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Eric Schmidt and Bob Work: Our AI 'Sputnik Moment' Is Now (breakingdefense.com) 174

schwit1 shares a report from Breaking Defense: China's just announced an AI strategy designed to assure it will be dominant in the host of technologies by 2030. "If you believe this is important, as I believe, then we need to get our act together as a country," [Alphabet Exec Chairman Eric] Schmidt said this morning. In a Q and A session at the event organized by the Center for a New American Security, Schmidt said he thought the U.S. will maintain its lead over the People's Republic of China for the next five years, but he expects China to catch up about then and pass us "extremely quickly." How important does China think AI can be? Former Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told Breaking Defense the Chinese estimate they can boost economic growth with AI by 26 percent by 2030. "It's quite stunning," Work said. And, of course, the PRC's government has published a national strategy and released it to the world. What's the best response by the United States, I asked Work after Schmidt spoke. The federal government needs to answer this question at its highest levels, as happened after the Soviet Union stunned the world and launched the first satellite, Sputnik, Work said.
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Eric Schmidt and Bob Work: Our AI 'Sputnik Moment' Is Now

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  • Sputnik moment (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @02:06AM (#55481115)

    I was born 2 days after sputnik

    and we got to the moon in '69

    and haven't gone back there since '72

    sometimes progress just stalls

    • by Max_W ( 812974 )
      Actually, the Lunokhod program was more productive https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      This approach is being used in other other expeditions.
      • How come they never teach about this in high school?

        • Re:Sputnik moment (Score:4, Informative)

          by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @06:10AM (#55481539)

          Of course they do. Cheers from Europe!

          On a related note, the claim that "the Lunokhod program was more productive" is debatable. It fared better in some aspects, worse in others. Notably, it didn't recover any physical samples that we'd be busy analyzing until today. Also, some ALSEP instruments ran until 1977, whereas both Lunokhods ceased operation within a year of their respective landings.

        • Because every country on the planet teaches about itself and doesn't seek to run down its own accomplishments. Well, until America 1995 or so, we do that here now.
    • That's progress (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      We've been to the moon loads of times (including the USA), since 1972.
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_missions_to_the_Moon
      Progress is not having to send a man to do a robots job.

      And soon we won't even need to communicate to tell the robot we send what to do. We'll *teach* its AI what to do and it will make the decisions as it goes and report back.

      Welcome to progress. Progress by its nature isn't doing the same thing over and over again.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Except that Space Nuttery isn't about progress, it's about religion. It's about symbolism, "boots on the ground", "the Species", etc...

        Space Nutters care very little about science and progress, they care about their little sci-fi worldview they cultivated at 14.

      • It's a shame that Curiosity can't repair its drill, though. I wonder how many JPL engineers are now thinking "if only I had ten minutes on site..."
    • sometimes progress just stalls

      Oh, back in '73 it didn't just stall, but came to a sputtering stop. The gas tank was empty. OPEC turned off the tap to the US for "supporting" Israel in the Yom Kippur. The economy was on the ropes, and a space program an unnecessary luxury. It was kinda sorta what happened to the "American CERN", the "Superconducting Super Collider.

      Flag on the play. Overuse of the word "super". Penalty: Cancellation because the word "super" sounds expensive to Congress Critters.

      And there is no political interest i

    • Re:Sputnik moment (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @08:11AM (#55482003) Homepage
      We didn't go back to the Moon but we do have hundreds of communication satellites, weather satellites, navigation satellites and others which are doing daily work integrated so much into your daily life that you don't even notice. Just because progress didn't occur in the way it was expected doesn't mean that space technology didn't have a massive impact.
    • and haven't gone back there since '72

      sometimes progress just stalls

      Repeating something that has already been done is hardly a sign of progress.

