Google Workers and Scholars Refuse to Work on Pentagon's War Projects
April 6, 2018
Google Employees / The New York Times & Julia Conley / Common Dreams & Researchers for Peace
Commentary: In a public letter to Google's CEO, the firms workers declared: "We believe that Google should not be in the business of war. Therefore we ask that ... Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology." Meantime, more than 50 artificial intelligence experts from nearly 30 countries have announced a boycott of a South Korean university whose new defense partnership could lead to the development of "killer robots."
"We Work for Google. Our Employer
Shouldn't Be in the Business of War"
Note: In this open letter to Google's CEO, over 3,000 employees urged the company not to work on a Pentagon 'AI surveillance engine' used for drone warfare.
Open Letter Signed by Google Employees
(April 5, 2018) -- Dear Sundar,
We believe that Google should not be in the business of war. Therefore we ask that Project Maven be cancelled and that Google draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.
Google is implementing Project Maven, a customized AI surveillance engine that uses "wide area motion imagery" data captured by US government drones to detect vehicles and other objects, track their motions and provide results to the Department of Defense.
Recently, Googlers voiced concerns about Maven internally. Diane Greene responded, assuring them that the technology will not "operate or fly drones" and "will not be used to launch weapons". While this eliminates a narrow set of direct applications, the technology is being built for the military, and once it's delivered it could easily be used to assist in these tasks. This plan will irreparably damage Google's brand and its ability to compete for talent.
We request that you cancel this project immediately
Amid growing fears of biased and weaponized AI, Google is already struggling to keep the public's trust. By entering into this contract, Google will join the ranks of companies like Palantir, Raytheon and General Dynamics.
The argument that other firms, like Microsoft and Amazon, are also participating doesn't make this any less risky for Google. Google's unique history, its motto "don't be evil", and its direct reach into the lives of billions of users set it apart.
We cannot outsource the moral responsibility of our technologies to third parties. Google's stated values make this clear: every one of our users is trusting us. Never jeopardize that. Ever. This contract puts Google's reputation at risk and stands in direct opposition to our core values. Building this technology to assist the US government in military surveillance -- and potentially lethal outcomes -- is not acceptable.
Recognizing Google's moral and ethical responsibility, and the threat to Google's reputation, we request that you:
1. Cancel this project immediately.
2. Draft, publicize and enforce a clear policy stating that neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.
This open letter was originally published in the New York Times.
Scholars Divest from Killer Robot Research
50+ Artificial Intelligence Scholars Launch
Boycott of University Over Fears of 'Killer Robot' Weapons Lab
Julia Conley / Common Dreams
"This is a very respected university
partnering with a very ethically dubious partner
that continues to violate international norms."
(April 5, 2018) -- More than 50 artificial intelligence researchers and experts from nearly 30 countries around the world announced a boycott on Thursday of a South Korean university whose new defense partnership, they fear, could lead to the development of "killer robots."
"At a time when the United Nations is discussing how to contain the threat posed to international security by autonomous weapons, it is regrettable that a prestigious institution like KAIST [Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology] looks to accelerate the arms race to develop such weapons," wrote the researchers in an open letter.
The letter adds:
If developed, autonomous weapons will be the third revolution in warfare. They will permit war to be fought faster and at a scale greater than ever before. They have the potential to be weapons of terror. Despots and terrorists could use them against innocent populations, removing any ethical restraints.
This Pandora's box will be hard to close if it is opened. As with other technologies banned in the past like blinding lasers, we can simply decide not to develop them. We urge KAIST to follow this path, and work instead on uses of A.I. to improve and not harm human lives.
KAIST opened a new lab in February in partnership with Hanwha Systems, one South Korea's largest weapons manufacturers, prompting a report in the Korea Times that the two would join "the global competition to develop autonomous arms."
Hanwha Systems manufactures highly-destructive cluster munitions, which are prohibited by a UN convention signed by 120 countries.
The experts plan to "boycott all collaborations with any part of KAIST until such time as the President of KAIST provides assurances, which we have sought but not received, that the Center will not develop autonomous weapons lacking meaningful human control," according to the letter. "We will, for example, not visit KAIST, host visitors from KAIST, or contribute to any research project involving KAIST."
According to the Guardian, in KAIST's since-deleted announcement of its partnership with Hanwha, the university's president said the new lab would "provide a strong foundation for developing national defense technology," focusing on A.I.-based command and decision systems, algorithms for unmanned underwater vehicles, and A.I.-based recognition technology.
The university's activities come as more than 20 countries have urged a ban on all autonomous weapons and as the UN plans to convene in Geneva next week to discuss the militarization of artificial intelligence.
"There are plenty of great things you can do with A.I. that save lives, including in a military context, but to openly declare the goal is to develop autonomous weapons and have a partner like this sparks huge concern," Toby Walsh, who organized the boycott, told the Guardian. "This is a very respected university partnering with a very ethically dubious partner that continues to violate international norms."
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ACTION: Please sign and spread the pledge below. You will find a form for signature online here: https://researchersforpeace.eu
No EU Money for Military Research
Researchers for Peace
(April 5, 2018) -- The EU has set up a military research programme for the first time this year, with the objective of helping to preserve the competitiveness of the arms industry. The so-called Preparatory Action on Defence Research (PADR) allocates a total sum of 90 million euros to military research projects over a three-year period up to 2020.
The EU is prioritising highly controversial research under the PADR, such as the development of robotic weapon systems. Not only will this exacerbate a global race in such technologies, but this could also lead to an increase in arms exports to repressive regimes and fuel conflict. Already EU-made weapons are facilitating violations of international humanitarian law and human rights in a number of conflict zones.
The Preparatory Action is only a first step in paving the way for a full blown European Defence Fund of an estimated 40 billion euros for research and development of military hardware over the next ten years.
We invite all scientists, academics and researchers to sign this pledge and to call on the European Union to stop funding military research programmes:
Europe has a long tradition of innovation and EU research programmes have been shown to be a powerful policy tool. The EU should continue to invest in civilian research areas that benefit Europeans and the rest of the world, helping to solve health and environmental problems, and contributing to stability and equality in society.
Investing EU funds in military research will not only divert resources from more peaceful areas, but is also likely to fuel arms races, undermining security in Europe or elsewhere. The EU, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012, should instead fund more innovative and courageous research which helps to tackle the root causes of conflict or contributes to the peaceful resolution of conflict.
Therefore, as a scientist, academic and/or researcher I call on the European Union to refrain from any further steps towards the funding of military research and development programs.