Google's "Project Maven" is supplying machine-learning tools to the Pentagon to support drone strikes; the project has been hugely divisive within Google, with employees pointing out that the company is wildly profitable and doesn't need to compromise on its ethics to keep its doors open; that the drone program is a system of extrajudicial killing far from the battlefield; and that the firm's long-term health depends on its ability to win and retain the trust of users around the world, which will be harder if Google becomes a de facto wing of the US military.
A dozen googlers have put their money where their mouths are, publicly resigning over the contract; 4,000 more googlers have signed an open letter to the company's CEO asking him to cancel the contract.
Companies have an emergent property of profit-seeking without regard to ethics or human flourishing, but individuals within companies retain their human sense of decency; that's why we need to include techies in our plan for fixing tech.
One resigning employee questioned why Google is even bothering with such a controversial program when it is already so massive. “It’s not like Google is this little machine-learning startup that’s trying to find clients in different industries," the anonymous employee told Gizmodo. "It just seems like it makes sense for Google and Google’s reputation to stay out of that.”
“Actions speak louder than words, and that’s a standard I hold myself to as well,” another resigning employee told Gizmodo. “I wasn’t happy just voicing my concerns internally. The strongest possible statement I could take against this was to leave.”
A dozen Google employees quit over military drone project [Ron Amadeo/Ars Technica]
Writing in Fortune, Beth Kowitt gives us a look inside the Googler Uprising, wherein Google staff launched a string of internal reform movements, triggered first by the company's secret participation in an AI/drone warfare project for the Pentagon, then a secret attempt to build a censored/surveilling search engine for use in China, then the revelation […]
Last year, Google was rocked by a succession of mass uprisings by its staff, who erupted in fury after discovering that the company was secretly pursuing a censored Chinese search tool and an AI project for US drones, and that it had secretly paid Android founder Andy Rubin $150m to quietly leave the company after […]
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