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      Sure. It's not like Sputnik led to multiply redundant global communications coverage, global positioning, exploration missions (usually multiple) sent to every planet and some asteroids and comets, continuous space surveillance of the sun, multiple space telescopes covering most of the EM spectrum, global nuclear test and missile launch surveillance, continuous global multispectral weather monitoring, and global mapping (frequently refreshed) coverage in multiband visual, radar, ladar, gravity and many oth

    • 'The space program hasn't done anything important since 1969', says the guy carrying around a cheap consumer device that uses satellites to tell him where he is, to an accuracy of a few metres, on network that uses satellite links to enable access from planes and ships, and remote land locations, across most of the world.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 03, 2017 @02:27AM (#55481141)

    Imagine if Sputnik never left the ground, and there was a huge campaign by businesses and media to convince everyone that Sputnik was flying around in orbit. That's AI.

    • by jblues ( 1703158 )
      Sounds more like the moon landing hoax [youtube.com] to me.
    • Actually, the Sputnik analogy is quite good. Sputnik also did not just happen overnight. There was research, rocket engineering, etc. In the end, Sputnik was just a huge wake-up call for US to catch up in a more focused way. It said "we are right there, over your head, in the ultimate high ground, with a research tool for now".

      I don't think that anyone claims that the AI "Sputnik" has taken off already. The argument is that maybe the US could focus better this time without waiting for that ultimate wake-u

      • I think a better one is the 'sustainable nuclear fusion moment'
        • ...if you want to chuckle about AI never happening. For Mr. Schmidt's warning message, Sputnik works better.

          By the way, sustainable fusion could be one of the first problems that we might want to throw at an advanced AI. A lot of it is concerned with plasma field configuration, containment control, and materials design. All problems close to the automation, simulation and optimization techniques where computers already play a big role.

    • I have released a book a month back (UTOPAI) which looks at the social and economic effects of a benevolent AI. What I found was that the current economic system would become obsolete once AI goes mainstream. Even the social structure undergoes a radical change as a result.

      The primary focus of the novel is to find a society which works well in such a completely new environment.

      This book might be of interest - please do check it out.

      Book Name: UTOPAI
      Author: Rajmohan Harindranath

      Regards,
      Rajmohan H

      • I have released a book a month back (UTOPAI) which looks at the social and economic effects of a benevolent AI.

        You should write a book about the effects of hostile/weaponized AI.

        • I actually do an analysis of whether the AI - post singularity - will be a hostile one or a benevolent one. The result of the analysis pointed to a higher probability of it being a benevolent one.

          There is a bit of analysis done on the possibility of a hostile AI also. The result was not pretty - at least as I saw it. From my viewpoint, that is a while where we donâ(TM)t stand a chance. That said, as I mentioned earlier, the probability of AI ending up hostile is extremely low though.

          • Oops - I meant - that is a war where we donâ(TM)t stand a chance. Sorry.

            Also, the book is a novel - where these different analysis are introduced as discussions.

          • That said, as I mentioned earlier, the probability of AI ending up hostile is extremely low though.

            Maybe it's not hostile, but just indifferent, and someone orders "nuclear winter" on Amazon and it takes it literally.

            • Not indifferent- we shouldnâ(TM)t confuse the systems that we see now with a post singularity system. To understand the behaviour of the AI then, I did an analysis of the meaning of life - using a theory of information - and I got a concrete answer - that one finds real meaning of life in our relations.

              It is based on this understanding that I am suggesting that AI will be benevolent- if the meaning of life for any intelligent system is its relations, AI, being super intelligent, will understand that h

          • That said, as I mentioned earlier, the probability of AI ending up hostile is extremely low though.

            Unless someone designs it to be hostile so they can attack another country.

      • The premise of your book is idiotic. We can't even create normal software, much less "AI" software. Complete waste of time.
      • I have released a book a month back (UTOPAI) which looks at the social and economic effects of a benevolent AI. What I found was that the current economic system would become obsolete once AI goes mainstream. Even the social structure undergoes a radical change as a result.

