About four years ago, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt was appointed to the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence by the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
It was a powerful perch. Congress tasked the new group with a broad mandate: to advise the U.S. government on how to advance the development of artificial intelligence, machine learning and other technologies to enhance the national security of the United States.
The mandate was simple: Congress directed the new body to advise on how to enhance American competitiveness on AI against its adversaries, build the AI workforce of the future, and develop data and ethical procedures.
In short, the commission, which Schmidt soon took charge of as chairman, was tasked with coming up with recommendations for almost every aspect of a vital and emerging industry. The panel did far more under his leadership. It wrote proposed legislation that later became law and steered billions of dollars of taxpayer funds to industry he helped build — and that he was actively investing in while running the group.
His credentials, however, were impeccable given his deep experience in Silicon Valley, his experience advising the Defense Department, and a vast personal fortune estimated at about $20 billion.
Five months after his appointment, Schmidt made a little-noticed private investment in an initial seed round of financing for a startup company called Beacon, which uses AI in the company’s supply chain products for shippers who manage freight logistics, according to CNBC’s review of investment information in database Crunchbase.
There is no indication that Schmidt broke any ethics rules or did anything unlawful while chairing the commission. The commission was, by design, an outside advisory group of industry participants, and its other members included well-known tech executives including Oracle CEO Safra Catz, Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy and Microsoft Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Eric Horvitz, among others.