Military AI Applications Will Be As Game-Changing As Nukes: Former Google CEO
Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt says that artificial intelligence will be as game-changing as nuclear weapons when it comes to military applications.
"Every once in a while, a new weapon, a new technology comes along that changes things. 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," Schmidt told Wired. "I would argue that [AI-powered] autonomy and decentralised, distributed systems are that powerful."
With Schmidt’s help, a similar view has taken root inside the DOD over the past decade, where leaders believe AI will revolutionize military hardware, intelligence gathering, and backend software. In the early 2010s the Pentagon began assessing technology that could help it maintain an edge over an ascendant Chinese military. The Defense Science Board, the agency’s top technical advisory body, concluded that AI-powered autonomy would shape the future of military competition and conflict. -Wired
According to Schmidt, the US military has good people, but a bad system which could benefit greatly by upgrading their technology.
"Let's imagine we’re going to build a better war-fighting system," he said, outlining what would amount to an enormous overhaul of the US military. "We would just create a tech company ... It would build a large number of inexpensive devices that were highly mobile, that were attritable, and those devices—or drones—would have sensors or weapons, and they would be networked together."
The problem with today’s Pentagon is hardly money, talent, or determination, in Schmidt’s opinion. He describes the US military as “great human beings inside a bad system”—one that evolved to serve a previous era dominated by large, slow, expensive projects like aircraft carriers and a bureaucratic system that prevents people from moving too quickly. Independent studies and congressional hearings have found that it can take years for the DOD to select and buy software, which may be outdated by the time it is installed. Schmidt says this is a huge problem for the US, because computerization, software, and networking are poised to revolutionize warfare. -Wired
Schmidt, coincidentally (or not) is backing a company called Istari, which uses machine learning to virtually assemble and test war machines.
"The Istari team is bringing internet-type usability to models and simulations," he said, adding that "This unlocks the possibility of software-like agility for future physical systems—it is very exciting."
According to Paul Scharre, a VP at the Center for a New American Society think tank, "The big challenge that the US military faces going forward is how to rapidly adapt commercial technologies for military use faster than competitors."
In his book, Four Battlegrounds: Power in the Age of Artificial Intelligence, Scharre says that the Pentagon's share of global R&D spending has dropped from 36% in 1960 to 4% today.
Scharre says it's valuable for people like Schmidt to bridge the gap between the private sector and government, and that 'tech ambassadors' can help the Pentagon learn how to cut red tape and become a more attractive partner to startups.
"We're still trying to build a 21st century military with a 20th century bureaucracy," he said.