Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt: Let’s Start a School for A.I.

If you’re interested in becoming a technologist for the federal government, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt wants to teach you how to code.

According to OneZero, Schmidt has partnered up with former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert O. Work to create a school for folks who want to become government coders. This U.S. Digital Service Academy would operate like a regular school, offering coursework and degree tracks, and focus on cutting-edge technology subjects such as cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (A.I.). 

As OneZero points out, the federal government is very interested in technologists who can craft new innovations in A.I. “We are engaged in an epic race for A.I. supremacy,” the publication quotes Rick Perry, secretary of the Department of Energy, as telling an NSCAI conference in 2019. “As I speak, China and Russia are striving to overtake us. Neither of these nations shares our values or our freedoms.”

Despite that urging, however, the U.S. government has “fallen short” when it comes to actually funding artificial intelligence research, according to a report issued by NSCAI: “AI is only as good as the infrastructure behind it. Within DoD in particular this infrastructure is severely underdeveloped.”

But the U.S. Digital Service Academy isn’t a done deal; first, Congress must approve NSCAI’s recommendation that the university be created. Then, it would actually need to be built, staffed, accredited, and launched. In order to fulfill the vision presented by Schmidt, the school would also need to forge partnerships with a variety of private companies and public institutions, in order to give students the necessary internships and other opportunities.

And even if all those goals are met, the U.S. Digital Service Academy would need to persuade young technologists to opt for it over other schools that are specializing in A.I. instruction, including Stanford and MIT. 

Over the past several years, Eric Schmidt has shaped himself as an expert and advisor on U.S. technology policy. Last year, for example, he suggested that the U.S. government’s attempts to restrict hiring from China wouldn’t do this country’s technology industry any good.

“I think the China problem is solvable with the following insight: we need access to their top scientists,” he told the audience, according to Bloomberg. He also added that “common frameworks” such as Google’s TensorFlow benefit from input from scientists and researchers in other countries.

The U.S. Digital Service Academy is clearly his latest attempt to try to guide policy and discussion. If he can actually get it off the ground, though, it could provide yet another venue for technologists to learn intensely valuable A.I. and machine learning skills

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