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Scorched Earth

Pentagon Tech Chief Quits in Frustration, Says US Has No “Fighting Chance” Against China

byJon Christian
Oct 11
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"Whether it takes a war or not is kind of anecdotal."

Bridge Burner

In a blistering new interview with the Financial Times, the Pentagon’s former chief software officer said that he resigned in protest of slow technological innovation in the United States — and, in a provocative twist, opined that China is dominating in the space, particularly at developing advanced artificial intelligence.

“We have no competing fighting chance against China in 15 to 20 years,” Nicolas Chaillan, who quit the Defense Department in September, told the newspaper in his first interview since leaving the post. “Right now, it’s already a done deal; it is already over in my opinion.”

Kindergarten Level

Chaillan’s complaints are numerous. He blasted cybersecurity in some parts of the US government as “kindergarten level,” decried lack of cooperation between the US military and its tech sector, and said that he had wasted his time “fixing basic cloud things and laptops.”

Most of all, though, he seems furious that China is pulling ahead in the realms of artificial intelligence, machine learning and cyberattack capability. In a particularly grim critique, he complained that US tech giants like Google have been hesitant to dive into particularly controversial AI research, whereas Beijing isn’t held back by those pesky ethical debates.

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World War AI

Though the Financial Times didn’t mention it, Reuters‘ coverage of Chaillan’s interview also drew attention to US intelligence assessments that China is poised to dominate in synthetic biology and genetics as well — a detail which likely reflects fear of another world superpower starting to remake agriculture, the natural environment, and maybe even human beings themselves.

“Whether it takes a war or not is kind of anecdotal,” he said.

This probably isn’t the last we’re going to hear from Chaillan, who told the Financial Times that he plans to testify to Congress in coming weeks.

READ MORE: US has already lost AI fight to China, says ex-Pentagon software chief [The Financial Times]

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More on China: China Built an AI to Detect Corruption and Officials Shut it Down


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