Google employees resign in protest of Pentagon AI involvement

Avatar By Le Williams | 3 years ago

Several Google employees have resigned due to the company’s involvement in military pilot technology program labeled Project Maven, according to Gizmodo. Run by the United States Defense Department, the program aims to use machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) in analyzing drone footage.

The news had come as a surprise to many, as the tech titan has been been careful not to be associated with military operations. The company had previously even pulled one of its robots from a Pentagon-organized competition to avoid any negative backlash.

Nonetheless, over 4,000 employees had already signed an internal petition, initiating requests that Google’s involvement in Project Maven to cease. These requests include initiatives for policies to be drafted that would ensure the company would not partake in building warfare technology.

“We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,” stated the petition.

The Tech Workers Coalition also launched a petition in April demanding that all tech giants refuse to work with the Defense Department. In addition, this month, over 90 academics in technology sectors signed an open letter demanding the end of Google’s participation in Project Maven and the creation of an international treaty prohibiting autonomous weapons systems.

Project Maven was established in 2017 with the intention of having AI analyze and flag potentially interesting objects from drone footage to then be reviewed by a human analyst.

“People and computers will work symbiotically to increase the ability of weapon systems to detect objects,” had said Drew Cukor, chief of the Department of Defence’s Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Function Team in a statement released by the Defense Department.

The announcement had caused some uproar and in response, Google had attempted to clarify its intentions for the project. A spokeswoman for the firm had told Bloomberg that “the technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only.”

“Military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns. We’re actively discussing this important topic internally and with others as we continue to develop policies and safeguards around the development and use of our machine learning technologies,” had added the spokeswoman.