Public lecture audience

Eric Schmidt on AI and Britain's 'computer science crisis'

You have the opportunity to become one of the great knowledge-leading countries of the world for the next 100 years.
Eric Schmidt speaks at Department of Management Public Lecture

Discussing Britain’s computing heritage, IT innovation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) at a LSE Department of Management public lecture, Eric Schmidt encouraged students and graduates to participate in the App and AI economy because it is where future jobs, wealth and world-wide impact will be created.

The executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and the former CEO of the internet giant provided a fascinating insight into computer science education, digital skills, policy, society and computing innovation, demonstrating a staggering breath of knowledge during a public conversation with LSE‘s Professor Chrisanthi Avgerou on Friday 14 October.

Commenting on automation and AI in the workplace Schmidt reasoned that job dislocation is not new and should be accepted as part of the modern economy. He said there is evidence that robots are replacing humans in “back-breaking” manufacturing jobs and some repetitive roles in the computing industry, however the self-proclaimed optimist believes that employees’ displaced from these “mind-crushing jobs” – jobs we consider to be exceedingly boring and repetitive – can go onto better, more creative and productive roles if they are given the correct tools to do so.

Schmidt also argued for investment in skills and education which he deems imperative to competing and innovating in a knowledge economy. Reflecting on the UK’s history of innovation, as well as the decline in British tech engineering over the past 30 years, Schmidt called for more computer science faculty and teachers. Claiming the UK is facing a “computer science crisis” Schmidt said:  “You have the opportunity to become one of the great knowledge-leading countries of the world for the next 100 years. […] There is a computer science crisis in the country and it’s a crisis of opportunity. You’re missing the people to fix this quick.” Schmidt advocated high-quality education as the solution, and reassured students that a specialised technical understanding is not a prerequisite for success in an innovation economy, but championed entrepreneurship as central to progress.

For the last 40 minutes of the lecture, Schmidt answered questions from the audience on a range of topics from organisational design, digitisation, big data and machine learning. He also commented on social, economic and political trends driven by advancements in technology.

Listen to the podcast of Eric Schmidt and Professor Avgerou's public discussion titled From LEO to DeepMind: Britain's computing pioneers.

This Department of Management public lecture was co-hosted with the LEO Computer Society, whose members pioneered the world's first practical business application in the electronic office of a British catering company. The event took place on Friday 14 October at LSE's Old Theatre.             

Friday 14 October 2016