Google employees have expressed strong reservations against the company assisting the DOD in identifying objects in drone footage using advanced machine learning and object recognition tech.
Google taking part in a Pentagon-backed project hasn’t gone down well with a section of its employees who have petitioned CEO Sundar Pichai demanding an immediate revocation of the same. As of now, more than 3,100 employees are signatories in the petition and are seeking Google to refrain from being associated ‘in the business of war’.
In particular, it is Project Maven that the Google employees have strong objections to. Reason being that the research program seeks to apply computer vision technologies to help decipher drone footage. This will save humans from toiling to make sense of images captured by drones and identifying the various objects depicted in it.
Google has also confirmed they are helping Pentagon with their expertise in the field of machine learning and image recognition. The Mountain View company has also stated they are doing so with their open source software TensorFlow which is quite capable in recognizing objects in an image.
Google also attempted to mollify its employees claiming their involvement in the DOD research program is purely non-offensive in nature. Diane Greene who heads the company’s cloud division also clarified Project Maven does not entail launching of any weapon systems or help drone operations.
The employees, however, seem least impressed and have stuck to their demands so far. They claim the technology being developed with their assistance is eventually meant for military operations. They also stated their involvement in the project goes against the very tenets that Google stands for, which includes its motto – ‘Don’t be evil’.
Also, with the company already engaged in helping ease people’s lives all around the globe, its involvement in a project that has direct military implications will only tarnish its image and project it as pursuing double standards.
A firm declaration on this from Google is being awaited. Meanwhile, Google isn’t the only company that the DOD has reached out to for devising technological solutions to the many challenges it faces. In the past, Amazon and Microsoft too have lent their support to defense related projects, and it remains to be seen what comes out of the present situation.