Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Google helps the Pentagon with military drones

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Nellie Chapman | 07 March, 2018, 16:26

Naturally, the use of AI in the military raises concerns about how it could be used unethically and end up killing the wrong people.

It aimed to provide the military with advanced computer vision, enabling the detection and identification of objects in up to 38 categories that are captured by the drone's full-motion camera, according to Gizmodo. The US government is already a big cloud customer and the Pentagon is looking to the technology sector for new tools and strategies, including AI. For Google, the collaboration could come with an added boon: a chance to position its cloud business as a viable competitor to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure as it eyes the federal government as a client.

According to a Google spokesperson who spoke to Gizmodo, the company's involvement includes providing TensorFlow application programming interfaces (APIs) which are used in machine learning algorithms to assist the military analysts to detect objects in images. Gizmodo reports that some Google employees are not happy about providing their technology for military uses. Acknowledging the controversial nature of using machine learning for military purposes, the spokesperson said the company is now working "to develop polices and safeguards" around its use.

Project Maven forms part of the $7.4bn spent on AI and data processing by the DoD, and has seen the Pentagon partner with various academics and experts in the field of AI and data processing. Since its launch in April past year, Maven has already been deployed against the Islamic State. Responding to the question of ethics of using machine learning in military activities, the Google spokesperson said that the company is actively discussing the topic internally as well as with others to continue to develop policies and safeguards around the development and usage of machine learning.

The effort to help a workforce increasingly overwhelmed by incoming data, including millions of hours of video, began in April when then-deputy defense secretary, Bob Work announced in a memo that he was establishing an Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team, overseen by the undersecretary of defence for intelligence, to work on something he called Project Maven.

Speaking to a crowd of military and industry technology experts, many from Silicon Valley, Cukor professed the United States to be in the midst of AI arms race. "Many of you will have noted that Eric Schmidt [then-executive chairman of Google-parent company Alphabet.] is calling Google an AI company now, not a data company". "Key elements have to be put together ... and the only way to do that is with commercial partners alongside us".

A Department of Defense spokesperson declined to comment on Google's work with Project Maven.