Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt on Sunday urged lawmakers to ramp up funding for research and development in the artificial intelligence space in order to prevent China from becoming the biggest player in the global AI market–a development Schmidt warned would spark national security and privacy concerns that could ultimately constitute a national emergency.
Speaking to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday, 65-year-old Schmidt said the United States may lose its lead in AI “fairly quickly” over the next decade given the Chinese government’s progress on a 2017 plan to lead the global market for AI by 2030.
A former Google CEO and current chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, Schmidt notes the U.S. is also falling behind China in additive, or 3D, manufacturing and robotics, as well as facial recognition technology and supercomputers–both of which pose risks on the national security front.
“The government is not today prepared for this new technology,” Schmidt said Sunday, noting that the use of AI to produce and spread harmful information poses a “threat to democracy” and could ultimately be used as a weapon of war.
In order for the U.S. to be competitive, Schmidt suggests increasing the nation’s budget for research and development in AI from $1.5 billion this year to $2 billion in 2022, and then doubling it each year until it hits $32 billion in 2026.
Schmidt also said lawmakers need to incentivize public-private partnerships to develop AI applications across government agencies, including the Department of Energy, which can use the technology to monitor infrastructure, detect issues and recommend solutions–such as warning of increased energy loads ahead of adverse weather or defending against cyber attacks.
Ramping up AI expenditures would promote private investments in the space and could save taxpayers money in the long run by modernizing the government’s infrastructure, Schmidt notes, estimating that the industry could be worth $50 trillion over the next 20 years.
“We believe this is a national emergency and a threat to our nation unless we get our act together with respect to focusing on AI in the federal government and international security,” Schmidt told Zakaria on Sunday. “If these technologies are built in China, for example, they are not necessarily going to follow our privacy rules or our ethics… We have to be careful to win this battle.”
What To Watch For
With the next round of fiscal relief making its way to President Joe Biden’s desk as soon as this week, a separate recovery package is expected to plow another $2 trillion into the economy this year. Though details of the plan have remained fairly scarce so far, the president has said it will modernize the nation’s infrastructure with a focus on clean energy. He’s also teased $300 billion investments in emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, 5G and broadband.
Other members of the NSCAI include Oracle CEO Safra Catz and new Amazon CEO, Andy Jassy.
$19.3 billion. That’s how much Schmidt is worth, according to Forbes.