Will Google Repeat Its Pentagon-Cooperation Mistake? | National Review

Will Google Repeat Its Pentagon-Cooperation Mistake? | National Review

(Charles Platiau/Reuters)

Three years after Google’s employees forced the firm to abandon an artificial intelligence contract with the Pentagon that could have improved U.S. drone capabilities, the company has decided to pursue a different contract with the Defense Department, the New York Times reported today.

The abandoned contract, named Project Maven, was unveiled in 2017, and Gizmodo reported that Google was awarded the deal in September of that year. The Pentagon said at the time that it “focuses on computer vision — an aspect of machine learning and deep learning — that autonomously extracts objects of interest from moving or still imagery.” Those capabilities are widely understood to bolster the analysis of drone footage.

In 2018, a number of Google employees resigned in protest of their company’s decision to seek the Project Maven contract, and thousands more signed a letter asking Google executives to cancel its partnership with the Defense Department. In addition to other concerns, they primarily worried that Google’s work on the drone-technology project was a potentially unethical foray into America’s post-9/11 wars.

Google caved, deciding in June 2018 to not seek an extension of its Pentagon contract beyond its expiration in 2019. Its decision to back down in the face of pressure from social-justice-minded employees skeptical of the defense establishment was a sign of things to come: It was one of the first highly publicized instances in which a major U.S. firm conformed to the progressive political priorities of its employees.

The new contract that Google has decided to pursue is the Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability, a massive multi-billion-dollar cloud-computing project. The Times reports that Google’s move here “could raise a furor among its outspoken work force and test the resolve of management to resist employee demands.”

If recent history is any indication, Google might back down in this case too, but that’d be a mistake, as China, according to former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, is “overinvesting against us” in its pursuit of more advanced AI capabilities. It would be a grave mistake for Google to endorse its employees’ wariness of working to advance U.S. national security — and yet another victory for the woke political attitudes shaping corporate America.

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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.