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China Already Outflanks US in AI, Says Ex-Pentagon Tech Chief

Former US Air Force scientist tells Financial Times he is angry at wasted opportunities

The Pentagon. AFP file photo.

 

China is set for global dominance of the artificial intelligence space, the Pentagon’s recently resigned first chief of software officer has said, adding that he stepped down because the US had been too slow to develop the technology.

Nicolas Chaillan, a technology entrepreneur, left the Department of Defence a week ago after spending three years trying to develop cyber security systems with the US Air Force. But he told the Financial Times that he resigned because he couldn’t bear to watch the US flounder on AI.

“We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years,” he was quoted as telling the UK-based newspaper. “Right now, it’s already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion.”

The 37-year old said he was “angry” at the pace of development in the US, arguing that AI was more vital to US interests than military hardware. A congressionally mandated national security commission offered similar  warnings of China’s imminent AI supremacy earlier this year.

 

‘Kindergarten’ Security

Part of the problem, Chaillan told the FT, was that Google had been reluctant to work with the Defence department on the technology. And in his resignation letter, Chaillan said military personnel had been put in charge of cyber security when they had none of the skills required to tackle it.

“[W]e are setting up critical infrastructure to fail,” he wrote. “We would not put a pilot in the cockpit without extensive flight training; why would we expect someone with no IT experience to be close to successful? While we wasted time in bureaucracy, our adversaries moved further ahead.”

Consequently, cyber defences in some government departments were at “kindergarten levels”, he was quoted as saying.

 

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Mark McCord

Mark McCord is a financial journalist with more than three decades experience writing and editing at global news wires including Bloomberg and AFP, as well as daily newspapers in Hong Kong, Sydney and Melbourne. He has covered some of the biggest breaking news events in recent years including the Enron scandal, the New York terrorist attacks and the Iraq War. He is based in the UK. You can tweet to Mark at @MarkMcC64371550.

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