        You misspelled "speculated". What you speculated was that the current economic system would become obsolete once AI goes mainstream (of course, no danger of that, not in my lifetime anyway).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    That Eric Schmidt and people like him who promote AI are not disinterested parties? They all stand to make lots of money if they're right and if they're not there's little or no downside. We've seen this movie before: AI Winter [wikipedia.org]. Now they're arguing for more public funding of AI research so that if and when it does bear fruit they can snatch up the results, patent them and then sell them back to us at an obscene profit. Socializing your costs and privatizing your profits, it's the American way. As for the Ch

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 03, 2017 @04:52AM (#55481393)

      The chinese didn't steal anything. You gave them the blueprints and said 'you makey much cheap, chop chop'. You paid them peanuts and now you're surprised that they weren't actually just dancing monkeys.

      • by DNS-and-BIND ( 461968 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @08:15AM (#55482033) Homepage

        U kidding me? The Chinese broke into American systems left and right, stole the blueprints to so much high tech, and used it to found companies of their own. This isn't even remotely controversial.

        I also find it distressing that such an overtly racist comment can be modded up to +5. WTF, Slashdot?

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Anyone remember the US solar industry about five years ago? Lots of intrusion reports. Then China started making panels with exactly the same design as the US trade secrets, and the panels were made cheaper than the rare earths it took to fab them. Europe finally slapped a tariff on that, but it nearly bankrupted several of their companies. The US let the domestic solar companies tank. Tarrifs are used to protect companies like Harley-Davidson, instead of just energy independance.

          • Then China started making panels with exactly the same design as the US trade secrets

            What "US trade secrets"? The Chinese for sure are not reproducing Maxeon cells; they're making bog-standard cells we've been making for decades. Only we found ways to make the materials cheaper in the meantime to vastly improve the $/W figures.. In fact, the Chinese, not the Americans, were actually one of those people who did exactly that. Also you seem to be implying that the US had some kind of overall technological upper hand in PV technology, which in light of existence of such companies as (German) Q.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          such an overtly racist comment

          Criticizing past racism is not the same as being racist. Perhaps you were just distracted by that whooshing sound.

          • U kidding me? Pidgin English hasn't been in use since the Japanese kicked the whites out of China in the 1930s. How was it criticizing, anyway? If anything it was normalizing.

            Or it was pure psychological projection, which you see a lot from the SJW left. They're viciously racist themselves, but know it to be wrong, so they project their feelings on any passers-by in order to have a target to criticize. This relieves mental tension and cognitive dissonance. If you've ever been in a conversation where s

      • Both. They steal and pirate stuff all the time as well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 03, 2017 @02:55AM (#55481195)

    "The federal government needs to answer this question at its highest levels"

    Schmidt is lobbying for free tax money. Their multi-billion advertising company apparently cannot pay the bill, so please, ordinary people, pay it for them, and then the profits will be theirs.

  • People have been saying that we're no closer to general AI now than we were 50 years ago, while others say that progress isn't linear and we might just stumble upon it one day accidentally while trying to do something else. I'm of the opinion that the specialist systems we're creating today are indirectly leading to the creation of general purpose AI. Eventually, someone will look at the dozens of sensory pattern-matching, deep learning and analysis specialist systems, wonder 'what would happen if I stitche

    • There is no magic in "emergent behavior", and you do not "accidentally" get e.g. intelligent self-replicating robots by "stitching together" some 3D printers, motors and chips.

      But there are a lot of very smart people working hard to move the ML and AI forward, and a lot of rich and influential people backing them, because the potential rewards are huge, and so is the risk of your competition arriving there first.

      Also, there are many useful intermediate results, like self-driving cars, even if the genera

      • There is no magic in "emergent behavior", and you do not "accidentally" get e.g. intelligent self-replicating robots by "stitching together" some 3D printers, motors and chips.

        We accidentally got intelligent self-replicating robots by stitching together some cells.

    • People have been saying that we're no closer to general AI now than we were 50 years ago, while others say that progress isn't linear

      Maybe some of them are confusing "monotonous" and "linear"?

