese government announced its AI strategy to the world just a few weeks ago, Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet Inc., who also chairs the DIB, told an audience at the Center for New American Security's Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Summit. Alphabet Inc. is the parent company of Google LLC.

"It's pretty simple. By 2020, they will have caught up; by 2025, they will be better than us; and by 2030, they will dominate the industries of AI," he said.

"Just stop for a sec. The government said that. Weren't we the ones who are in charge of AI dominance in our country? Weren't we the ones that invented this stuff? Weren't we the ones who were willing to go and exploit the benefits of all this technology for betterment of American exceptionalism and our own arrogant view?" Schmidt asked.

"Trust me. These Chinese people are good," he continued.

Currently, the United States does not have a national AI strategy, nor does it place a priority on funding basic research in AI and other science and technology endeavors, Schmidt said.

"We need to get our act together as a country," he said. "America is the country that leads in these areas; there is every reason we can continue that leadership."

In addition to investing in AI, Schmidt said the United States should rethink its immigration policy, which keeps talented individuals from entering the country.

"Iran produces some of the smartest and top computer scientists in the world. I want them here. It's crazy not to let these people in," he said.

"Would you rather have them building AI somewhere else or would you rather have them building it here?" Schmidt asked.

The Defense Innovation Board has made recommendations to the Pentagon about how to accelerate innovation in areas such as AI.  

"One of the most important points is the military is not leading in AI," Schmidt said.

But military leaders, such as former Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and current SecDef Jim Mattis, understand that AI has tremendous potential for military applications, he said.

"The problem is everybody can understand something, but they cannot collectively act. [That] is the sort of core governance problem, so you have to come up with ways for them to be able to get the resources," Schmidt said.

"If we were in a huge war with a major adversary, I am sure the rules would be different but, right now, that planning procedures and so forth, in my view, take too long," he said.

Military uses for artificial intelligence do not necessarily have to involve deadly weapons under the control of machines, Schmidt said, describing the "movie" scenario that often depicts super-intelligent machines turning on humanity.

"In peacetime, and really in wartime, what do our men and women do mostly? They mostly watch things," he said. "We have this whole tradition of military standing watch ... as if that is a good use of human beings."

Computers can watch a scene that is monotonous for a very, very long time and can alert humans if a change occurs, Schmidt said.

The important thing about AI "is not that AI will be like us, it's that AI is different than us. The best uses of AI will be in human and AI collaboration of one kind or another," he said.

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