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This Group Pushed More AI in US Security—and Boosted Big Tech

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Eric Schmidt.

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt was the chair of the National Security Commission on AI.

Credit: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Oracle, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are archenemies in the competitive cloud computing market. But in late 2018, top executives from the four companies, including future Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, teamed up on an unpaid side gig: advising the president and US Congress on how artificial intelligence can bolster national security.

The executives were named to the National Security Commission on AI, created by Congress. Its chair was Eric Schmidt, previously CEO of Google, who later said it would help the US "harness this transformative technology to benefit both our economic and national security interests."

Schmidt, Jassy, and the other commission members from Big Tech also had an economic interest in the topic. Their companies compete for Pentagon contracts, like the $10 billion JEDI project that is now being reworked after a lawsuit from Amazon. Schmidt sat on the board of Google parent Alphabet until 2019 and has since invested in Pentagon contractor Rebellion Defense.

The NSCAI completed its three-year mission and shut down on October 1. But fans of the body say—and critics fear—its legacy will live on. Both point to how the group's recommendations, some of which steer the Pentagon to work more closely with the tech industry, have already been written into law. The US has few laws specifically concerned with AI, and the commission shaped a significant chunk of those on the books.


Abstracts Copyright © 2021 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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