Published: Wed, May 16, 2018
Finance | By Claude Patterson

Google employees quit over drone "evil"

Google employees quit over drone

"At some point, I realised I could not in good faith recommend joining Google, knowing what I knew".

Nevertheless, Google's part in the project has been widely criticized within the company.

If you believe that: We've got a bridge to sell you.

Irani said at the time she didn't feel she could challenge the assertion.

Still members of the tech industry are concerned. That's one of the reasons why she's now speaking out about Project Maven.

Executives at Google have made efforts to defend Project Maven to employees.

Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.

The Pentagon's efforts to integrate AI into its defense system started previous year when the military commanders and technology executives met at the Pentagon Silicon Valley outpost. "It just seems like it makes sense for Google and Google's reputation to stay out of that".

Some in the media called the technology "creepy".

After around 3,000 Google employees rebelled against Google's involvement in the Pentagon's Project Maven AI program, some employees have chose to quit in protest, according to a report. This time, though, the upset workers are having much less success. On Monday, Gizmodo reported that a dozen Google employees have chose to resign in protest over the issue. Google could earn millions in revenue from the Pentagon project. "We know that there are many open questions involved in the use of new technologies, so these conversations - with employees and outside experts - are hugely important and beneficial", a Google spokesperson said in an April statement. "While the reports on Project Maven now emphasize the role of human analysts, these technologies are poised to become a basis for automated target recognition and autonomous weapon systems".

If Google's leaders didn't know it before, they are now fully aware that AI spooks many people - and the prospect of combining AI with weapons is especially controversial. Essentially, the company was using machine-learning algorithms to help military drones. In a prior statement, it said that its affiliation to Project Maven had "non-offensive purposes".

And what if Google doesn't participate?

We've reached out to Google for comment.

Google has defended itself by arguing that the technology the military is using is open-source and thus can be used regardless of the company's actual involvement, and insisted that the technology would not be used for combat operations. She doesn't think Google or the military should have the final word on AI weapons. The company has also been urged to consider where its loyalties should lie in light of its ethical responsibilities to a global base of users, famously summed up in its "Don't be evil" motto.

"Google is full of super nice, very intelligent people, many of whom generally want the best for the world", Irani said.

"Those are hefty ethical stakes, even with humans in the loop further along the 'kill chain.'" The EFF and others welcomed internal Google debate, stressing the need for moral and ethical frameworks regarding the use of artificial intelligence in weaponry.

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