    • That is because you watch too much scifi and don't understand computers or software. You don't magically "stitch things together" to create AI. That is what happens in movies. Scifi is great, but join the real world. We are running software that barely works.
  • by jaa101 ( 627731 ) <James.Ashton@ashtons.id.au> on Friday November 03, 2017 @03:42AM (#55481291)

    This should be great. Then China will have technology secrets worth stealing and hackers from elsewhere in the world can pirate them. Or other countries can require the Chinese to manufacture their AI products locally, in cooperation with local companies, who can rip off trade secrets. China will be pulling their weight in technological advancement and balancing up the flow of stolen trade secrets. Where's the problem?

    • It is true that once advanced AI technology is built by anyone, it is much easier for others to replicate it, stealing or not. It is just that this particular field can bring huge economic and military advantage extremely fast, before anyone can catch up, so some people are afraid in case that first mover advantage falls to some power they perceive as a fierce competitor, or a potential opponent.
    • What! No way. China has the Great Firewawwhcihich is usually understood to be a barrier to exit, but is also a barrier to entry. They will wall off their own Chinese internet and block all others from coming in. They will have a safe,walled garden and the world can go F itself. They have absolutely zero gratitude to the West for supplying them with technology. They think we're total morons for letting them rob us blind. Can't say I disagree.
    • Exclusivity is a failed policy. Forget about trying to enforce intellectual property, it just holds the country back and doesn't work anyway. Keep innovating, develop skilled employees that can't be easily replicated, and develop high quality manufacturing.

      Look at Germany as an example. Massive high end manufacturing base, industry leading tech, and they are happy to both export their tech and import Chinese tech when needed. Their car industry, for example, is demonstrating self driving and driver aids, while also importing electric drive train tech and parts from China because they need to catch up.

      Chinese cars are starting to become available in Europe. Thing is, people don't pick cars based just on cost. They don't buy an iPhone because it is value for money, and the iPhone and much of the tech in it is designed and manufactured in China. The only thing intellectual property laws are used for is for big companies like Apple and Samsung to sue each other.

      • The concern here is not about exclusivity, but the massive economic and military advantage in case of success, which would be difficult to match in good time, without a timely matching research commitment.
      • They don't buy an iPhone because it is value for money, and the iPhone and much of the tech in it is designed and manufactured in China.

        From the breakdowns I've seen in various financial magazines, that should be "...much of the tech in it is designed in Korea, Taiwan, and Japan then shipped to China to be assembled." Those three nations get more of the money from the cost of an iPhone than China. Their the ones that really have the jobs and industry we probably really want.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Let's bring coal back!

  • by sheramil ( 921315 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @04:09AM (#55481327)

    I would like to see fewer announcements about AI based on other peoples' wild claims about AI's future, and more based on actual achievements. I know it can be difficult to quantify an "achievement" in this field, but, wow, the sheer volume of woo, fairy dust and unicorn farts we're getting is incredible . It's like taking the CGI in skin care advertisements seriously, and believing that we already have functioning nanotech.

    • You have to plan ahead and hedge your bets, as a country as much as a corporation. And don't pretend there are no actual achievements, either.
    • So you're saying we should wait until China has passed us with actual achievements, like the Russians did with the Sputnik, before starting a program to catch up ?

      • So you're saying we should wait until China has passed us with actual achievements, like the Russians did with the Sputnik, before starting a program to catch up ?

        Why does AI have to be American?

