Google: Pentagon, I don't play with you! - Analysis of the Google Pentagon Cooperation

in science •  6 months ago

Google employees won!

Silicon Valley on Friday (June 1st) the latest news, Google cloud computing business director Diane Greene announced that Google and the Ministry of Defense cooperation project Maven will expire in March next year, will not renew.

After three months of turmoil in Google’s “AI military gate”, thousands of people protested and more than a dozen Google employees resigned and finally came to an end.

Breaking news: Google cooperates with the Pentagon

The storm originated three months ago.

In March of this year, Google was exposed by the media to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Defense to use artificial intelligence technology to analyze drone footage. This cooperation is only part of the defense project Maven.

From the perspective of the Maven project, the main focus is on the computer vision component, which helps machine drones automatically track objects of interest from moving or still images through the machine learning and deep learning techniques of the artificial intelligence branch. The object is human or instrument.

The drones mentioned here are not our common aerial drones, but military drones. The United States has long developed an armed drone capable of attack.

What is the use of drone footage to better capture various objects?

The "Times", the earliest report, believes that once artificial intelligence is used to distinguish video images, it may be used to improve the accuracy of drone attack targets. Even the US military admits that the addition of artificial intelligence can increase accuracy in military strikes, and it can also reduce the casualties of its own military.

It is more accurate when it strikes the enemy, it can reduce the casualties of innocent people, and it can also reduce one’s own casualties. It sounds good, right?

However, this project has brought worries and caused controversy for several months in a row.

Those who broke the news believe that this drone project may be related to U.S. use of UAV air strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other countries, resulting in the death of hundreds of innocent civilians.

Air strikes by drones have caused civilian injuries. This is not uncommon for war-torn countries.

The British Reporter’s Bureau of Investigation published a data report in 2017. During the US President Barack Obama’s tenure, the United States launched 563 main blows by drones against Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, and about 384 to 807 civilians were on air strikes. Died in the middle.

Although in March this year it was only Google’s cooperation with the Ministry of Defense, Maven plans to disclose the intention of cooperating with the industry early in the U.S. Department of Defense’s official news. Moreover, the Department of Defense originally hoped that the results of cooperation would come earlier: At the end of 2017, computer algorithms were deployed to the theater.

In the official press release issued by the Department of Defense, Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work said that “The Department of Defense must integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning more effectively throughout the project in order to maintain its advantages over its competitors.”

Moreover, in this tech summit discussing how AI helped win the war, Defense Department official Col. Drew Cukor was frank because there are no institutions within the government that can meet the needs of artificial intelligence technology and must closely follow the partners of the industry. Cooperation.

Who is the industrial partner? Cukor did not explicitly say, but he mentioned Google at the meeting. He believes that the top five internet companies are actively chasing the development of artificial intelligence, and that “the former chairman of Google’s parent alphabet, Schmidt, has called Google an artificial intelligence company rather than a data company.”

Interestingly, when searching for the Schmidt name on the Department of Defense website, he discovered that Schmidt served as a technology advisor to the Defense Innovation Board under the Department of Defense.

Thousands of employees protested and more than a dozen resigned

"Google should not join the field of war."

Soon, a joint letter from Google employees was made public.

Since early April, nearly 4,000 Google employees have signed a protest letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, hoping that Google will not participate in the Department of Defense’s Maven project.

In addition to exiting the Maven project, employees in the joint letter also hope that Google should formulate and implement a clear policy that states that Google and its contractors will not participate in war-related technologies in the future.

The effectiveness of the joint protest letter does not appear to be large. Google’s external statement stated that the company’s cooperation with the Pentagon “is designed for non-attack purposes” and that it offers a similar open source algorithm, TensorFlow, which Google offers to any other use of cloud services. The customer is the same. The technology "is only used to mark images and then reviewed by people, aiming to save lives and eliminate the need for very tedious work."

Obviously, this statement did not mention that Google will suspend this defense project. This allows some employees in the joint letter to directly choose to leave.

On the 14th of last month, U.S. media Gizmodo reported that more than a dozen Google employees resigned to protest Google’s practice. Some employees even bluntly:

"In the past few months, I have become more and more disappointed with Google's response to employee concerns and the way we listen to employees."

"If I don't recommend people to work here, why would I stay here?"

