About a dozen Google employees are resigning in protest over the tech giant’s involvement in Project Maven. Maven is a controversial military program that uses artificial intelligence.
What is Project Maven?
Project Maven, also known as the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Function Team. It was launched in April 2017 by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work. Project Maven is designed to swiftly pull important data from vast quantities of imagery. It was announced last year. Under the terms of the partnership, which is Google’s first in collaboration with the D.O.D.’s Project Maven, the tech giant is helping the government use machine learning to classify images captured by drones. Simply, Google is working to help improve military image- and target-recognition software as part its work on Project Maven.
Among its objectives, the project aims to develop and integrate “computer-vision algorithms needed to help military and civilian analysts encumbered by the sheer volume of full-motion video data that DoD collects every day in support of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations,” according to the Pentagon.
Over 3,100 Google employees protested in April for this. In an open letter addressed to CEO Sundar Pichai, Google employees expressed concern that the U.S. military could weaponize AI and apply the technology towards refining drone strikes and other kinds of lethal attacks. According to them, “ Google should not be in the business of war”.
The employees are resigning due to the ethical concerns they have over Google’s expertise being used in military technology that could lead to the loss of human life. The resignations follow a petition by over 4,000 Google employees asking the company to immediately cancel its Project Maven contract with the government and commit to a policy forbidding military work in the future. The petition reads, in part:
“We can no longer ignore our industry’s and our technologies’ harmful biases, large-scale breaches of trust, and lack of ethical safeguards. These are life and death stakes.”
A Google spokesperson confirmed the partnership back in March but said the technology was being used for “non-offensive uses only.