Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has said that artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to harm or kill people in the near future. Adding to concerns from other tech CEOs, Mr Schmidt warned of possible “existential risks” from the rapidly evolving technology and called for regulations on AI. He made the comments while speaking during Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council on Wednesday. Mr Schmidt served as Google CEO from 2001 to 2011 and executive chairman of its parent Alphabet from 2015 to 2017.
“My concern with AI is actually existential, and existential risk is defined as many, many, many, many people harmed or killed. And there are scenarios not today but reasonably soon, where these systems will be able to find zero day exploits, cyber issues or discover new kinds of biology,” Mr Schmidt told the Wall Street Journal CEO Council conference in London.
“This is fiction today but the 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,” he added.
Mr Schmidt’s comments came just as bosses of leading AI companies OpenAI, Google DeepMind, and Anthropic met British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. In a statement, they vowed to work together to ensure society benefits from the transformational technology.
While many tech CEOs, including Elon Musk, have warned against the harmful effects of AI and its rapid evolution, others like Bill Gates lauded the “stunning” advancements in recent months.
He acknowledged the concerns raised by Mr Musk and others in a blog post, but advocated that there is a need got government regulation around the technology. Microsoft, which Mr Gates founded in 1975, has reportedly invested $10 billion in OpenAI.
Mr Schmidt, meanwhile, said that it would be extremely difficult to control the spread of AI, which he compared to the rise of nuclear technology.
“Nuclear had the property that there was a scarcity, which was enriched uranium. We are alive today because it was really hard to get that,” said the former Google CEO.