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Former Google CEO invited by Gov. Cuomo to chair commission to build a tech-focused post-pandemic New York

Schmidt's conflicts of interest are mounting up.
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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced today that former Google CEO Eric Schmidt will chair a commission tasked with “reimagining” the state’s relationship with technology as a result of the pandemic.

This makes Schmidt the third billionaire to take over key roles surrounding the coronavirus – the first being Michael Bloomberg being in charge of contact tracing, and the second being Bill Gates, at the forefront of education and vaccines.

“On a larger scale, how do we really use technology in the economy of tomorrow, and that’s the lesson we’re all learning,” Cuomo said today.

The governor praised Schmidt’s leadership at Google, saying Schmidt’s experience would help New York introduce a more tech-savvy approach moving forward.

Eric Schmidt recently said that the coronavirus should make people grateful for big tech companies – and Schmidt is certainly going to be grateful for the position of power the coronavirus has allowed him.

Schmidt recently went on to play a key role in the US military’s IT landscape, making several key decisions for the federal government. Based on several revelations of what Schmidt has achieved over the past few years, many speculations surrounding a conflict of interest and how he may have manipulated federal agencies into being reliant on big tech’s offerings are now making the rounds.

For instance, back in 2016, Schmidt and a four-star general Raymond Thomas, who also happens to head the US Special Operations Command, discussed artificial intelligence extensively. During the discussion, Schmidt reportedly said to Thomas, “You absolutely suck at machine learning. If I got under your tent for a day, I could solve most of your problems”.

It is also worth noting that in early 2016, Schmidt also came on board to lead a new Pentagon innovation advisory board that was primarily launched with a vision to bring some of Silicon Valley’s best tech practices to the US military.

Now based on what ProPublica reported, it is understood that Schmidt slowly rose to power in the following few years wherein he could talk to anyone and discuss any classified and secret programs run by the US military.

In one such program discussion, Schmidt apparently spoke about the federal agency’s choice for a cloud provider, and after learning that Amazon was being preferred, he apparently asked if the agency could reconsider.

Apart from the above-mentioned incidents, there were times when Schmidt, during his tenure as the chairman of the National Security Commission on AI, continuously sought to exert his influence in making sure that big tech firms such as Google, Amazon, or Apple could play a major role in the federal agency’s undertakings.

More recently, Schmidt, in an op-ed for the New York Times, argued that the US should increase its investments in the realm of 5G and AI in order to maintain its economic and geopolitical prospects, especially at a time when China is already doubling down on developing AI and 5G technologies extensively.

“Americans should be wary of living in a world shaped by China’s view of the relationship between technology and authoritarian governance. Free societies must prove the resilience of liberal democracy in the face of technological changes that threaten it,” wrote Schmidt, ironically.

While Schmidt’s contributions in terms of developing the US government’s tech-savviness is widely acknowledged, people are also growing equally concerned about whether he drove federal agencies to pursue partnerships that directly or indirectly profited him.

The nonprofit organization EPIC, for instance, recently told the New York Times that Schmidt’s investment in Rebellion Defense, a startup that analyses drone videos, was concerning. Because ultimately, Rebellion Defense ended up working with the military, and such partnerships raise eyebrows, as it hints of lobbying and profiteering for personal interest.

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