    • The reason why you see so much of this nonsense is because it seems like 99% of everyone thinks that this thing they keep calling 'AI' is like what they see in movies and TV shows (conscious, self-aware, actually 'thinks', has a personality, etc) when in reality the family dog or cat is smarter than even the best of what they inaccurately call 'AI'. The current approach is a dead end technology; it won't yield a true mind, only a pale imitation that falls way short of the mark. We won't have real AI until w
  • by hlavac ( 914630 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @05:02AM (#55481415)
    So the last world war will be Chinese AI God Emperor vs Russian AI Military Dictator vs USA AI IP Monopolist. European AI Bureaucrat will be still compiling the european law so will not participate
    • by sinij ( 911942 )
      European AI Bureaucrat will not be participating because on weekends and after business hours network access is automatically blocked for work-related activities.
    • So the last world war will be Chinese AI God Emperor vs Russian AI Military Dictator vs USA AI IP Monopolist. European AI Bureaucrat will be still compiling the european law so will not participate

      And some of us know how that turned out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

  • Sputnik moment? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pablo_max ( 626328 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @05:56AM (#55481505)

    A Sputnik moment implies that the US is in some kind of race. In fact, they are not competing in a race. They are on the field and walking around the track, but they are not aware that there are other runners on the starting line preparing to begin sprinting.

    I do not believe that the US is capable in this moment to have any sort of "moon shot" program in any area. Back in the 50's and 60's, most Americans trusted their government and they trusted American business to "do the right thing". Those days are over. These days a deep mistrust exists between the population and their governmental and corporate masters, and rightfully so.
    My personal opinion, any perhaps you disagree, is that in the current climate, it is simply unthinkable to pour treasure into massive national "science" type programs.
    American only has enough money to support the war machine... not to increase the knowledge base of the betterment of all.
    Hell, there are loads of Americans who actively oppose the government spending any money on research or science in general. I suppose that is not a surprise given the rise of people in the US who do not "believe" in global warming and the damn scientists are just after those fat research grants.
    How much money to those morons think the average scientist makes? Because...it is not a lot.

    • Who is anti-science? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I have yet to meet any Americans who oppose spending money on science or research, ever.

      I have met many that oppose spending money on political problems that people claim is "science" where the predetermined outcome is increasing their taxes greatly. When those people are questioned on those facts, terms like "denier" comes up and the discussion is shut down. When peer reviewed research is suggested, again the "denier" label comes out and it is prevented.

      You are confusing political movements designed to o

    • Like LIGO? Like Hubble?? I know there was help from around the world but these was primarily a US project and did more for science than the moon shot did. The US is still at the top in basic science and engineering.
    • The world is going to applaud loudly when the Americans get knocked off their perch. The world is sick of a 'strong America' striding the globe arrogantly, visiting war, mayhem, regime change and murderous interventions with impunity. The legacy, still continuing since WWII has been a global holocaust of peoples who've died, been injured as a result of the US's cult of impunity, acting as a rogue state outside international law. Many have got so used to US global behavior they accept the rogue state to act

    • Maybe if it doubles as a pork barrel project distributed across multiple states... Actually, as computer work is easy to distribute remotely, this just might work.
    • The moon shot of the '60s was part of the "war machine" then. Without the Cold War and competition in space against the Soviets there would have been no Apollo program. Most Americans of the time couldn't have cared less about increasing the knowledge base, they just wanted to beat the Russkies.

    • The BBC have an opinion piece that sums-up the changes across America in the last 50 years, and from my only semi-informed opinion it does have some plausible points.

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/worl... [bbc.co.uk]

      The main thrust being that the US works better when it has a common foe to unite against. When the shared values between the different political parties are more obvious because of the scary 'other' that the Soviets represented. When enemies are taken away then internal divisions become paramount, and paralysis

  • Yeah, sure (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Maury Markowitz ( 452832 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @06:07AM (#55481531) Homepage

    Does no one remember history?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fifth_generation_computer

    Japanese claim they are taking over AI. US and EU panic and talk about DOOOOOM! Absolutely nothing happens.

