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The threat of “weaponized A.I.” is tearing Google apart

The threat of “weaponized A.I.” is tearing Google apart
[Photo: Flickr user Ken Lund]

Google’s first major artificial intelligence contract with the Pentagon could be considered “weaponized A.I.”—and that’s causing major inter-office strife, reports The New York Times.

The Times talked to a bunch of Googlers and reviewed Gmails and Google Docs and unearthed a growing rift in the company over the initiative. It all started when Google’s A.I. department won a contract to work on Project Maven, a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret video images and which could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes. Helping the military blow up humans and buildings in distant lands is extremely upsetting to employees who joined the company, which is famous for its original “don’t be evil” motto. According to the Times, the deal has caused a rift in the company between those who love the pure science of artificial intelligence and the business development team, whose eyes turn into dollar signs when they ogle defense contracts. The internal debate has already prompted a slew of resignations and a petition signed by about 4,000 employees who want the company to agree “that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.”

Unless Google has some sort of Oprah-approved come-to-Jesus moment and leaves military contracts to Amazon and Microsoft, it’s likely that the company will continue working with the Pentagon as it explores using A.I. in warfare. After all, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited Google in August and called for closer cooperation with tech companies. Google has not yet responded to our request for comment.

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