America’s tech sector is moving from Silicon Valley and innovation to the Pentagon and geopolitics. In this not-so-brave new world, militarization rules.
In early 2021, an official report commissioned for the White House and Congress urged the United States and its allies to reject calls for a global ban on autonomous weapon systems powered by artificial intelligence (AI). According to the report, America was “not ready to defend itself or compete in the age of AI”.
According to the authors, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Pentagon veteran Robert Work, “by 2025, the Department of Defense and the intelligence community must be ready for AI.” It was a lofty, but lofty goal.
But what the two were really pushing was significant public investment in AI that would support private profit motives, while presumably serving the “national interest.”
Towards a militarization of AI, fighting China
The AI initiative is presented in the name of perceived Chinese aggression: “We must win the AI competition which intensifies the strategic competition with China”. As Schmidt and his co-director Robert Work argued in their 756-page report on AI, Chinese innovation must be derailed by weaponizing AI, the next big thing in the IT industry. and communication (ICT).
A veteran Pentagon insider, Work was CEO of the controversial Center for a New American Security (CNAS) think tank in 2013-14 and a director of WestExec. The many CNAS fellows and WestExec partners, including Biden’s Asian Czar Kurt Campbell and Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken, are essential to the current White House.
After his stint as US Undersecretary of Defense (2014-2017), Work joined the board of directors of Raytheon, the global military contractor. Like the rest of Big Defense, Raytheon is a key contributor to the initiatives of WestExec, CNAS and Schmidt.
Nevertheless, critics, including many scientists, avoided the AI report. They warned that the proposals risked triggering a deadly and irresponsible arms race. “This is a shocking and chilling report,” said Professor Noel Sharkey of The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. “The most seasoned AI scientists on the planet have warned them of the consequences, and yet they continue. It will lead to serious violations of international law.”
The common denominator of AI and semiconductors is militarization. What is less understood is the private profit that powers decision-making that once belonged to the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon.
The Pentagon is playing several billion dollars
As the public focused on the trade war in 2017, the Trump administration launched a massive tech battle against China. When Schmidt stepped down in late 2017 as executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, he had already overseen the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Advisory Board for two years.
Now he would work to align Silicon Valley with the Pentagon. Hence also Google’s growing cooperation with the Department of Defense (DoD) and its cumulative interest in targeted consulting positions. It began with a membership in the Presidential Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), followed by his role as Chair of the PCAST Report on Semiconductors (2017), the Pentagon’s National Security Commission on AI and its final report (NSCAI, 2018 -2021).
In mid-September, Schmidt’s own Special Competitive Studies Project (SCSP), a private NSCAI spin-out, released another report on how to harness technology to derail China.
Known in the past as a financier of the Obama, Clinton and Biden campaigns, Schmidt has also increasingly contributed to Republican campaigns. With a net worth of $23 billion, he can afford it. In his league, political campaign finance is much like venture capital seed funding, because even crumbs of millions can generate fortunes of billions.
In recent years, Schmidt has invested millions of dollars in military startups; his next big thing. Meanwhile, the ties between Google, Alphabet, Schmidt, his stock and his companies became so blurred that a federal court had to order him to turn over records to see if he had furthered his personal business interests (see figure 1 ).
FIGURE 1. SILICON VALLEY FROM THE PENTAGON TO ARMED FINANCE
Schmidt as CEO of Google; President Obama’s financier; with former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter; as head of the Pentagon’s defense innovation advisories; philanthropist of the QUAD security alliance, which also serves as a platform for its financial activities (in the photo: President Biden, President Modi and the Prime Ministers of Japan, Australia and the CEO of Schmidt Future) ; creator of America’s Frontier Fund; and collaborator of Michèle Flournoy, co-founder of the controversial moneymaker West/Exec and the think tank CNAS. SOURCES: WIKIMEDIA, YOUTUBE SCREENSHOTS
From CIA IQT to AFF
In June, Schmidt launched a secret fund with a powerful group of Washington insiders. The model is the pioneering CIA venture capital fund, In-Q-Tel (IQT), founded by simulation game expert Gilman Louie and Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine in 1999. To oversee its new American Frontier Fund (AFF), Schmidt recruited Louie from IQT. and Jordan Blashek of his philanthropic Schmidt Futures.
AFF partners include experts in semiconductors, supply chain security, investment, venture capital, dual-use technologies, healthcare, as well as former officials of the Trump administration.
The board includes insiders from Schmidt, the ex-CEO of IBM, the ex-chief of science and technology of the CIA, the chief technologist of the Obama administration, his Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Trump’s controversial ex-national security adviser HR McMaster – and ex-Pentagon hawk Michèle Flournoy, co-chair of CNAS with Kurt Campbell, Biden’s Asian czar and former Asia Group chief, yet another adviser.
Like State Department Chief Antony Blinken, Flournoy is behind the WestExec advisory cash cow. Like AFF which develops investment programs with QUAD security alliance countries, WestExec has grown through strategic partnerships in private equity (Pine Island Capital Partners which employed Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ), venture capital (Ridgeline), management consulting (Boston Consulting Group) and public relations consulting (Teneo).
While these partners are profitable but controversial, WestExec’s hawkish advice has been godsend to CNAS’ Big Defense donors, including Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office ( TECO) based in the United States.
High profit potential, but MAD policies
Like Flournoy’s WestExec-CNAS, Schmidt’s American Frontier Fund hopes to profit from internationalization. Among other things, it develops investment programs with the countries of the QUAD security alliance. The AFF launch was followed by the release of the SCSP report, which promotes America’s global competitiveness in the future of AI.
In Schmidt’s view, the United States must gain global technological leadership by 2025-2030. Chinese innovation must therefore be undermined in microelectronics, AI and 5G; and yes, in everything that will follow in advanced technology. In each case, Schmidt, in cooperation with Flournoy, hopes to maximize profits in public investments, monopoly finance, military start-ups and venture capital partners (see Figure 2).
FIGURE 2. COMBINATION AFF/WESTEXEC AND THEIR PROXY
But here’s the problem: since no one nation can control entire supply chains in the global information and communications technology sector, the militarization of semiconductor markets – and other technology old and new – by one country would be disastrous for the world. ecosystem.
Schmidt’s high-tech policies would replace globalized industrial competition with geopolitics, undermine consumer welfare and derail innovation.
In cyberspace, this is equivalent to Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD).
Dr. Dan Steinbock is an internationally recognized strategist in the multipolar world and the founder of Difference Group. He has worked at the Institute of India, China and America (USA), the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies (China) and the EU Center (Singapore). On his many books on global ICT, see his Amazon page. Learn more at https://www.differencegroup.net
This is a short version of Dr Steinbock’s comment published by the UK-based Global Policy Journal on October 14, 2022.