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Google halts renewal of AI drone contract with Pentagon following staff revolt

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Google has listened to its workers and decided not to renew a controversial contract with the Pentagon which is set to expire early next year.

The company’s involvement with Project Maven was controversial from the moment it was first publicly revealed by Gizmodo in March. Project Maven involved Google assisting the Pentagon develop algorithms to help predator drones more efficiently interpret video images. In essence, the technology would help the drone’s AI to recognise whether an object it captured on camera was a building, a car, a human or other class of object.

Although Google repeatedly publicly stated their involvement with Maven was purely in a non-military capacity, it was clear that the algorithms could and likely would be harnessed to improve the accuracy of drone strikes. This fact clearly disturbed many Google employees.

More than 3000 Google staff were so unhappy about the company’s covert involvement with the Pentagon that they penned an open letter to the Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai. The letter opened with: “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war.”

Google is not the only big tech company to involve themselves in military matters. Both Microsoft and and Amazon have lent their services and expertise to the military without experiencing similar levels of employee revolt.

Earlier this year 26 experts from leading artificial intelligence and security agencies produced a report titled: The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, and Mitigation.

The report warned about the negative future implications to humanity if artificial intelligence is not kept in check. It said that using AI to automate tasks involved in drone and autonomous weapon attacks could “expand the threats associated with these attacks.” Addressing the future potential of nefarious AI is a serious task, the report stated. “The challenge is daunting and the stakes are high.”

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