Ex-Google chief: U.S. must do ‘whatever it takes’ to beat China on AI

By Matthew Choi 10/15/2020 04:26 PM EDT

The U.S. needs an urgent national strategy on developing artificial intelligence technology to counter the rising competition from China, said former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence.

Speaking with reporters Nancy Scola and Mark Scott on Thursday during POLITICO’s AI Summit, Schmidt outlined recommendations for countering the Asian superpower’s rise in the field and emphasized the need to collaborate with peer democracies in the development of AI technology and ethics. Schmidt said the United States lacks a national “whatever it takes” doctrine to push ahead and dominate in the global AI competition.

“We want America to be inventing this stuff,” Schmidt said. “Or at least the West.”

Key context: Schmidt has previously warned about the encroaching command of China in the AI sphere, particularly with its military buildup and “high tech authoritarianism.” To counter the threat, Schmidt said Thursday that the U.S. should invest more in research, ethics and AI infrastructure and partner with countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel and Japan.

He said broad consensus exists in the West on AI ethics, but those would probably contrast with standards developed in China. Having the United States and its partners lead the charge on ethical standards will be crucial in ensuring they reflect “human values,” Schmidt said.

“China is simply too big,” he said. “There are too many smart people for us to do this on our own.”

The commission he chairs was created in 2019 and delivers quarterly reports and recommendations to Congress. Schmidt has voiced his support for Democrats, but said Thursday that advancing the United States’ grasp on AI is one of the rare issues that has garnered bipartisan support, including from President Donald Trump.

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