AI News, Google's decision to build AI for Pentagon drones divides company
- On Sunday, June 3, 2018
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Google's decision to build AI for Pentagon drones divides company
The US Military is using artificial intelligencesoftware developed by Google in one of its drone programmes, causing internal divisions over how the company should be run.
Employees have nevertheless raised concerns about the company's role in defence contracting after it was revealed last week on an internal mailing list, particularly in light of the company's famous founding principle: 'Don't be evil.'
'We're actively discussing this important topic internally and with others as we continue to develop policies and safeguards around the development and use of our machine learning technologies.'
The company has worked with the US Military in the past and senior executives including Eric Schmidt and Milo Medin have advised the armed forces on cloud and data systems as part of the DefenseInnovation Board.
Google Is Helping the Pentagon Build AI for Drones
Google has partnered with the United States Department of Defense to help the agency develop artificial intelligence for analyzing drone footage, a move that set off a firestorm among employees of the technology giant when they learned of Google’s involvement.
Google’s pilot project with the Defense Department’s Project Maven, an effort to identify objects in drone footage, has not been previously reported, but it was discussed widely within the company last week when information about the project was shared on an internal mailing list, according to sources who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the project.
Some Google employees were outraged that the company would offer resources to the military for surveillance technology involved in drone operations, sources said, while others argued that the project raised important ethical questions about the development and use of machine learning.
The project’s first assignment was to help the Pentagon efficiently process the deluge of video footage collected daily by its aerial drones—an amount of footage so vast that human analysts can’t keep up, according to Greg Allen, an adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security, who co-authored a lengthy July 2017 report on the military’s use of artificial intelligence.
Maven’s initial goal was to provide the military with advanced computer vision, enabling the automated detection and identification of objects in as many as 38 categories captured by a drone’s full-motion camera, according to the Pentagon.
We’re actively discussing this important topic internally and with others as we continue to develop policies and safeguards around the development and use of our machine learning technologies.” The Defense Department set an aggressive timeline for Maven—the project was expected to be up and running just six months after it was founded, and reportedly has been deployed in the fight against the Islamic State since December.
To meet the aggressive timetable, the Defense Department partnered with AI experts in the tech industry and academia, working through Defense Information Unit Experimental, the department’s tech incubation program, and the Defense Innovation Board, an advisory group created by former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to bridge the technological gap between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley.
‘The Business of War’: Google Employees Protest Work for the Pentagon
As Google defends its contracts from internal dissent, its competitors have not been shy about publicizing their own work on defense projects.
John Gibson, the department’s chief management officer, said last month that the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud procurement program was in part designed to “increase lethality and readiness,” underscoring the difficulty of separating software, cloud and related services from the actual business of war.
“Google’s unique history, its motto Don’t Be Evil, and its direct reach into the lives of billions of users set it apart.” Like other onetime upstarts turned powerful Silicon Valley behemoths, Google is being forced to confront the idealism that guided the company in its early years.
Facebook started with the lofty mission of connecting people all over the world, but it has recently come under fire for becoming a conduit for fake news and being used by Russia to influence the 2016 election and sow dissent among American voters.
Google’s AI is being used by US military drone programme
Google’s artificial intelligence technologies are being used by the US military for one of its drone projects, causing controversy both inside and outside the company.
That’s our goal.” Project Maven forms part of the $7.4bn spent on AI and data processing by the DoD, and has seen the Pentagon partner with various academics and experts in the field of AI and data processing.
The technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only.” While Google has long worked with government agencies providing technology and services, alongside cloud providers such as Amazon and Microsoft, the move to aid Project Maven has reportedly caused much internal debate at the search company.
When Google bought the UK’s artificial intelligence firm DeepMind in 2014 for £400m, the company set up an AI ethics board, which was tasked with reviewing the company’s use of AI, although details of the board were still not made public three years later.
DoD uses Google's machine learning tools to analyze drone surveillance footage
The DoD is using TensorFlow to analyze drone footage in order to 'extract objects from massive amounts of moving or still imagery,' which Gizmodo reports angered Google employees who found out about Google's involvement throughdue to information shared in an internal mailing list.
Reassurances aside, news that Google is working with the DoD to improve drone object recognition is likely to anger privacy advocates, as well as those concerned with military adoption of machine learning technology, something that Google has acknowledged.
Computer vision is dedicated to helping a computer pick out specific objects from still photos and videos, a topic of particular interest to the Pentagon since the advent of drones for surveillance and other military applications.
Gizmodo's unnamed source at Google said that many employees were outraged that Google would be contributing to a government drone surveillance project, and others stated that Project Maven raises ethical concerns about the future of AI and machine learning.
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