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People could be 'harmed or killed' by AI without action, says former Google CEO

Eric Schmidt didn't mince words in a recent discussion about AI and its possible effect on humanity.

Published onMay 24, 2023

Stock photo of Google Bard website on phone 2
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
  • Eric Schmidt, the former Google CEO, discussed AI during The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit in London.
  • Schmidt said that AI poses an “existential risk” that could result in “many, many, many, many people harmed or killed.”
  • Unfortunately, Schmidt didn’t have any potential solutions for these issues, saying the questions are “a broader question for society.”

From 2001 to 2011, Eric Schmidt was at Google’s helm as CEO. Eventually, current CEO Sundar Pichai took over, with Schmidt serving on various Google boards and advisory roles before fully leaving the company to focus on philanthropic ventures.

On Wednesday, however, the former Google CEO talked about AI at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit in London (via CNBC). During the chat, Schmidt delivered some sobering remarks about humanity’s potential future if AI remains unregulated.

“There are scenarios not today, but reasonably soon, where these systems will be able to find zero-day exploits in cyber issues, or discover new kinds of biology,” Schmidt said at the event. “Now, this is fiction today, but its reasoning is likely to be true. And when that happens, we want to be ready to know how to make sure these things are not misused by evil people.”

Summarizing his thoughts, Schmidt said AI poses an “existential risk” which he defined as “many, many, many, many people harmed or killed.”

When asked about regulating AI, Schmidt was pessimistic. He does not believe a new regulatory body will be set up in the United States to deal specifically with AI, which could be a viable solution to AI’s rapid growth. Schmidt also offered no potential solutions for these problems, instead saying they are “a broader question for society.”

Google CEO AI showdown: Schmidt vs. Pichai

Schmidt made it clear during this recent event that he thinks we need to put some brakes on AI. He is worried about the ramifications of misinformation, massive job losses, and even manipulations of biology.

Current Google CEO Sundar Pichai, however, doesn’t share the same level of alarm. Pichai believes that AI needs regulation — he’s even directly asked for government regulation of Google and any other company working with AI. However, Pichai is also moving full steam ahead with rolling out AI-based tools for consumers within Google products, as evidenced by the AI-heavy Google I/O 2023 keynote. This could be mostly due to keeping up with the competition rather than a fervent desire to push AI forward, but the company is moving forward all the same.

Time will tell if Schmidt’s concerns end up being valid or Pichai’s cautious optimism win the day.

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