Project Maven is a project led by the U.S. military in April 2017. It is also known as the AWCFT. Maven’s job is to “accelerate the Department of Defense’s integration of big data and machine learning technologies.” According to Greg Allen, an assistant researcher at the center, the primary task is to help the military effectively handle the large number of videos collected by air drones on a daily basis.
According to the plan of the US Department of Defense, Project Maven can be implemented within six months of establishment. In order to meet urgent time requirements, the Ministry of Defense is obviously not enough on its own. Instead, it seeks to seek cooperation between the academic community and the industry’s artificial intelligence experts to make up for the military and Silicon Valley. The technology gap between. According to the director, John Shanahan, Maven will ignite “the flame front of artificial intelligence” for the entire Department of Defense.
According to reports, since December 2017, Maven has been deployed to confront the Islamic State.
It is generally accepted that as a TensorFlow developer, Google is involved in cooperation, not only providing the TensorFlow API interface for the Department of Defense with machine learning applications, but also using engineering resources to help. After this cooperation was announced earlier this year, it caused a lot of controversy and many Google employees expressed their protests.
In the fall of 2017, Eric Schmidt, who also served as Chairman of Alphabet, spoke about the cooperation between the technology circle and the military in a conversation. “The technical community is generally concerned about the combination of the military and the industry, and it will be used as an improper killing weapon.” He is also a member of the National Defense Innovation Committee. “I will not provide the Alphabet in the military.”
However, as Eric Schmidt stepped down as Chairman of Alphabet in early 2018, Google seemed to be rumored. Many media believe that in order to win orders from the Department of Defense cloud computing business, Google has participated in the Department of Defense Project Maven; although Google has declared that it has nothing to do with the cooperation of the military and the war, it still arouses the attention of employees and the industry.
This incident continued to ferment. The latest development is that about 12 Google employees are leaving to protest.
Google employees letter and resignation
According to foreign media Gizmodo, it is not only the ethical issues of the use of artificial intelligence in war drones, but also the political choices of Google and its influence on users’ trust. Many people have expressed their decision to leave in an internal file, which is also shared internally at Google.
However, whether the resignation of these people will have an impact on Google’s management is worth discussing.
As early as early April of 2018, there were approximately 3,100 Googlers signing and submitting a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai demanding immediate cancellation of Project Maven and asking Google to draft and publicly announce a clear policy: Google and its partners would not develop Technology for war.
These employees stated in the letter:
Google’s participation in Project Maven will irreparably destroy Google’s brand and its ability to attract talent. With more and more fears that AI may be radicalized and weaponized, Google’s efforts to gain public trust may not be enough… This agreement will threaten Google’s reputation and place Google at the opposite end of the core values.
The pain of these employees seems to have failed to influence Google’s decision. Gizmodo reported that Google has not stopped the work of Project Maven and is considered by the outside world as one of the bidders of the US Department of Defense’s cloud computing project, The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure. In other words, Google’s insistence on participating in the Department of Defense’s plan may be to gain relevant benefits in the cloud computing.
However, the complication of this incident is that Google previously stated that it was just providing some open source software for Project Maven. Since it is open source software, even if Google does not participate, the Department of Defense can still download and use it for military use.
In addition, Google’s participation in Project Maven’s initial exposure revealed that a Google spokesperson stated that the company is drafting a policy on the use of machine learning and protective security measures, but according to informed sources, the drafting has not yet begun.
Greater public pressure
If it is said that the joint letter and resignation protests of internal employees are not enough to allow Google management to consider changing the decision, Google is also facing greater pressure from outside public opinion this time.
On April 19, 2018, just half a month after Google employees issued a joint letter, employees from technology companies such as Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM issued a joint petition saying that technology companies should not participate in war-related businesses. , so Google should suspend cooperation with the U.S. Department of Defense.
Not only that, Google, Amazon, IBM and Microsoft and other technology companies trying to enter into commercial agreements with the US Department of Defense will lose the trust of users, technology companies have a lot of user-sensitive information, and should not participate in military activities in a country. Although not entirely referring to Google, Google’s position and controversy in the field of artificial intelligence are undoubtedly the first to bear brunt.
This is not enough. The protests of Google employees and the petitions of the above-mentioned technology company employees are supported by experts and scholars in the fields of artificial wisdom, computer science, and ethics.
On May 15th, ICRAC sent an open letter to Alphabet CEO Larry Page, Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene and Google Cloud Chief Scientist Li Feifei, again demanding that Google stop working with the Department of Defense’s Project Maven. Cooperation, promise not to develop military technology, and ensure that personal data collected will not be used for military operations.
In addition, the letter also called on Google to swear not to participate in or support the development, manufacture, trade, and use of automatic weapons, and to support the ban on automatic weapons.
So far, 364 experts and scholars have joined forces, and the number is still increasing.
As internal and external pressure on public opinion has increased, Google and Alphabet have fallen prey to certain predatory moral and public opinions. This may be a more serious consequence than the loss of Defense Department orders, and it may even trigger a serious crisis of confidence. It can be imagined that Google will have to respond; but this does not mean that Google will completely obey the public opinion, stop cooperation with the US Department of Defense Project Maven.
As for the ethical and ethical dilemmas faced by AI technology, I am afraid that it is not a problem of a Google company, nor is it just a problem with related vendors such as IBM, Amazon, and Microsoft. This will inevitably become a long-term dispute in the entire era of artificial intelligence.