Amid scrutiny from company employees, a Google executive said this week that it will stop working on an artificial intelligence-related Pentagon project that involved applications that could be used to improve drone-strike accuracy, according to a Gizmodo report.
Google’s contract on the project, called Project Maven, reportedly runs through next year and was worth between $9 million to $15 million — with the potential to grow much higher in the future. Though there was no definitive indication that the Silicon Valley giant would cease work immediately, it is expected to not renew the military contract.
Many employees were concerned that they were unwittingly working on “warfare technology” for the U.S. Department of Defense. Around 4,000 had signed a petition in the hopes of forcing Google to announce that it would not engage in such practices. “Dozens of employees have resigned in protest,” reported Gizmodo.
“Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene,” reported Gizmodo, “announced the decision at a meeting with employees Friday morning, three sources told Gizmodo. The current contract expires in 2019 and there will not be a follow-up contract, Greene said”
The account is backed up by New York Times reporting about Project Maven, which centers around using AI and machine learning technology to read and analyze video captured by military drones.
The company’s decision to bow to employee pressure has been met with disappointment by some in the company, per reports, and marks a setback for plans Google had to pursue other military contracts. “Google is reportedly competing for a Pentagon cloud computing contract worth $10 billion,” stated Gizmodo.
The New York Times reported that Google will now create clearer guidelines for any work it does involving artificial intelligence for the military.
“Maven is using the company’s artificial intelligence software to improve the sorting and analysis of imagery from drones, and some drones rely on such analysis to identify human targets for lethal missile shots,” said the Times report. “Google management had told employees that it would produce a set of principles to guide its choices in the use of artificial intelligence for defense and intelligence contracting.”
Photo: Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aircraft. (Credit: U.S. Department of Defense)