Pentagon project causing "existential crisis" within Google


Diane Greene, the chief executive in charge of Google's cloud businesses, told employees during a morning meeting that the company won't seek another contract for the Pentagon partnership, three sources told the tech website.

We've reached out to Google and The Pentagon for more information.

Google declined to comment when contacted by Business Insider.

Some Google employees, whose skills are in high demand, had organised resistance campaigns or threatened to leave. Earlier this month, thousands of Google employees signed a letter asking the company to drop its contract with the government over Project Maven, and a dozen quit in protest as well. "Partnering with the best universities and commercial companies in the world will help preserve the United States' critical lead in artificial intelligence".

Project Maven involves the use of machine learning and engineering talent to distinguish people and objects in drone videos.

The debate around the project centres on Google's corporate image - its unofficial slogan was "Don't Be Evil" for years - and, although some say AI could help reduce civilian casualties from drone strikes, others believe the company should not be engaging with military at all on principle.

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"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.

The sudden announcement on Friday was welcomed by several high-profile employees. "Google should not be in the business of war".

In the message to Google's head of defense and intelligence sales, Scott Frohman, she reportedly said: "Avoid at ALL COSTS any mention or implication of AI".

And, despite the fact Google's change of heart isn't a promise to be ethical, but instead that it'll only work with the military on this particular project for another half a year or so, it should still come as good news to those who were opposed to its involvement in the first place.

The "momentum for AI and autonomy is picking up inside the DoD", Work said.

Singer, who studies war and technology at New America, a Washington research group, said numerous tools the Pentagon was seeking were "neither inherently military nor inherently civilian". AI could also be used to pinpoint submarines using sonar data. Its budget also had the possibility of growing to as much as $250 million.