AI will make 2024 election a ‘mess,’ billionaire ex-Google chief Schmidt says

Innovation

Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google parent Alphabet, warned Monday that generative artificial intelligence will throw a wrench into upcoming elections, questioning social media companies’ ability to rein in false claims on the burgeoning technology amidst an already tense political climate.
Chainlink's SmartCon 2022 Web3 Conference

Social media is not “protecting us from false generative AI,” Eric Schmidt said Monday.

Getty Images for SmartContract

Key Takeaways
  • “The 2024 elections are going to be a mess because social media is not protecting us from false generative AI,” Schmidt said on CNBC’s Squawk Box, referencing AI’s ability to accelerate the spread of misinformation.
  • It’s a “big issue” that tech giants like Alphabet, Meta and Twitter slashed thousands of content moderation roles over the last year to cut costs, Schmidt added.
  • Responding to a question on a recent decision by Alphabet’s YouTube to stop removing videos which tout false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election, Schmidt said it’s important the platform at least designates what previously impermissible content was produced by AI, explaining that he supports “free speech for humans, not computers.”
Key Background

Schmidt, who hasn’t worked at Alphabet in an official capacity in three years, remains the company’s third-largest individual shareholder, trailing only cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. He led Alphabet as its CEO from 2001 to 2011, serving on the Silicon Valley giant’s board until 2019. Last month, Schmidt offered an even more dire warning about the worst-case scenario for generative AI, cautioning “many, many, many, many people [could be] harmed or killed” if the technology is used improperly. Alphabet is among the most notable players in the generative AI space, releasing its chatbot Bard earlier this year.

Forbes Valuation

Schmidt’s $20 billion net worth makes him the 80th-richest person in the world, per our calculations.

Contra

Schmidt may not be drinking the AI Kool-Aid, but his bank account has enjoyed Wall Street’s bullishness on the technology that fueled Alphabet’s 35% rally year-to-date. The 68-year-old is $4 billion richer Monday than he was at the beginning of 2023. Earlier this month, Schmidt bought a 267-foot yacht formerly belonging to a Russian oligarch for $67.6 million, perhaps enjoying his swelling fortune, though he has not sold a significant chunk of his Alphabet stake in nearly a decade.

This story was first published on forbes.com and all figures are in USD.

More from Forbes Australia