Eric Schmidt, who was CEO of Google between 2001 and 2011 and served on the board until last year, has reinvented himself as a technology advisor and investor in the US defense community. The New York Times has published a new profile about Schmidt’s work since he left the company where he made a name for himself. It’s worth reading if you’re curious about how the ex-CEO is spending his time now.
Schmidt has long advocated the use of technology and AI in defense work. He now advises the government and invests in companies to achieve this. According to the NYT, He now sits on two government advisory boards that promote the use of technology in the Department of Defense and has also invested his personal fortune in military technology startups.
Mr. Schmidt is driving a Silicon Valley world view of advancing software and A.I. are the keys to finding almost every problem.
He presented himself as a successful technologist who did not believe in retirement and owed the country a debt for his wealth ̵1; and who now had time and insight to solve one of America’s most difficult problems.
A central concern of Schmidt is the use of technology to reduce the monotonous work of the military personnel:
“The way to understand the military is that soldiers spend a lot of time looking at screens. And human vision is not as good as computer vision, ”he said. “It’s crazy that people go to academies, and we spend an enormous amount of training, educating these people, and putting them into essentially monotonous work.”
While some of the technical solutions he proposed were reported to be relatively simple – like replacing a tedious whiteboard planning process with a software solution – his suggestions were larger in other areas, which contradicted the slow nature of the military.
Mr. Schmidt admitted that progress was slow. “My military friends bizarrely tell me that they moved incredibly fast and show you the difference in time frames between the world I live in and the world they live in,” he said.
Some of these technologies were controversial. Since leaving Google, Schmidt has invested in Rebellion Defense, a startup that analyzes drone-filmed videos. There are obvious similarities here to Project Maven, a project where Google has helped the Pentagon develop software to automatically analyze drone material. Google declined to extend the contract in the face of employee protests.
Schmidt’s participation in advisory committees was also criticized because of fears that there would be a conflict of interest with his links to the Google parent company Alphabet. Even though Schmidt left his board of directors, he still owns $ 5.3 billion of Alphabet shares and technically still gets an annual salary of $ 1 from the company to act as a consultant. Critics claim the ex-CEO could use his influence to draw companies’ attention to Alphabet’s technology, but Schmidt says he follows rules to avoid conflicts of interest.
It is an interesting profile that provides insight into what one of the best-known personalities in the technology world has been doing since he left the company in which he made a name for himself. It is worth reading it in its entirety.