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Thread: Google employees revolt, say company should shut down military drone project

  1. #1
    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Google employees revolt, say company should shut down military drone project

    What do you make of this ?

    https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2018...tagon-project/

    While the project is "specifically scoped to be for non-offensive purposes," the employee letter takes issue with this assurance, saying that "the technology is being built for the military, and once it's delivered, it could easily be used to assist in [lethal] tasks." While the project might not create an autonomous weapons system, in many cases target identification is just the first step in some kind of offensive move toward that target. Many Google employees are clearly uncomfortable with any involvement in that process.
    I'm surprised that Google is involved because i'd have thought the military had better tech ie they don't really need google course the military would never say so

    From what i can understand its for pattern recognition for drones footage. Is google's tech really that good ?
    Last edited by Double Edge; 05 Apr 18, at 19:56.

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    Rumour has it google have a significant lead in the ai race. I don't think anyone in the public sphere knows where the russians, amercians and chinese are at, but it may be the case that they have alot to offer. Reality is private companies have the means to make the kind of breakthroughs that only states could make 50 years ago due to the importance placed on digital instead of hardware and the fact that the large digital companies are heading towards the trillion mark anyways. I suspect that google and its subsidiaries are out in front in regard a.i tech looking at the breakthroughs they made with beating the chinese game Go in last couple of years, until then that was considered completely out of reach.

    Recent progress in computing power has made specific ai breakthroughs only possible in the last decade, the hardware has caught up, and the pace of advancement has been extremely rapid as a result and therefore the ability to get out in front becomes a real possibility. It seems Google has exploited this well.
    Last edited by tantalus; 05 Apr 18, at 21:55.

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    Senior Contributor SteveDaPirate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    What do you make of this ?

    https://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2018...tagon-project/



    I'm surprised that Google is involved because i'd have thought the military had better tech ie they don't really need google course the military would never say so

    From what i can understand its for pattern recognition for drones footage. Is google's tech really that good ?
    It's mostly about demand. The civilian market is HUGE compared to the military and that's reflected in the amount of resources society dedicates to advance different types of technology. The civilian market also has a high demand for the latest and greatest product, where the military is frequently interested in finding a solution that works, then not messing with it any more.

    That's why you see 1970s era computer hardware in things like the Space Shuttle, B-1B, F-15, AWACS, Harpoon Missile, etc.

    With a company like Google, they are constantly re-investing into R&D and trying to push the envelope. While their budget isn't comparable to DOD, they have a far more narrow focus which allows them to race ahead of the military with technical developments in their specific field. It only makes sense that DARPA would collaborate with companies like Google while working on dual use applications of new developments to build advancements in military hardware off the back of civilian developments.
    Last edited by SteveDaPirate; 05 Apr 18, at 22:14.

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Provided they can get talented people to work at it. Let's see how long the mutiny lasts.

    Same thing happened with nukes and the nukes got made eventually

    If AI is the future then its only a matter of time the military will exploit it if they haven't already done so

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    What i find mildly amusing is the position, working for the military = evil

    ‘The Business of War’: Google Employees Protest Work for the Pentagon | NYT | Apr 04 2018


    WASHINGTON — Thousands of Google employees, including dozens of senior engineers, have signed a letter protesting the company’s involvement in a Pentagon program that uses artificial intelligence to interpret video imagery and could be used to improve the targeting of drone strikes.

    The letter, which is circulating inside Google and has garnered more than 3,100 signatures, reflects a culture clash between Silicon Valley and the federal government that is likely to intensify as cutting-edge artificial intelligence is increasingly employed for military purposes.

    “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war,” says the letter, addressed to Sundar Pichai, the company’s chief executive. It asks that Google pull out of Project Maven, a Pentagon pilot program, and announce a policy that it will not “ever build warfare technology.”

    That kind of idealistic stance, while certainly not shared by all Google employees, comes naturally to a company whose motto is “Don’t be evil,” a phrase invoked in the protest letter. But it is distinctly foreign to Washington’s massive defense industry and certainly to the Pentagon, where the defense secretary, Jim Mattis, has often said a central goal is to increase the “lethality” of the United States military.

    From its early days, Google has encouraged employees to speak out on issues involving the company. It provides internal message boards and social networks where workers challenge management and one another about the company’s products and policies. Recently, the heated debate around Google’s efforts to create a more diverse work force spilled out into the open.

