Google employees quit over drone "evil"

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Dubbed Project Maven, the system is created to "speed up analysis" of military drone footage by "automatically classifying images of objects and people", Gizmodo reports. Earlier today we reported that Google was being investigated in Australia over the claims that it was harvesting data from millions of Android users who were unknowingly paying the telecos for gigabytes of data used during data harvesting.

It's expected to develop artificial intelligence capable of sifting through vast quantities of aerial imagery and recognising objects of interest.

Google employees are resigning in protest at a controversial artificial intelligence programme being developed for the USA military by the company, according to reports. An internal petition called on Google CEO Sundar Pichai to cancel Project Maven and "d$3 raft, publicize, and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology".

Opposition to the project isn't just coming from inside Google. "I realized if I can't recommend people join here, then why am I still here?" a resigning Google employee said. The employees also stated that company executives now seemed less interested in listening to workers' objections than they did earlier. "We can no longer ignore our industry's and our technologies' harmful biases, large-scale breaches of trust, and lack of ethical safeguards", the petition reads.

But money talks for Google/Alphabet and other companies, for whom government contracts are invariably the biggest.

Google is also believed to be a lead bidder on a cloud computing contract for the Pentagon.

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Meanwhile, it has been reported that more than 90 academics have this week released an open letter that has called on Google to end its work on Project Maven and to support an global treaty prohibiting autonomous weapons systems.

"We wholeheartedly support [employees'] demand that Google terminate its contract with the DoD, and that Google and its parent company Alphabet commit not to develop military technologies and not to use the personal data that they collect for military purposes", the letter states.

It claimed that Google's technology may soon help bolster US projects for "authorizing autonomous drones to kill automatically, without human supervision or meaningful human control". Scientists are concerned that the technology could be weaponized in the not-so-distant future.

In February at the Westminster eForum event on UK AI policy, Richard Moyes, managing director of Article 36, a not-for-profit organisation working to prevent the unintended or unnecessary harm caused by weapons systems, identified the moral hazards at the core of this debate.

However, the most pressing issue, said Moyes, is the "dilution of human control, and therefore of human moral agency".

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