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EMAILED ON April 5, 2018 BY Wes Schlagenhauf

Google employees petition to pull out of Pentagon AI project

Thousands of Google employees signed a petition calling for the search giant to end a partnership with the Pentagon to improve AI and image-recognition tech that could be used for drone strikes. 

The letter, which has made the rounds at Google for weeks, has more than 3k signatures and is addressed specifically to Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive.

The letter requests that Google pull out of the Pentagon pilot program titled Project Maven, stating: “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war…”

What is Project Maven?

Established in 2017, Project Maven began as a pilot program to speed up the military’s implementation of the latest and greatest AI tech.

Expected by the Pentagon to cost less than $70m in its first year, the program will focus on better integrating big data and machine learning to improve the targeting of drone strikes.

In a statement on Tuesday, Google claimed its part in Project Maven was “specifically scoped to be for non-offensive purposes.” 

It doesn’t take a 5-star general to know: That’s what they all say 

While the petition insists that the company pull out of the current program, it also urges it to avoid similar contracts in the future — which already seems unlikely.

Google is expected to compete with the likes of Amazon and Microsoft to provide cloud services to the DoD’s Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud procurement program, which, according to the department’s chief management officer, was designed to “increase lethality and readiness.”

State of the ‘killer AI’ industry

As autonomous weaponry quickly moves out of the labs and into the world, weaponized AI has become an increasingly hot topic of debate on a global scale, with many calling for regulation by international treaty. 

As China, the US, and other prototype-releasing nations prove that a 21st century arms race is well underway, opponents are focusing on keeping the race from accelerating.

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