    Google employees have circulated protest petitions on a range of issues, including Google Plus, the company’s lagging competitor to Facebook, and Google’s sponsorship of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

    Employees raised questions about Google’s involvement in Project Maven at a recent companywide meeting. At the time, Diane Greene, who leads Google’s cloud infrastructure business, defended the deal and sought to reassure concerned employees. A company spokesman said most of the signatures on the protest letter had been collected before the company had an opportunity to explain the situation.

    The company subsequently described its work on Project Maven as “non-offensive” in nature, though the Pentagon’s video analysis is routinely used in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations, and Defense Department publications make clear that the project supports those operations. Both Google and the Pentagon said the company’s products would not create an autonomous weapons system that could fire without a human operator, a much-debated possibility using artificial intelligence.

    But improved analysis of drone video could be used to pick out human targets for strikes, while also better identifying civilians to reduce the accidental killing of innocent people.

    Without referring directly to the letter to Mr. Pichai, Google said in a statement on Tuesday that “any military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns.” It added, “We’re actively engaged across the company in a comprehensive discussion of this important topic.” The company called such exchanges “hugely important and beneficial,” though several Google employees familiar with the letter would speak of it only on the condition of anonymity, saying they were concerned about retaliation.

    The statement said the company’s part of Project Maven was “specifically scoped to be for non-offensive purposes,” though officials declined to make available the relevant contract language. The Defense Department said that because Google is a subcontractor on Project Maven to the prime contractor, ECS Federal, it could not provide either the amount or the language of Google’s contract. ECS Federal did not respond to inquiries.

    Google said the Pentagon was using “open-source object recognition software available to any Google Cloud customer” and based on unclassified data. “The technology is used to flag images for human review and is intended to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work,” the company said.

    Some of Google’s top executives have significant Pentagon connections. Eric Schmidt, former executive chairman of Google and still a member of the executive board of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, serves on a Pentagon advisory body, the Defense Innovation Board, as does a Google vice president, Milo Medin.

    In an interview in November, Mr. Schmidt acknowledged “a general concern in the tech community of somehow the military-industrial complex using their stuff to kill people incorrectly, if you will.” He said he served on the board in part “to at least allow for communications to occur” and suggested that the military would “use this technology to help keep the country safe.”

    An uneasiness about military contracts among a small fraction of Google’s more than 70,000 employees may not pose a major obstacle to the company’s growth. But in the rarefied area of artificial intelligence research, Google is engaged in intense competition with other tech companies for the most talented people, so recruiters could be hampered if some candidates are put off by Google’s defense connections.

    As Google defends its contracts from internal dissent, its competitors have not been shy about publicizing their own work on defense projects. Amazon touts its image recognition work with the Department of Defense, and Microsoft has promoted the fact that its cloud technology won a contract to handle classified information for every branch of the military and defense agencies.

    The current dispute, first reported by Gizmodo, is focused on Project Maven, which began last year as a pilot program to find ways to speed up the military application of the latest A.I. technology. It is expected to cost less than $70 million in its first year, according to a Pentagon spokeswoman. But the signers of the letter at Google clearly hope to discourage the company from entering into far larger Pentagon contracts as the defense applications of artificial intelligence grow.

    Google is widely expected to compete with other tech giants, including Amazon and Microsoft, for a multiyear, multibillion-dollar contract to provide cloud services to the Defense Department. 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.

    The employees’ protest letter to Mr. Pichai, which has been circulated on an internal communications system for several weeks, argues that embracing military work could backfire by alienating customers and potential recruits.

    “This plan will irreparably damage Google’s brand and its ability to compete for talent,” the letter says. “Amid growing fears of biased and weaponized AI, Google is already struggling to keep the public’s trust.” It suggests that Google risks being viewed as joining the ranks of big defense contractors like Raytheon, General Dynamics and the big-data firm Palantir.

    “The argument that other firms, like Microsoft and Amazon, are also participating doesn’t make this any less risky for Google,” the letter says. “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.

    Paul Scharre, a former Pentagon official and author of “Army of None,” a forthcoming book on the use of artificial intelligence to build autonomous weapons, said the clash inside Google was inevitable, given the company’s history and the booming demand for A.I. in the military.

    “There’s a strong libertarian ethos among tech folks, and a wariness about the government’s use of technology,” said Mr. Scharre, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. “Now A.I. is suddenly and quite quickly moving out of the research lab and into real life.”

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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    What i find mildly amusing is the position, working for the military = evil
    Same here. Mildly amusing and disgusting at the same time.

    Gotta love having those twin security blankets called the Atlantic and Pacific wrapped around you.
    Makes you forget that the world is filled with very bad people who would kill you dead, regardless of your naifish high-and-mighty ideals.

