Google's Schmidt Agrees An AI Race 'Sputnik Moment' Looms Near If The US Doesn’t Act Fast

One of the fastest growing fields in technology right now is artificial intelligence. We see AI being employed in various different categories, everything from digital assistants and video games, to autonomous vehicles and robotics. Be that as it may, Eric Schmidt, Chair of Google's parent company Alphabet, believes the United States needs a national strategy for developing AI to avoid falling behind.

"If you believe [AI] is important, as I believe, then we need to get our act together as a country," Schimdt said during a question and answer session at an event organized by the Center for New American Security. Schmidt added that he believes the US will maintain its lead over China for the next five years, at which time he expects China will catch up and then pass the US "extremely quickly."

Eric Schmidt
Image Source: Flickr (JD Lasica)

Former Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work echoed Schmidt's comments, telling Breaking Defense that China estimates it can boost economic growth with AI by 26 percent by 2030. He called China's advances in the field "quite stunning." As to whether the US is likely to make a major national effort to prioritize AI, barring an event like Sputnik that could push the voting public in that direction out of fear of falling behind, he noted the time for action is now.

"If we wait for the Sputnick moment, we will be too far behind," Work said.

The message is that there is a lesson to be learned from Sputnik 1, the name of the first artificial Earth satellite. It was the Soviet Union and not the US that was first to launch a satellite into orbit, back on October 4, 1957. Now 60 years later, the focus is on AI and where that can lead.

One idea that has been brought up is to give promising AI students a full scholarship, and in return they would agree to serve in an AI reserve corps. Work points out that they could make a bunch of money working for Alphabet or Facebook or any other major technology firm, while also serving their country.

Thumbnail Image Source: Flickr via JD Lasica