by WorldTribune Staff, July 11, 2018
A former U.S. defense official called out Google for withdrawing from a Pentagon artificial intelligence program while the tech giant continues to aid China’s military.
Google, after thousands of its employees voiced their objection, withdrew from the Pentagon’s Project Maven, which is developing artificial intelligence to help military analysts handle large amounts of raw data being collected on the battlefield.
Yet, ex-Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said that those same Google employees are inadvertently aiding the Chinese military as it seeks to become the world’s leader in artificial intelligence by 2025.
Google is standing up a new Google AI China Center in Beijing with “several hundred China-based engineers,” Work, a retired Marine, said at the DefenseOne conference on June 26.
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Work said that “anything that’s going on in that center is going to be used by China’s military” based on its strategy of “civil-military fusion,” where every major Chinese company and university has an obligation to share information with the Chinese government.
“The Google employees have created an enormous moral hazard to themselves,” Work said, according to a report by Breaking Defense. He added that he hoped “it’s not a canary in the coal mine” and that other tech companies do not follow suit.
Work, who served as deputy defense secretary in the Obama and Trump administrations, defended Project Maven, saying it could save lives by preventing terrorist attacks or errant strikes by U.S. forces.
“I fully agree that it might end up with us taking a shot, but it could easily save lives,” he said. “It might save 500 Americans or 500 allies or 500 innocent civilians from being attacked.”
Project Maven is aimed at helping the U.S. military identify objects and improve its AI capabilities. It is not being used to target things on the battlefield, but someday it could.
Work argued that asking Google to teach AI to “look for things on video” was “what we considered to be the absolutely least objectionable thing” the Pentagon could ask the company to do.