National interest in words, profit in deeds


On February 23, 2021, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, testifying before the US Senate Armed Services Committee as then-Chair of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, stated: “Never in my life have I been so concerned that we will soon being ousted by a rival or more aware of what second place means to our economy, our security and our nation’s future.”

Now it is known why he was so worried.

A recent report in the publication Protocol describes how Schmidt, one of the world’s wealthiest and most prominent private-sector tech moguls, has sowed urgent concerns in the United States that it is losing an alleged battle with China over artificial intelligence supremacy to line his own pockets.

The report explains that he has built a cadre of Washington insiders to help lay the groundwork for a growing government mission targeting China “based on misunderstandings and misaligned incentives.”

When Schmidt headed the commission, Rebellion Defense, a provider of military AI software in which his venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors had invested, was receiving contracts worth up to $950 million from the US Air Force. Likewise, Citrine Informatics, an AI chemicals and materials company funded by Innovation Endeavors, secured US$3.6 million in Department of Energy contracts in 2015 and earlier this year.

Schmidt also has financial ties to encryption AI firm Duality Technologies, which received contracts from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency during his time as NSCAI chairman.

And according to the report, Schmidt’s nonprofit Schmidt Futures has served as a direct tech talent pipeline into government halls, including the Department of Defense’s new Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office, which oversees the adoption of AI and data analytics.

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Schmidt isn’t the only one who takes a significant beating from the security-military-technology game. The modus operandi is ripe: the entrepreneur propagates a “China threat” and politicians funnel money to one tech company after another.

Hyping a “China threat” has long been a favorite of US politicians who want a scapegoat that the US public can vilify for the mess Washington has thrown the country into. But it has also become a profitable business for those who can collect the funds by opening the national safety valve. The losers in this game are the ordinary US taxpayers as their money is being misappropriated.