The two figures at Bilderberg who seem to have an aura of influence about them are Schmidt and Thiel. Over the years, Schmidt has been gently aligning himself as the heir to Kissinger, and has populated recent conferences with Google executives. The Libertarian Thiel has already engineered his lieutenant, Alex Karp, onto the steering committee.
The Americans have come to Bilderberg in force this year. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived on Saturday afternoon in a motorcade so long it stretched halfway back to Geneva. He’ll be sharing his thoughts on “A New Strategic Order” with the head of NATO, two prime ministers, the German foreign minister, the King of Holland, and any number of finance bosses and billionaires, many of them from the world of tech.
A slew of Silicon Valley luminaries are attending this year’s elite transatlantic conference at a heavily-guarded five-star hotel on the shores of Lake Geneva. They include Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, who is making his first appearance at the secretive summit, and his fellow Microsoft board member, Reid Hoffman, who’s a regular face at the Bilderberg buffet.
The White House is making itself felt at this year’s conference, by sending along not only Pompeo, but Trump’s dealmaking diplomat son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and two members of his National Security Council. Not to be outdone, the Pentagon has sent two senior officials: their top military strategist and the technical director for AI.
As the war machine gets smarter, and every last bit of weaponry becomes AI-enhanced, the lines between Silicon Valley and the Pentagon start to get awfully blurry. Sniff this year’s Bilderberg and you can smell this new kind of war: “cyber threats” and “the weaponisation of social media” are on the agenda. And around the table are the head of GCHQ and the director of NATO’s new StratCom Centre of Excellence, which spearheads “digital engagement” and psychological warfare.
This blurring of tech and war takes physical form in some of the participants at Bilderberg. Longtime conference insider and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt chairs the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Board and also heads up the new National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. Two other members of the Defense Innovation Board are here in Montreux: Reid Hoffman, and the psychologist Adam M. Grant.
Alongside Schmidt on the Bilderberg steering committee are yet another two tech billionaires, Alex Karp and Peter Thiel. Karp is the CEO of Palantir, a shady data-analytics company which has just won a massive $800 million Pentagon battlefield intelligence contract. Palantir was set up in 2004 by Peter Thiel with backing from the CIA. Thiel, who was a co-founder of PayPal, is a director of Facebook and is high tech’s most vocal supporter of Donald Trump.