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posted by janrinok on Sunday June 03 2018, @06:14PM   Printer-friendly
from the not-being-evil-after-all dept.

We have recently covered the fact that some Google employees had resigned because of the company's involvement in an AI-related weapons project called Maven. Many thought that the resignations, whilst being a noble gesture, would amount to nothing - but we were wrong...

Leaked Emails Show Google Expected Lucrative Military Drone AI Work To Grow Exponentially

Google has sought to quash the internal dissent in conversations with employees. Diane Greene, the chief executive of Google’s cloud business unit, speaking at a company town hall meeting following the revelations, claimed that the contract was “only” for $9 million, according to the New York Times, a relatively minor project for such a large company.

Internal company emails obtained by The Intercept tell a different story. The September emails show that Google’s business development arm expected the military drone artificial intelligence revenue to ramp up from an initial $15 million to an eventual $250 million per year.

In fact, one month after news of the contract broke, the Pentagon allocated an additional $100 million to Project Maven.

The internal Google email chain also notes that several big tech players competed to win the Project Maven contract. Other tech firms such as Amazon were in the running, one Google executive involved in negotiations wrote. (Amazon did not respond to a request for comment.) Rather than serving solely as a minor experiment for the military, Google executives on the thread stated that Project Maven was “directly related” to a major cloud computing contract worth billions of dollars that other Silicon Valley firms are competing to win.

However, Google has had a major rethink.

Google Won't Renew Controversial Drone Project with Pentagon Amid Employee Backlash

"Tech giant Google will not seek to renew its contract with the U.S. Department of Defense................

Project Maven is an artificial intelligence program designed to use data captured by government drones to identify and track objects viewed on surveillance footage. Google workers were concerned about how the application could be weaponized once under ownership of the U.S. military."

As previously reported by FOX Business, Google's employees have expressed unease about creating products for the U.S. government.

Google Will Not Continue Project Maven After Contract Expires in 2019

Google will not seek another contract for its controversial work providing artificial intelligence to the U.S. Department of Defense for analyzing drone footage after its current contract expires.

Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene announced the decision at a meeting with employees Friday morning, three sources told Gizmodo. The current contract expires in 2019 and there will not be a follow-up contract, Greene said. The meeting, dubbed Weather Report, is a weekly update on Google Cloud's business.

Google would not choose to pursue Maven today because the backlash has been terrible for the company, Greene said, adding that the decision was made at a time when Google was more aggressively pursuing military work. The company plans to unveil new ethical principles about its use of AI next week. A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to questions about Greene's comments.

Original Submission #1Original Submission #2Original Submission #3

Related Stories

About a Dozen Google Employees Have Resigned Over Project Maven 70 comments

Google Employees Resign in Protest Against Pentagon Contract

It's been nearly three months since many Google employees—and the public—learned about the company's decision to provide artificial intelligence to a controversial military pilot program known as Project Maven, which aims to speed up analysis of drone footage by automatically classifying images of objects and people. Now, about a dozen Google employees are resigning in protest over the company's continued involvement in Maven.

[...] The employees who are resigning in protest, several of whom discussed their decision to leave with Gizmodo, say that executives have become less transparent with their workforce about controversial business decisions and seem less interested in listening to workers' objections than they once did. In the case of Maven, Google is helping the Defense Department implement machine learning to classify images gathered by drones. But some employees believe humans, not algorithms, should be responsible for this sensitive and potentially lethal work—and that Google shouldn't be involved in military work at all.

Previously: Google vs Maven
Google Employees on Pentagon AI Algorithms: "Google Should Not be in the Business of War"

Original Submission

"Senior Google Scientist" Resigns over Chinese Search Engine Censorship Project 50 comments

Senior Google Scientist Resigns Over "Forfeiture of Our Values" in China

A senior Google research scientist has quit the company in protest over its plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China.

