Without serious investment in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, China will catch up with the U.S. in that sector in three years and by 2030 will dominate the global market for self-learning computers, according to Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet Inc. [GOOG] and chair of the Defense Innovation Board (DIB).
“A month ago, China actually announced its AI strategy and I actually read it and it’s pretty simple,” Schmidt said Nov. 1 at the Center For New American Security’s Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Summit. “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. … The government said that.”
“Weren’t we the one in charge of AI dominance, here in our country? Weren’t we the ones who invented this stuff? Weren’t we the ones that were going to go exploit the benefits of all this technology for betterment of American exceptionalism, in our arrogant view? Trust me. These Chinese people are good.”
The Chinese are expected to implement AI to streamline and speed up both commercial production and military operations. Meanwhile, the United States has no national strategy for the development and deployment of artificial intelligence. Schmidt likened this to the public-private collaborations that brought about the U.S. interstate highway system in the 1950s and the space program in the 1960s.
“We need to get our act together, as a country,” Schmidt said. “This is the moment when the government collectively with private industry needs to say these technologies are important.”
Of the 10 recommendations the DIB has made, Schmidt said one of the most important is that the military should invest in AI and establish the equivalent of an AI institute.
“The military is not leading in AI,” he said. “Why are we taking … exquisitely trained men and women of our military and having them watch something boring all day? That’s literally what they do for hours and hours and hours. … A lot of the gains here are making the existing folks just that much more effective.”
Initially, AI can be put to work making soldiers and civilian employees and their computer systems operate more effectively and efficiently, Schmidt said. Artificial intelligence also can free up highly-trained uniformed personnel from mundane, time-consuming tasks like monitoring surveillance video feeds.
“In peacetime, what do our men and women in uniform do? They mostly watch things. Computer vision is a solved problem compared to human vision,” Schmidt said. “Computers can watch a scene which is monotonous for a very, very long time and then alert you to a change. That seems like the simplest possible thing, and yet, the old tradition of the military standing watch … as if that is a good use of human beings. The core narrative about AI is not that AI will be like us, but that AI is different than us and the best uses of AI will be in human-AI collaboration.”
The Defense Department is making some strides toward adoption of AI. C3 IoT recently was selected by the Pentagon's Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) to provide the AI and Internet of Things software platform for rapidly delivering a new AI-based predictive maintenance solution for the U.S. Department of Defense to increase asset availability and reduce maintenance expenditures.
Project Maven, also known as algorithmic warfare cross-functional team, was established in April and is set to deliver the first round of algorithms in December for deployment with operational sensors throughout the military. Maven is DoD’s unit dedicated to AI innovation, as the department works to broaden its knowledge base with new capabilities and free up analysts from menial tasks.