Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, stated on July 22 at the Aspen Security Forum that world powers are not prepared to negotiate how the growing advance of artificial intelligence (AI) is managed. In his opinion, this inability could further weaken trust between the United States and China, and could even trigger a confrontation . The conflict Schmidt cites would occur on a global scale and would be similar to the impact of the nuclear arms race that broke out in the Cold War.
The Aspen Security Forum is part of the activities of the Aspen Institute, an independent forum in which different personalities discuss nine topics. Topics that affect the United States are usually discussed and the meetings are organized within the borders of the country, with some exceptions. The Security Forum is attended every year by front-line personalities, many with executive positions.
In his speech, Schmidt spoke of the power of information technology and how geopolitical powers such as the United States and China need to start a dialogue to see how to regulate AI and establish treaties on technology . In the opinion of the former CEO of Google, this task will not be easy since both parties would have to bring people with great technical knowledge of AI and also with a vision of the future to the negotiations. “Say we want to have a talk with China about some kind of treaty around AI surprises. It’s very reasonable. How would we go about it? Who in the US government would work with us? And it’s even worse.” on the Chinese side. Who do we call? […] We are not prepared for the negotiations that we need,” argues Schmidt.
Given the geopolitical situation in the world today, Schmidt posits a scenario similar to that of the Cold War nuclear arms race , but with worryingly less oversight. “In the ’50s and ’60s, we ended up building a world where there was a ‘no surprise’ rule on nuclear testing and eventually it was banned. When someone launches a missile, to test it or whatever, it notifies the whole world. Everyone then uses their missile defense system to observe and train the systems,” he explained.
“It’s an example of a balance of trust or lack of trust: it’s a ‘no surprises’ rule . I’m very concerned that the US view of China as corrupt or communist or whatever, and the Chinese view of America as a failure, let people say, ‘Oh my God, they’re up to something,’ and then start some kind of puzzle. Start some kind of thing where, because you’re arming or preparing, then you activate the other side,” Schmidt said.
The former director structures his speech on the premise that many world powers do not know what their potential adversaries are doing , at least in relation to artificial intelligence. In this sense, if a power, right or wrong, suspects that its enemy is developing autonomous AI weapons, the tension between both sides would grow and the one that was not developing weapons would get down to business. For now this is just an opinion, but Schmidt argues that the world urgently needs to consider these issues before it is too late. And he’s not the only one who thinks so.
Elon Musk himself, so opposed to government intervention, has also been a prominent voice calling for more regulation of AI.
“We don’t have anyone working on it, and yet the AI is that powerful,” Schmidt warned.