Google draws up guidelines for its military AI following employee fury

Jun 03, 2018, 21:10
Google draws up guidelines for its military AI following employee fury

Google plans to discontinue a project through which it has been helping the U.S. military use artificial intelligence to analyze drone footage.

Employees were informed on Friday when Diane Greene, the head of Google Cloud, shared the news during a weekly meeting.

The New York Times writes that when Google purchased the artificial intelligence firm DeepMind 2014, "The acquisition agreement [.] said DeepMind technology would never be used for military or surveillance purposes". The current contract expires in 2019 and there will not be a follow-up contract, Greene said.

"The two sets of emails reveal that Google's senior leadership was enthusiastically supportive of Project Maven - especially because it would set Google Cloud on the path to win larger Pentagon contracts - but deeply concerned about how the company's involvement would be perceived", Gizmodo reported.

Project Maven is an artificial intelligence program created to use data captured by government drones to identify and track objects viewed on surveillance footage.

Early in April, a petition from employees at the company emerged, imploring CEO Sundar Pichai to withdraw Google from the endeavour.

Several Google AI employees had told The Post they believed they wielded a powerful influence over the company's decision-making: The advanced technology's top researchers and developers are in heavy demand, and many had organised resistance campaigns or threatened to leave.

Google intends to introduce new "ethical principals" next week involving its use of artificial intelligence, Gizmodo reported.

The primary contractor on the project, ECS Federal, did not respond to a request to comment. Google's participation in the program, which critics contend could help increase the accuracy of drone-missile strikes, sparked controversy both inside and outside of Google.

Google is not the only tech firm working with the United States military. Project Maven was Google's first major contract with Pentagon after which the company was eyeing for bigger contracts with intelligence agencies.

In May, dozens of employees even resigned over the matter in May.

In the course of the contract, Google contributed TensorFlow, its open-source AI framework, to the Pentagon.

What are your thoughts on Google's decision to stop working on Maven?

In the end, Google did not promote its work on Maven, but The Intercept said the Google team agreed that the firm should work to agree a "narrative" as quickly as possible.

But what about using artificial intelligence to power robots that defuse bombs or IEDs?

Google's artificial intelligence would bring "an exquisite capability" for "near-real time analysis", the email said.