Some Google employees aren’t happy that their employer is working on a project with the Pentagon that involves artificial intelligence (AI). The program in question is called Project Maven and the goal isn’t to create some sort of fancy technology destroying AI to be deployed in times of war, but to create AI that can analyze drone footage. The workers involved in the protest have been circulating a letter inside the company that demands CEO Sundar Pichai pull the plug on the effort.
According to The New York Times, the letter has been signed by over 3,100 Google workers. Part of the letter reads, “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war.” Word of Project Maven first started to circulate last month and its mission is to create AI that uses computer vision technology to identify objects and faces in digital imagery. Google has been working on that sort of system to use for things like image search and photo labeling.
One of the stated goals of Project Maven is to help with the defeat of ISIS by identifying targets in drone footage that human eyes might have missed. We have no idea exactly what Google is contributing to the project, but The company has said via email that its part is limited to “non-offensive purposes.” Google has said that its open source object recognition tech available to any Google Cloud customer is being used.
Google added, “The (computing) models are based on unclassified data only. The technology is used to flag images for human review and is intended to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work.”
Google workers who signed the letter argue that the Pentagon could one day weaponize Google’s contributions to the project. “We cannot outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties,” the letter reads.