Google's military AI project comes to an end, and here is why it may not renew Project Maven contract with Pentagon

Last Updated: Tue, Jun 05, 2018 12:30 hrs
FILE PHOTO: A Google search page is reflected in sunglasses in this photo illustration taken in Brussels

San Francisco: Technology major Google may not renew a contract that allows it to collaborate with the Pentagon on Project Maven. Maven, is a project that involves the US department of Defense and uses artificial intelligence in tasks such as analyzing drone footage.

Diane Greene, Google Cloud's CEO, was quoted as saying in news reports that the company may opt of working for Project Maven.

Google had faced backlash from employees over it's involvement in Maven, an artificial itelligence (AI)-powered US Defence Department project. The programme applies AI and Machine Learning to the job of classifying objects in surveillance footage.

The decision not to renew the contract comes after about 4,000 Google employees signed a petition demanding "a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology."

There were also reports of a handful of employees resigning in protest, openly advocating the company to cancel the Maven contract.

So far Google has tried downplaying the significance of Project Maven. Greene had reportedly said that Google had made the conscious decision to take on the contract at a time when it was "more aggressively pursuing military work."

Last week, the New York Times, cited a person familiar with the discussion as saying that Diane Greene discussed during a weekly meeting with employees the decision to back away from its AI work with the military.

Google earlier responded to the employees petition saying that the technology was intended to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work. In April, Greene hosted a Town Hall meeting at which she assured employees of new ethical standards for the company, Fortune.com reported.

Reports pegged the value of the contract at $15 million, but in the future this could go up to $250 million. Although Google may not lose by giving up the contract, it could set a precedence for other tech giants such as Microsoft, Amazon, and IBM to follow. Although most of the tech majors were interested in pursuing the AI project, and partner with the Pentagon.

The use of artificial intelligence in warfare has remained a controversial use of technology. Google was reported of working on a set of guidelines that could see the ban on use of AI in warfare.

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