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Friday November 03, 2017 @06:51AM (#55481671) Homepage Journal
    And NOW the end game of all this AI hype is clear: grab some Federal Money. I knew after hearing all the recent "AI" hype there was money to made somewhere. There is no such thing as AI, but that doesn't stop people from grabbing taxpayers money.
  • Quick! Everyone pour money into "leading" AI research monopolies **cough** Google/Alphabet **cough** so they can make super-Human AI to censor our opinions better than the hacks they currently have to PAY to do the job poorly. This is seriously life-or-death stuff, we NEED better AI, free speech is just horrible and so it having to pay people things to do things.
  • Instead of worrying about some vague future threat (or pretending to, in order to get cheaper future labor), how about the folks at Google fix the rogue AI at YouTube which are behind the Ad-pocalypse first? They're killing the golden goose at a rapid rate. Their search engine isn't doing as well as it used to, either.... I've heard that Bing is now the best way to google something.

  • If Google wants to make America great again, why don't they stop fucking around with advertising technology and focus on things that will improve the world? I mean, training AI to better monetize their users is so last decade, and you can only squeeze more money out of people if they have more money, and those people still need to get money somewhere.
  • Why?
    1. More people.
    2. They value education. Most kids in the US want to have fun and find all them fereigners a pain because they push up the curve. I know a girl in the math program at UT who is now in her 2nd year and has yet to complete a math class. She might get thru one this semester. She dropped the first 2 she took.
    3. They want it.
    4. US is spending most of its resources on sports and political fighting. I am not even surprised anymore when I hear about some new left/right wing "think tank". That is

  • Schmidt is old enough, as I am, to remember the Japanese fifth generation computer [wikipedia.org] initiative.

    Japan at this time was not just an Asian tiger, but an Asian tiger of terrifying, almost mythical dimension. Yes children, America was once so terrified of Japan, we practically threw our lunch money at their cozy, indoor slippers.

    The term "fifth generation" was intended to convey the system as being a leap beyond existing machines.

    Computers using vacuum tubes were the first generation; transistors and diodes, the

    • The thing is, strong advances in AI can bring such a massive economic and military advantage that it would be hard to catch up after your (B) moment. So it might make sense to closely match their research commitment. Also, this is not something like the A-Bomb, where profitable spin-offs were possible but strictly side effects. Pretty much all AI advances have numerous immediate obvious applications, and basically pay for themselves pretty fast. So there is little reason to resist this trend, just some fric
    • Exactly. What if China's AI program fails, and we've developed all this great technology for nothing ?

  • There won't be any 'sputnik moment' because the current approach to what they're inaccurately referring to as 'artificial intelligence' is a dead end, it will never yield anything even so smart as your dog or cat, it will always fall short, because it will never be self-aware or capable of true cognition. The correct approach to AI will only be possible once we understand how a biological brain is capable of those things, and we're nowhere near beginning to figure that out, no matter what the undereducated
    • Planes flew well before we understood the exact air dynamics of bird and insect wings.

      Also, an AI does not have to do all the same things as humans, or in exactly the same ways, to be useful. In fact, one of the things that will make it useful, is the ease of integrating with our current non-human computers, networks, sensors and actuators.

      • Planes flew well before we understood the exact air dynamics of bird and insect wings.

        That's a purely physical effect and has no bearing whatsoever on the subject.

        Also, an AI does not have to do all the same things as humans..

        That's not the point. People and companies are EXPECTING it to -- and it WON'T. What we see right now with so-called 'self driving cars' for instance is corporations that invested many millions of dollars, thinking it was going to be a typical development cycle -- only to find it falling short, because it is a dead end. So do they take the loss and let the stockholders chop off their heads? Nope, marketing people, who understand th

    • because it will never be self-aware

      Self-awareness is not needed for many useful applications.

      The correct approach to AI will only be possible once we understand how a biological brain is capable of those things

      No. In most cases, when you try to understand something, it's smart to try to build something as soon as possible, so you can test your ideas. When you build an artificial neural network, you can do all kinds of experiments, and take measurements, and get a much better understanding.

      Also, our biological brain is severely constrained by requiring that it can be built and operated from turkey sandwiches, rather than metals and electricity. Already, th

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