    But, that's the American liberal for you.
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Ten years ago i'd probably have supported these people. The tech sector is big on idealism given the nature of the work and has many libertarians. Their fear is what else will it be used for. People not wanting to create, assist or enhance instruments of death.

    But I've seen how effective drones have been and with minimum collateral damage. Now, maybe you take out a few houses, earlier it was jets bombing a village. So i have no problems with the present project.

    This forum shows me its the realism that matters. I still have idealistic streaks though
    Last edited by Double Edge; 06 Apr 18, at 18:24.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    Ten years ago i'd probably have supported these people. The tech sector is big on idealism and has many libertarians.

    But I've seen how effective drones have been and with minimum collateral damage. Now, maybe you take out a few houses, earlier it was jets bombing a village. So i have no problems with the present project, the fear is what else will it be used for. People not wanting to create instruments of death.

    This forum shows me its the realism that matters. I still have idealistic streaks though
    There's nothing wrong with idealism or idealists IMO...Even in my general cynicism I retain some idealism.

    It's when idealism slams into the brick wall of reality and the idealist refuses to concede that fact...That's when the disgust sets in for me.
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    Turbanator Senior Contributor Double Edge's Avatar
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    Its because we're at the dawn of AI. After some time if and when AI becomes more routine people move to something else.

    Quote Originally Posted by tantalus View Post
    Rumour has it google have a significant lead in the ai race. I don't think anyone in the public sphere knows where the russians, amercians and chinese are at, but it may be the case that they have alot to offer.
    Hard to argue with this. Google wants to be a company of the future

    Quote Originally Posted by SteveDaPirate View Post
    The civilian market also has a high demand for the latest and greatest product, where the military is frequently interested in finding a solution that works, then not messing with it any more.

    That's why you see 1970s era computer hardware in things like the Space Shuttle, B-1B, F-15, AWACS, Harpoon Missile, etc.
    Right, then they want to say FAR away from anything google creates because its constantly in beta : D

    The fix will be in the next update which may or may not break something else.

    If you've ever owned google phones, called pixel these days you will understand. Things that flabbergast owners of other companies phones are considered normal. Life on the cutting edge is anything but stable. They do get there eventually though.

    Google is widely expected to compete with other tech giants, including Amazon and Microsoft, for a multiyear, multibillion-dollar contract to provide cloud services to the Defense Department. 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.
    If this is true its only a matter of time Google gets hacked. I'm amazed the military would want to use a consumer cloud platform.
    Last edited by Double Edge; 06 Apr 18, at 18:44.

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    Senior Contributor SteveDaPirate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    If you've ever owned google phones, called pixel these days you will understand. Things that flabbergast owners of other companies phones are considered normal.
    I'm considering one to replace my current Samsung S7. The ability to take advantage of Google's Project Fi and it's simultaneous use of multiple networks along with the lack of bloatware is a pretty big draw. I'm salty about the lack of 3.5mm headphone jack on the new model however...

    Quote Originally Posted by Double Edge View Post
    If this is true its only a matter of time Google gets hacked. I'm amazed the military would want to use a consumer cloud platform.
    Large swaths of the US government already utilize Google, Amazon, and Microsoft cloud services. I don't think DOD has too much to worry about in that regard since all the juicy stuff lives on SIPRNet, JWICS, and NSANet. Taking advantage of commercial cloud services provides access to far cheaper hosting for the majority of boring day to day traffic than trying to build everything in house would.

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    Quote Originally Posted by SteveDaPirate View Post
    I'm considering one to replace my current Samsung S7. The ability to take advantage of Google's Project Fi and it's simultaneous use of multiple networks along with the lack of bloatware is a pretty big draw. I'm salty about the lack of 3.5mm headphone jack on the new model however...
    Get the S9, it's a nice upgrade from the pre-S8 models. I wasn't terribly impressed with it at first, but it's growing on me.
    Far better it is to dare mighty things, than to take rank with those poor, timid spirits who know neither victory nor defeat ~ Theodore Roosevelt

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    Senior Contributor SteveDaPirate's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TopHatter View Post
    Get the S9, it's a nice upgrade from the pre-S8 models. I wasn't terribly impressed with it at first, but it's growing on me.
    Actually just got a new battery installed to hold off another year or so for S10/Pixel 3. I was on a 2 year replacement cycle, but I'm thinking I can stretch it to 3 or 4 now that most high end phones have a solid feature set and the juice to run it.

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