Concerned about ethical issues surrounding AI-powered drone warfare, ‘about a dozen’ Google employees are resigning in protest over the company’s involvement in Project Maven, a controversial US military program that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically ID images of objects and people in an effort to increase the accuracy of targeted attacks. The resigning employees are also said to have been worried about a possible erosion of public trust because of Google’s political decisions.
The development comes a month after nearly 4,000 Google employees signed a letter addressed to the company’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, asking him to pull out of the project. ‘We believe that Google should not be in the business of war’, read the letter that has since been circulated widely on the web. The letter further demanded that the company institute a policy against taking on future military work.
“We can no longer ignore our industry’s and our technologies’ harmful biases, large-scale breaches of trust, and lack of ethical safeguards. These are life and death stakes”
On its part, Google continues to adamantly claim that its AI will not be used for targeted killings, but that assertion is failing to placate technologists, academics, and ethics experts, nearly a hundred of whom banded together to release an open letter to Google this week, asking the company to end its association with the controversial military program, and to support an international treaty prohibiting autonomous weapons systems.
After reports about Google’s association with the US military became public earlier this year, some executives, like Google Cloud CEO, Diane Greene, are believed to have spoken out openly in support of Project Maven. However, others, like Google’s executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, have spoken out against secretive military programs, saying, “There’s a general concern in the tech community of somehow the military-industrial complex using their stuff to kill people incorrectly”.