Hide table of contents

Politico article from Thursday December 22, 2022: "Ex-Google boss helps fund dozens of jobs in Biden’s administration"

1. Summary: 

In three sentences:

"Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google who has long sought influence over White House science policy, is helping to fund the salaries of more than two dozen officials in the Biden administration under the auspices of an outside group, the Federation of American Scientists."

It is worth noting that Schmidt Futures (Schmidt's philanthropic ventures) does not directly fund these officials' salaries: Schmidt Futures provides < 30% to the Federation of American Scientists' "Day One fund" which funds these officials' salaries. Eric Schmidt seems to me to have called for the US government to aggressively invest in AI development.

Some more context:

Eric Schmidt chaired the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence from 2018-2021, in which the commision called on the US government to spend $40 billion on AI development. 

Schmidt Futures (Schmidt's philanthropic ventures) funds < 30% of the contributions to the Day One Project, a project within the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), which (among other things) provides the salaries of "FAS fellows" who hold "more than two dozen officials in the Biden administration" (from the main Politico article being discussed in this post). This includes 2 staffers in the Office of Science and Technology Policy (a different Politico article).

The FAS is a "nonprofit global policy think tank with the stated intent of using science and scientific analysis to attempt to make the world more secure" (Wikipedia). The Day One project was started to recruit people to fill "key science and technology positions in the executive branch" (from the main Politico article). 

2. My question: Are Schmidt's projects harmfully advancing AI capabilities research?

I've seen discussion among the EA community about how OpenAI and Anthropic may be harmfully advancing AI capabilities research. (The best discussion that comes to mind is this recent Scott Alexander post about ChatGPT; if anyone knows any other resources discussing this hypothesis - for or against - please comment below).

I have not seen much discussion about Eric Schmidt's harmful or beneficial contributions to AI development in the US government. What do people think about this? Is this something that should concern us?

3. Some more excerpts from the article about AI

“Schmidt is clearly trying to influence AI policy to a disproportionate degree of any person I can think of,” said Alex Engler, a fellow at the Brookings Institution who specializes in AI policy. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in investment toward advancing AI capacity in government and not much in limiting its harmful use.”


Schmidt’s collaboration with FAS [Federation of American Scientists] is only a part of his broader advocacy for the U.S. government to invest more in technology and particularly in AI, positions he advanced as chair of the federal National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence from 2018 to 2021.

The commission’s final report recommended that the government spend $40 billion to “expand and democratize federal AI research and development” and suggested more may be needed.

“If anything, this report underplays the investments America will need to make,” the report stated.


“Other countries have made AI a national project. The United States has not yet, as a nation, systematically explored its scope, studied its implications, or begun the process of reconciling with it,” they wrote. “If the United States and its allies recoil before the implications of these capabilities and halt progress on them, the result would not be a more peaceful world.”





More posts like this

Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

The current title of this post doesn't suggest anything about AI, which you highlight here. I'd recommend changing it. If he's funding US government AI development, I'd just say that. If it's also policy, maybe say "AI development and policy". Could also pose it as a question: "Is Eric Schmidt funding AI capabilities research by the US government?"


Thanks Michael! Implemented.

Simce you asked for more resources: Scott Alexander: "Why NOT slow AI progress" https://astralcodexten.substack.com/p/why-not-slow-ai-progress

Curated and popular this week
Relevant opportunities