Google and the American Military are working on “Project Maven“, a military project to apply Google’s image artificial intelligence know-how to drones and drone footage to help the military identify persons and/or places of interest, presumably to later capture or strike. (wasn’t sure how to word this without being graphic). A previous letter of protest garnered over 3100 signatures (Ars reports up to 4000 at time of writing). Given how large Google is as a company this is probably a drop in the ocean but appears to be gaining traction in media with stories from Gizmodo, Ars Technica, and The New York Times as well.
A previous Ars article on the letter and issue pointed out how the letter invoked Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto. The Military claims that footage identified by “Project Maven” will not be solely acted upon but further examined. I do remember hearing (Can’t remember where) that the American military is having a high turnover for drone operators due to what they’re having to see and do in the role. So it might be possible that it may be looking at this project to ease staffing issues.
Google is still forging ahead, even after the letter of protest, so now employees have begun to quit. While “about a dozen” seems like an even smaller drop in the ocean to Google’s 70,000 Employees, it is quite a drastic action to take and I don’t know if those employees will be able to get a reference from Google.
Not sure what to add without getting political. I’m personally interested in AI and Robotics but agree that it’s a field that should not be used lethally in war. Saving people in the battlefield is different from helping with lethal tasks, and in the rare cases the two are mutual is a task and decision still best left to humans. I’ve never heard of the ICRAC till today and am skeptical about them but the letter was well written.
I do raise the question of our reliance on Google. For some this may be minimal, for others, extensive. I myself use google calendar due to my memory problems to remind me of appointments etc since it syncs with my tablet and phone. I rely on Gmail since in the past my website’s mail server has been flaky so have ported most of my accounts over to it. I use chrome and regularly rely on the recent tabs/history to watch stuff on my tablet/phone in bed/hospital/doctors that I was previously watching on my PC or TV when I’m ill. So for me, it’s difficult to stop using Google in protest of this decision, but it’s a thought I am considering and may look into alternatives that can do the same tasks. I’d like to hear what people think about protesting Google as users, and how that might be possible.