Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Mountain View, CA, United States (4E) – Acknowledging strong employee opposition and conflicting ethical issues, Google has dropped out of the competition for a $10 billion contract with the Pentagon.
Google said it withdrew from the lucrative “Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure” cloud (JEDI) program because it couldn’t receive assurances from the Pentagon the project won’t conflict with the firm’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Principles.
According to these Principles, Google believe that AI should: 1. Be socially beneficial. 2. Avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias. 3. Be built and tested for safety. 4. Be accountable to people. 5. Incorporate privacy design principles. 6. Uphold high standards of scientific excellence and 7. Be made available for uses that accord with these principles.
Sources said Google withdrew from the JEDI competition due to “sustained pressure” from its employees and others in the tech industry. The JEDI program is expected to award the full $10 billion contract to a single bidder.
With Google’s withdrawal, Amazon is now the leading contender due to its extensive experience as a cloud provider.
The Pentagon’s JEDI program is aimed at finding a solution that will allow the U.S. Armed Forces to transfer massive amounts of data and processing power to the cloud. JEDI will give military commanders quick access to data wherever they are. It will allow them to make quicker and better decisions while on the battlefield. Conflicts with Google’s principles 1, 4, 5 and 7 are already evident here.
Google crafted these AI Principles back in May to help guide it when figuring out which AI projects to develop and pursue. While it will still work with the U.S. military, the guidelines prohibit the use of AI in weaponry.
The company wrote its AI Principles after employees strongly opposed its contract renewal for a separate Pentagon program called Project Maven, which will develop algorithms that can flag drone images for human review.
More than 4,000 Google employees signed a petition asking the company to end its involvement with Project Maven. Many employees refused to work on Maven while some employees even quit in protest. The unexpectedly virulent opposition to Maven forced Google to forego renewing its contract with the Pentagon.
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