Jack Poulson worked for Google's research and machine intelligence department, where he was focused on improving the accuracy of the company's search systems. In early August, Poulson raised concerns with his managers at Google after The Intercept revealed that the internet giant was secretly developing a Chinese search app for Android devices. The search system, code-named Dragonfly, was designed to remove content that China's authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

After entering into discussions with his bosses, Poulson decided in mid-August that he could no longer work for Google. He tendered his resignation and his last day at the company was August 31.

He told The Intercept in an interview that he believes he is one of about five of the company's employees to resign over Dragonfly. He felt it was his "ethical responsibility to resign in protest of the forfeiture of our public human rights commitments," he said.

Poulson, who was previously an assistant professor at Stanford University's department of mathematics, said he believed that the China plan had violated Google's artificial intelligence principles, which state that the company will not design or deploy technologies "whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights."

Google Pledges $25 Million to "AI for Social Good" Program 15 comments

Google pledges $25 million toward AI solutions for social issues

[Google] is ramping up a AI Impact Challenge that asks academia, non-profits and other organizations (whether they're AI-savvy or not) to submit proposals using AI to solve "social, humanitarian and environmental" problems. Any proposal that makes the cut will receive funding from a $25 million pool, join an accelerator program and receive consulting as well as custom support with the help of the data science non-profit DataKind. Google will pick the winners in spring 2019 with assistance from a panel of experts. announcement. Also at The Verge and Reuters.

Related: Google Will Not Continue Project Maven After Contract Expires in 2019

Original Submission

Microsoft Misrepresented HoloLens 2 Field of View, Faces Backlash for Military Contract 39 comments

Microsoft Significantly Misrepresented HoloLens 2's Field of View at Reveal

To significant anticipation, Microsoft revealed HoloLens 2 earlier this week at MWC 2019. By all accounts it looks like a beautiful and functional piece of technology and a big step forward for Microsoft's AR initiative. All of which makes it unfortunate that the company didn't strive to be clearer when illustrating one of the three key areas in which the headset is said to be improved over its predecessor. [...] For field of view—how much of your view is covered by the headset's display—[Alex] Kipman said that HoloLens 2 delivers "more than double" the field of view of the original HoloLens.

Within the AR and VR markets, the de facto descriptor used when talking about a headset's field of view is an angle specified to be the horizontal, vertical, or diagonal extent of the device's display from the perspective of the viewer. When I hear that one headset has "more than double" the field of view of another, it says to me that one of those angles has increased by a factor of ~2. It isn't perfect by any means, but it's how the industry has come to define field of view.

It turns out that's not what Kipman meant when he said "more than double." I reached out to Microsoft for clarity and found that what he was actually referring to was not a field of view angle, rather the field of view area, but that wasn't explained in the presentation at all, just (seemingly intentionally) vague statements of "more than twice the field of view."

[...] But then Kipman moved onto a part of the presentation which visually showed the difference between the field of view of HoloLens 1 and HoloLens 2, and that's when things really became misleading.

Microsoft chief defends controversial military HoloLens contract

Microsoft employees objecting to a US Army HoloLens contract aren't likely to get many concessions from their company's leadership. CEO Satya Nadella has defended the deal in a CNN interview, arguing that Microsoft made a "principled decision" not to deny technology to "institutions that we have elected in democracies to protect the freedoms we enjoy." The exec also asserted that Microsoft was "very transparent" when securing the contract and would "continue to have that dialogue" with staff.

Also at UploadVR, Ars Technica, and The Hill.

See also: Stick to Your Guns, Microsoft

Previously: U.S. Army Awards Microsoft a $480 Million HoloLens Contract
Microsoft Announces $3,500 HoloLens 2 With Wider Field of View and Other Improvements

Related: Google Drafting Ethics Policy for its Involvement in Military Projects
Google Will Not Continue Project Maven After Contract Expires in 2019

Original Submission

Is Ethical A.I. Even Possible? 35 comments

Is Ethical A.I. Even Possible?

When a news article revealed that Clarifai was working with the Pentagon and some employees questioned the ethics of building artificial intelligence that analyzed video captured by drones, the company said the project would save the lives of civilians and soldiers.

