Alphabet Inc (NASDAQ: GOOGL) decision to not renew a contract to acquire artificial intelligence for the Defense Department benefited the employees who protested it. It also was a downfall for U.S. national security, patriotism, and the cause of limiting civilian casualties in war. This program that Google rejected, originally called the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team but known in the Pentagon as Project Maven, uses machine-learning software that interprets video images and improves the accuracy of drone strikes, as well as other things. The month prior to this decision, a dozen Google employees quit their jobs and thousands of others signed an open letter commanding Google to exit the program because it “stands in direct opposition to our core values.”
Project Maven’s software, which tags buildings or suspicious human activities on digital maps, is proposed mostly to help the military avoid accidentally striking civilians and civilian organization. This software is also being expanded to areas to speed up the reading of computer drives taken from terrorists. Google states that the technology “is intended to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work.” However, some bad public relations and employees leaving the company is all it took to arouse the problem. One of the roles of senior management is to always do the right things, even if it arouses criticism. This is very important when the collective security is at risk. Although one can understand why some might be doubtful to machines making life-and-death decisions without involving human decisions. However, this is an argument for continuing the project, so they could influence future applications.
Google’s leaders seem to have forgotten that the government and especially the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency play a dynamic role in creating the internet and making Google possible in the first place. However, from Apple’s refusal to unlock the iPhone of a mass-murdering terrorist, to Project Maven, many tech firms have frequently disregarded defense agencies, law-enforcement, and intelligence.
Luckily, some tech companies have agreed to help the U.S. defend itself. Amazon’s cloud computing arm has cooperated with the intelligence community as well as the Pentagon. It is believed to be the head for a multibillion-dollar Depart of Defense contract. However, Google’s decision may push other firms and their funders to shun the Pentagon in the future.