Google says its A.I. won't be used for weapons, surveillance

Polina Godz  Jacobin

Polina Godz Jacobin

The comments came shortly after Google CEO Sundar Pichai published a list of governing principles on how the company plans to work with AI technology in the future.

In the post, Pichai spells out the principles that should be considered when creating AI as well as applications of AI that Google will not pursue. "As a leader in AI, we feel a special responsibility to get this right". So today, we're announcing seven principles to guide our work going forward.

In internal emails reviewed by Gizmodo, a Google employee working on Project Maven said that the company would attempt to provide a "Google-earth-like" surveillance system, offering "an exquisite capability" for near real-time analysis of drone footage. Although its contract with the Defense Department for Maven was relatively small, Google considered its Maven work as an essential step in the process to winning more lucrative military contracts. Peter Highnam, the deputy director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Pentagon agency that did not handle Project Maven but is credited with helping invent the Internet, said there are "hundreds if not thousands of schools and companies that bid aggressively" on DARPA's research programs in technologies such as AI. The charter shows Google's pursuit of these contracts will continue.

"We want to be clear that while we are not developing AI for use in weapons, we will continue our work with governments and the military in many other areas", Google clarified. The Google official acknowledged that enforcement would be hard because the company cannot track each use of its tools, some of which can be downloaded free of charge and used privately. Technology giants, like Google, have stretched far ahead in developing software and services that give machines more control over decisions.

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The secret program wasn't reported on in the past, Reuters reports, and it could help the United States deal with threats from North Korea and other nations with nuclear capabilities. Civil liberties organisations recently called out Amazon for offering facial recognition tech to local police departments.

In addition to a ban on autonomous weaponry at Google, the company will also seek to avoid the creation of AI whose principle objective is to injure or harm human beings as well as "Technologies that gather or use information for surveillance violating internationally accepted norms".

AI algorithms and datasets can reflect, reinforce, or reduce unfair biases. In addition to outside criticism, Google has faced a rare spate of objections from its own staff. About a dozen Google employees reportedly resigned due to the company's involvement in the program. More than 4,600 employees petitioned Google to cancel the deal sooner, with at least 13 employees resigning in recent weeks in an expression of concern. The proposed limit on the use of AI for surveillance is positive, but the language was too cautious, the person said. Other employees described the internal reception as lukewarm.

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