A recent Gizmodo report indicated that approximately a dozen Google staff members are terminating their employment with the technology company due to its involvement with a contentious military program. Thousands of Google workers called out the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, via a signed letter urging him to vacate the project that harnesses AI to improve drone targeting.
The letter said that Google “Should not be in the business of war. Therefore, we ask that Project Maven be cancelled, and that Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.” Some of the employees that resigned had both ethical concerns regarding the use of AI in drone warfare to worries about Google’s political decisions and a potential erosion of user trust.
The project was conceived around April 2017 with the mission to accelerate DoD’s integration of big data and machine learning. Winning wars with computer algorithms and artificial intelligence is a popular trend among many Defense Department intelligence officials. Marine Corps Col. Drew Cukor, chief of the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Function Team said, “By the end of the calendar year, the department will field advanced computer algorithms onto government platforms to extract objects from massive amounts of moving or still imagery. People and computers will work symbiotically to increase the ability of weapon systems to detect objects. Eventually we hope that one analyst will be able to do twice as much work, potentially three times as much, as they’re doing now. That’s our goal.”