We haven’t done a Talking Schmidt in a while, not because the former Google CEO and current Alphabet Board member Dr. Eric Schmidt has been quiet with his sometimes outlandish commentary, but because of his reduced role at Google and its now parent company Alphabet. In February Schmidt stepped down as Chairman, taking an innovation role at MIT and was replaced by John Hennessy.
But back to the matter at hand…
In an interview with former Publicis CEO Maurice Lévy at Viva Technology Paris where he gave a number of interesting viewpoints on the future, his opinions on AI stole the show. Starting at 2 hours and 15 minutes in, Schmidt says:
“I think Elon is exactly wrong, so my position is clear.
[Lévy congratulates Schmidt for giving us our catchphrase]
“He doesn’t understand the benefits that this technology will provide to making every human being smarter and the the fact of the matter is that AI and machine learning are so fundamentally good for humanity. Let’s go through it:
- It makes every citizen smarter, from the best educated to the least educated.
- It allows you to live longer with less pain and less disease
- It allows you to make economic and social systems be more fluid
Over and over again, making people smarter is a net good.
[Elon Musk] is concerned about the possible misuse of this technology, and I am too, but today the overwhelming benefit of this is positive.
The example I would offer is, you would not invent the telephone because of the possible misuse of the telephone by evil people? No, you would build the telephone and you would try to find a way to police the misuse of the telephone.”
Schmidt goes on to say that AI will be a net positive for jobs, helping the smaller workforce against an aging population, become more productive.
I’m going to go ahead and side with Elon Musk here. I think an overabundance of caution is important in AI and frankly I’m a little worried that a very powerful man like Schmidt doesn’t seem to take the threats seriously.
Many people think AI is already influencing elections for instance and even if AI works as it is supposed to, it puts a lot of power in the hands of the few people who possess the cutting edge tools to develop it, including Google.