Google helps the Pentagon with AI for drones

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Is the future of AI in the hands of Google?

Google announced Wednesday they are working with the Pentagon to examine drone footage with their artificial Intelligence technologies, part of the military project ‘Maven’ from the US Department of Defense.

The news, revealed first by the tech site Gizmodo, mark a significant move for the search giant, who has avoided in the past the involvement with the military. The collaboration was discovered through internal e-mails of the company, and it was reported that some of the workers were “outraged” upon the discovery.

As confirmed by a Google spokeswoman, the joint effort is using Google’s Tensor Flow APIs —which are used in machine learning devices— to build an algorithm that will identify objects in the big chunks of surveillance footage the department posses.

This technology will also recognise human figures. It was assured by the search engine that the objectives behind the use of this technology are meant for “non-offensive uses only” and not combat ones.

Nevertheless, the concerns over Google’s alliance with the Pentagon “set off a fire storm among employees” and have raised important ethical questions about how and towards where the use of AI is being developed.

“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,” said Google’s spokesperson in regard to the concerns.

Last year, during a talk at the Center for a New American Security Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Summit, former chairman of Google’s Alphabet, Erich Schmidt raised the issue:

“There’s a general concern in the tech community of somehow the military-industrial complex using their stuff to kill people incorrectly.”

The Project Maven began back in April 2017 and is also known as the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team (AWCFT). Its main mission is to integrate big data and machine learning in the Department of Defense. So far they have spent around $7.4 billion in artificial intelligence solutions.