Call it a reconnaissance mission to Europe’s future Silicon Steppe.
Eric Schmidt, Alphabet’s technical adviser and former Google CEO, just returned from a personal mission to Ukraine where he scoped out its military tech operation and met with the country’s minister of defense. A tireless advocate and funder of emerging tech for defense and national security uses, Schmidt sees the war in Ukraine as a launch pad for fast-moving tech implementation.
“For me, the war answers a central question: what can technology people do to help their government, and the answer is a lot,” Schmidt wrote in a dispatch of what he called “the first networked war.”
Schmidt’s case in point: Elon Musk’s contributions of Starlink internet terminals from SpaceX to Ukraine.
Schmidt praised Musk from the stage at an event underway on Friday, held by the Special Competitive Studies Project, a group Schmidt created to carry on the work of the National Security Commission on AI, a now-defunct government commission.
“Elon [is] a real hero in the story," Schmidt said. "They got a whole bunch of Starlinks, which allowed them to avoid the attacks that Russia had done on the internet.”
“Today, there are about 20,000 Starlinks. I was on a train — brand new, built in May, in Ukraine — where as a passenger on the train, I had 200 megabits coming down. Imagine if that were true on Amtrak, right?” Schmidt continued.
Starlinks may be just the beginning. As Schmidt and others watch Ukraine for clues about how AI and other emerging tech can be used in a military setting, he expects the country to be a force for tech in general.
“The reason this is important is the war will end,” Schmidt said. "And at that point, Ukraine is going to have one heck of a tech industry. Because it's war-hardened, smart. They understand how this stuff works. I was really impressed.”