Until last Thursday, Google CEO Sundar Pichai revealed at the staff internal meeting that Google is developing a set of guidelines. The details are not yet clear, but it will prohibit the use of AI on any weaponry.

After waiting a few days, it finally came today (June 1) and so on and finally came to Google's official confirmation: Google and the US Department of Defense’s Maven project will not renew contracts after it expires in March next year.

The news was announced internally by Google’s cloud service director, Diane Greene, who was an important maintainer of Google’s internal executives’ Maven project. When Di Feifei, the Google artificial intelligence scientist, once expressed objection, Diane, as the owner of Li Feifei, supported the project.

Google has cooperated with the military for many years

"Google, why are you angry now?"

This is the question asked by the American media theOutline on Google. theOutline is a new media created by former Bloomberg Director Joshua Topolsky. This kind of questioning is not unreasonable because according to public information, Google is not the first time to cooperate with the US military. It can be traced back to around 2009.

As early as 2011, a US Department of Defense budget document revealed that Google Earth data has been successfully integrated into the Department of Defense's Real-World plan. This plan is mainly to allow soldiers to use the software to simulate real war training on the computer. The integration plan, as early as 2009, appeared in the official document.

In 2013, the Department of Defense’s budget document once again mentioned Google’s business. This time, it is also Google Earth. Its visual mapping function is applied to the "Global Combat Support System". The system can track the individual's identity, status, and the location of the global cargo from start to finish.

From 2014 to 2017, Google worked with the military through Skybox Imaging, a company it acquired. The company may not be well-known to Google's parent company, Alphabet, but it is very good at capturing detailed topographic photos and videos and was acquired by Google in 2014 for US$ 5-10 billion. Starting in 2015, Skybox Imaging provided satellite imagery to naval research laboratories.

When the spy searches in the Federal Contracts and Expenditure Database (, it found that with the Ministry of Defense and Google as the key words, Google had appeared as a contractor for 18 times.

However, Google is not the only technology company that has cooperation with the Ministry of Defense. Comparing with Google’s participation in the military, there are Microsoft and Amazon. Amazon provides the Department of Defense with image recognition technology, while Microsoft provides cloud services to the military and defense units. Amazon is also the main provider of cloud services for the United States intelligence agency (CIA) and has signed a $600 million contract with the CIA.

100 years ago

Where is the boundary between science and war? Similar disputes emerged 100 years ago. There was even a scientist who committed suicide in protest of science for war.

In 1915, the First World War broke out. A German chemist named Clara protested the use of chlorine for the war, rifled himself and died in his son's arms.

Clara protested against her husband, the famous chemist Fritz Haber. Because Hubble is the one who helped use chlorine to make chemical weapons.

Chlorine, a yellow-green, highly pungent, highly toxic gas, is a dangerous chemical weapon because of its ease of production and disguise.

At the time, Haber, a chemist, was involved in German military work. Under his supervision, chlorine was first deployed as the chemical weapon in Belgium's second Ypres battle:

5730 cylinders of chlorine gas were all hauled to the front by manpower. When the Germans turned their hands on, 168 tons of chlorine gas was released into the air by wind and went straight to the British and French forces.

This is the first time that the use of weapons of mass destruction has taken place in the history of war. The German army has suffered 35,000 casualties and 1.5 million people in the contracting countries have been poisoned, of which more than 5,000 have died.

However, the chemical gas released this time did not allow the Germans to make breakthroughs in the war situation. What they were waiting for was only a retaliatory gas attack from the United Kingdom.

In the end, if artificial intelligence technology is applied to the military, will it cause more casualties? How to avoid high technology for military work? After 100 years, the technology is changing with each passing day, but we are faced with the same moral and ethical controversy.

A departing Google employee proposed that the Google conference room should be named "Clara Imeval" to commemorate the chemist who killed himself by protesting the participation of science in the war.

In the wake of the eruption of Google’s “AI military gate,” another program of the US Department of Defense is already on the road, namely the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI). This is a single contract valued at $10 billion and will decide who will become a partner before the end of the year.

What are the three companies that are considered the most likely winners?

Google, Microsoft, Amazon.

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Fantastic article!

I personally believe it will be Google given that they pioneer in Artificial Intelligence much better than Microsoft or Amazon. It's so weird how big tech companies have now entered the realm of being military contractors.