The Future of AI in National Security: Insights from Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt

Artificial intelligence (AI) has become a buzzword in recent years, with its potential impact on various industries and sectors. One area where AI has the potential to revolutionize is national security. Former Google CEO Eric E. Schmidt recently discussed the future of AI in national security at a Harvard Institute of Politics forum. In this article, we will delve into Schmidt’s insights and predictions, as well as the implications of AI development on global security.

The Advancing Landscape of AI

Schmidt opened the discussion by sharing his predictions for the advancing landscape of AI within the next three years. He emphasized the need for AI systems to be grounded in actual facts and recency. Schmidt highlighted that these systems take a long time to train, resulting in them being frequently out of date. However, he expressed optimism that in the near future, AI systems will overcome these challenges and eliminate niche issues.

The Potential Risks of AI Development

While Schmidt acknowledged the positive aspects of AI, he also highlighted the potential risks associated with its development. He mentioned the vulnerability to significant damage from cyber attacks and biological tech. One of the key concerns he raised was aligning AI systems’ values with human values. This raises important ethical questions about the development and deployment of AI in the field of national security.

China’s AI Advancement

During the discussion, Schmidt was asked about the speed of China’s AI advancement compared to that of the United States. He pointed out that China lagged behind in certain areas due to the lack of Chinese language training data and their unfamiliarity with the concept of open source. However, Schmidt acknowledged that China has made significant progress in AI and that both countries need to continue innovating to maintain their competitive edge.

The Future of AI Assistants

Schmidt shared his prediction that within the next three to five years, everyone will have an AI assistant. He emphasized that AI assistants will significantly enhance productivity. However, he also acknowledged the economic uncertainties that may arise, such as changes in labor markets, prices, and demand signals. Despite these challenges, Schmidt remained optimistic about the potential of AI assistants to improve various aspects of our lives, including healthcare.

Lessons from Google’s Early Days

Schmidt and the moderator, Graham T. Allison, discussed lessons from Google’s early days and the importance of cost-effective and efficient innovation in the field of national security. Schmidt argued for quantity over quality, suggesting that having an extensive network of inexpensive surveillance systems would be more effective than relying on a few high-quality ones. He emphasized the need for a distributed system to enhance national security.

The Need for Offense in AI-Enabled War

When discussing AI-enabled war, Schmidt highlighted the need for a focus on offense rather than defense. He emphasized the speed at which AI-enabled war operates, making it imperative to act quickly. Schmidt argued that relying on human decision-making in such scenarios would be time-consuming and ultimately inefficient. This raises important questions about the role of humans in AI-driven warfare and the potential ethical implications.

The Proliferation Problem

Schmidt discussed the potential proliferation problem associated with the decline in the cost of training AI models. He cautioned that as AI systems become more accessible, their management and control become increasingly challenging. Schmidt emphasized the importance of talent and algorithms in managing AI systems effectively. He acknowledged that data is readily available and that the real challenge lies in developing the right talent and algorithms to harness the power of AI.

Psychological Warfare and Manipulation

During the question and answer session, Schmidt addressed concerns about psychological warfare and manipulation through AI systems. He expressed his belief that the upcoming elections in 2024 could be an “unmitigated disaster” due to the potential exploitation of AI systems for such purposes. Schmidt proposed labeling users and content to hold people accountable for their actions on social media platforms. However, he acknowledged the challenges of implementing such measures, given the political landscape and potential backlash from different groups.

AI and Employment

Schmidt dismissed concerns about widespread job loss due to AI advancements. He argued that automation, which is a fundamental aspect of AI, is necessary for economic growth. Schmidt highlighted demographic evidence suggesting a shortage of humans being born, making automation a vital tool for increasing GDP. He asserted that AI intelligence robots have a net positive impact on society.


Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s insights on the future of AI in national security provide valuable perspectives on the potential risks and benefits of AI development. It is clear that AI will play a significant role in shaping the landscape of national security in the coming years. However, it is crucial to address ethical concerns, align AI systems with human values, and ensure effective management and control of AI proliferation. As we move forward, it is essential to strike a balance between innovation and responsible deployment of AI in the field of national security.