Facing both public pressure and unrest from within its own company, Google will not renew its contract to help build artificial intelligence tools for the military, according to a report by Gizmodo's Kate Conger.
On Wednesday (30 May), The New York Times reported that Google is working on a set of guidelines aimed at managing decisions relating to defence and intelligence contracts.
According to BuzzFeed, the current contracts run until March 2019 and sees Google use machine learning to analyze drone footage and identify objects. One September thread between Fei-Fei Li, chief scientist at Google Cloud, noted that Project Maven was expected to generate $15 million in revenue for the company over 18 months and as much as $250 million in the coming years.
Project Maven is an artificial intelligence program created to use data captured by government drones to identify and track objects viewed on surveillance footage.
4,000 Google employees signed a petition demanding "a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology".
A Google representative declined to comment on the report.
"Not being able to tap into the vast talent at Google to help DoD employ AI in ethical and moral ways is very sad for our society and country", he added. Chagrined staff also were reported to have left Google over the issue.
Project Maven has sparked an intense debate within the company about Google's corporate ethics.
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At the same games, the International Olympic Committee paid for 22 North Korean athletes to travel to the event. That was the last time the two sides, which are technically at war, attempted to arrange a leadership summit.
But Google didn't have it-so it had to rely on other geospatial imagery for its early work on Project Maven.
The digital advertising and search giant, which holds "Do the right thing" as its motto and hauled in $110 billion in revenue a year ago, had sought to use "Project Maven" as a "golden opportunity" and stepping stone to lucrative military contracts, the report said.
But what about using artificial intelligence to power robots that defuse bombs or IEDs?
About a dozen Google employees have quit over Maven.
The emails also revealed that Silicon Valley heavyweights including IBM, Amazon, and Microsoft were in the running for AI Defense Department contracts, and that Project Maven was "directly related" to a government cloud computing contract worth billions of dollars.
"We value all of our relationships with academic institutions and commercial companies involved with Project Maven", Harris said.
Google's artificial intelligence would bring "an exquisite capability" for "near-real time analysis", the email said.