AI weapons investors get an undisclosed advertorial in the Atlantic
The Atlantic “Ideas” article had all the trappings of an insightful think piece co-authored by one of the most successful former CEOs in Silicon Valley, Eric Schmidt.
Schmidt, who headed up Google from 2001 to 2011, writing alongside Robert O. Work, described by The Atlantic as “the 32nd U.S. deputy secretary of defense,” were given over 2000 words to lay out “Offset-X,” a strategy “for the U.S. to restore the technological superiority of its military over all potential adversaries.” At the heart of their strategy is the pivot by the Department of Defense to great power competition and the rapid development and deployment of artificial intelligence technologies.
But there’s a huge potential conflict of interest that the Atlantic failed to disclose to readers on Monday: Schmidt’s venture capital firm Innovation Endeavors is an enthusiastic investor in AI products for the military. Work, for his part, is chairman of the board for Sparkcognition Government Systems, a company that describes itself as the “first full-spectrum artificial intelligence company that leverages proven commercial technologies to meet the needs of the most pressing national security missions.”
In other words, the policies advocated by the two writers in the Atlantic could provide them with direct financial benefits.
And the authors are clear about their worldview that provides an unquestioning endorsement of U.S. military primacy and global hegemony, with no acknowledgement of costs to U.S. citizens who aren’t directly invested in the expensive technology both authors are invested in promoting. They write:
Our military primacy allowed us to shape the global economy — unlocking trillions of dollars for U.S. companies and citizens — and secure the free flow of commerce that enabled supply chains to function and globalization to flourish. It also allowed us to establish the global data network that powers the digital economy and international communication. Most important, our hegemony has helped protect democracy worldwide against challenges from authoritarianism.
Running up the cost of war, a cost that U.S. taxpayers are already footing with a defense budget that currently stands at $847 billion and will likely reach $1 trillion by the end of the decade, is certainly a strategy that would directly benefit two investors in AI weapons. But what’s beneficial for Schmidt and Work might have more costs than benefits for the country as a whole. The Atlantic failed to reveal that the authors had a set of financial interests that may run counter to those of the American public.
The Atlantic did not respond to a request for comment.