Monday April 22, 2019
Home Lead Story Former US Def...

Former US Defense Official Questions Google’s Morality

Google announced earlier this month that it would not renew its contract for Project Maven

0
//
Google, smart compose
Gmail product manager Paul Lambert said a company research scientist discovered the problem in January VOA

A former top U.S. Defense Department official is questioning the morality of Google’s decision not to renew a partnership with the Pentagon.

“I believe the Google employees have created a moral hazard for themselves,” former Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said Tuesday.

Google announced earlier this month that it would not renew its contract for Project Maven, after 13 employees resigned and more than 4,600 employees signed a petition objecting to their work being used for warfare.

Project Maven seeks to use artificial intelligence, or AI, to help detect and identify images captured using drones.

Many of the Google employees who objected to the project cited Google’s principle of ensuring its products are not used to do harm. But Work, who served as deputy defense secretary from 2014 through July 2017, described Google’s thinking as short-sighted. “It might wind up with us taking a shot, but it could easily save lives” he told an audience at the Defense One Tech Summit in Washington.

Work also described Google as hypocritical, given the company’s endeavors with other countries, such as China. “Google has opened an AI [artificial intelligence] center in China,” he said. “Anything that’s going on in the AI center in China is going to the Chinese government and then will ultimately end up in the hands of the Chinese military.”

The Pentagon’s Project Maven was approved under Work’s watch in 2016 had an initial budget of about $70 million. Google officials had told employees the company was earning less than $10 million, though the deal could lead to additional work.

Current military officials have declined to comment on Google’s decision to not renew the contract, explaining the tech giant is not the main contractor.

“It would not be appropriate for us to comment on the relationship between a prime and sub-prime contractor holder,” Pentagon spokeswoman, Maj. Audricia Harris told VOA in an email.

“We value all of our relationships with academic institutions and commercial companies involved with Project Maven,” she added. “Partnering with the best universities and commercial companies in the world will help preserve the United States’ critical lead in artificial intelligence.” VOA has asked Google for a response, but has received no reply.

While declining to comment directly on Google and Project Maven, the executive director of the Defense Innovation Board said the hope is that, eventually, ethical consideration will push tech companies to work with the military.

“AI [artificlal intelligence] done properly is really, really dangerous,” said Josh Marcuse “We want to work with these companies, these engineers.”

“We are going to have to defend these democracies against adversaries or competitors who see the world every differently,” he said at the same conference in Washington as Work. “I don’t want to show up with a dumb weapon on a smart battlefield.”

But experts say questions of ethics and business viability are likely to continue to plague Google and otherbig tech companies who are asked to work with the Pentagon.

google
google. Pixabay

“Their customer base is not just the United States,” said Heather Roff with the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge. “Aiding the U.S. defense industry will potentially hinder their economic success or viability in other countries.”

Still, Paul Scharre, a former Defense Department official who worked on emerging technologies, said he was disappointed by Google’s decision.

“There are weapons companies that build weapons – I understand why Google might not want to be part of that,” said Scharre, now with the Center for a New American Security.

Also read: Google Doodle Celebrates Legendary Indian Artist Gauhar Jaan’s 145th Birth Anniversary

“I don’t think Project Maven crosses the line at all,” he added. “It’s clearly not a weapons technology. It’s helping people better understand the battle space. If you are only worried about civilian and collateral damage that’s only good.” (VOA)

 

Next Story

U.S. To End Waivers For Iran Oil imports

Oil exports are a key source of revenue for Tehran, which has been hit hard by the reimposition of U.S. sanctions.

0
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (file photo)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. RFERL

U.S. President Donald Trump has decided not to reissue waivers in May allowing importers to buy Iranian oil without facing U.S. sanctions, the White House said in a statement on April 21.

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates “have agreed to take timely action to assure that global demand is met as all Iranian oil is removed from the market,” the White House said.

“This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue,” the statement added.

The decision means sanctions waivers for five nations, including China and India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey, won’t be renewed when they expire on May 2.

U.S.
The move is part of the Trump administration’s tough line on Iran. VOA

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington has had “extensive and productive discussions with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other major producers to ease this transition and ensure sufficient supply.”

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (Republican-Texas) applauded the end of oil waivers for Iran.

“This decision will deprive the ayatollahs of billions of dollars that they would have spent undermining the security of the United States and our allies, building up Iran’s nuclear and ballistic-missile programs and financing global terrorism,” he said.

The move is part of the Trump administration’s tough line on Iran.

“We will continue to apply maximum pressure on the Iranian regime until its leaders change their destructive behavior, respect the rights of the Iranian people, and return to the negotiating table,” Pompeo said in an April 22 statement.

oil-refinery
“This decision is intended to bring Iran’s oil exports to zero, denying the regime its principal source of revenue,” the statement added. Pixabay

Oil exports are a key source of revenue for Tehran, which has been hit hard by the reimposition of U.S. sanctions.

Also Read: More And More Women Join The Arakan Army’s Fight Against Myanmar’s Central Government
Ahead of Washington’s announcement, an unamed Iranian Oil Ministry source told the semiofficial Tasnim news agency that the United States will fail to cut Iranian oil exports to zero.

“Whether the waivers continue or not, Iran’s oil exports will not be zero under any circumstances unless Iranian authorities decide to stop oil exports…and this is not relevant now,” Tasnim quoted the unnamed “informed source” as saying. (RFERL)