"Clarifai's mission is to accelerate the progress of humanity with continually improving A.I.," read a blog post from Matt Zeiler, the company's founder and chief executive, and a prominent A.I. researcher. Later, in a news media interview, Mr. Zeiler announced a new management position that would ensure all company projects were ethically sound.

As activists, researchers, and journalists voice concerns over the rise of artificial intelligence, warning against biased, deceptive and malicious applications, the companies building this technology are responding. From tech giants like Google and Microsoft to scrappy A.I. start-ups, many are creating corporate principles meant to ensure their systems are designed and deployed in an ethical way. Some set up ethics officers or review boards to oversee these principles.

But tensions continue to rise as some question whether these promises will ultimately be kept. Companies can change course. Idealism can bow to financial pressure. Some activists — and even some companies — are beginning to argue that the only way to ensure ethical practices is through government regulation.

"We don't want to see a commercial race to the bottom," Brad Smith, Microsoft's president and chief legal officer, said at the New Work Summit in Half Moon Bay, Calif., hosted last week by The New York Times. "Law is needed."

Possible != Probable. And the "needed law" could come in the form of a ban and/or surveillance of coding and hardware-building activities.


Original Submission

Pentagon Brass Bafflingly Accuses Google of Providing "Direct Benefit" to China's Military 37 comments

Submitted via IRC for soysheep9857

There are many reasons to be critical of Google. But on Thursday, General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stopped just short of accusing the tech giant of treason.

Dunford's incendiary comments came during a budgetary hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee this afternoon. During his time for questioning, freshman Senator Josh Hawley, a Republican, turned to the subject of Google's decision to back away from projects with the Pentagon. Hawley asked the panel if he understood the situation correctly and that the men were saying, "that Google, an American company, supposedly, is refusing to work with the Department of Defense, but is doing work with China, in China, in a way that at least indirectly benefits the Chinese government."

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan tempered that assertion, explaining that he hasn't heard anyone use the word "refuse," but that Google has shown "a lack of willingness to support DOD programs."

But General Dunford was more open to going on the attack. When given the chance to elaborate on his concerns, he told Senator Hawley:

You know, senator, I'm nodding my head on exactly the point that you made: that the work that Google is doing in China is indirectly benefitting the Chinese military. And I've been very public on this issue as well; in fact, the way I described it to our industry partners is, 'look we're the good guys in the values that we represent and the system that we represent is the one that will allow and has allowed you to thrive,' and that's the way I've characterized it. I was just nodding that what the secretary was articulating is the general sense of all of us as leaders. We watch with great concern when industry partners work in China knowing there is that indirect benefit, and frankly 'indirect' may be not a full characterization of the way it really is. It's more of a direct benefit to the Chinese military.


Related: Google Employees on Pentagon AI Algorithms: "Google Should Not be in the Business of War"
About a Dozen Google Employees Have Resigned Over Project Maven
Google Drafting Ethics Policy for its Involvement in Military Projects
Google Will Not Continue Project Maven After Contract Expires in 2019
Microsoft Misrepresented HoloLens 2 Field of View, Faces Backlash for Military Contract

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03 2018, @06:33PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03 2018, @06:33PM (#688076)

    Yet another abandoned google project! At least they are consistent! :)

    • (Score: -1, Troll) by Ethanol-fueled on Sunday June 03 2018, @08:19PM (1 child)

      by Ethanol-fueled (2792) on Sunday June 03 2018, @08:19PM (#688085) Homepage

      Fuck those fucking Jews. Those fifth-columnist bastardos wlil fall under Trump.

      Trump wins. Faggot fifth-columnists will fall. Suck my niggerdick, you fucking Nancies.

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Sunday June 03 2018, @08:25PM (1 child)

      by frojack (1554) on Sunday June 03 2018, @08:25PM (#688086) Journal

      Not really, they were supposed to get a boatload of people using it before pulling the plug.

      9 mil through 2019 won't buy many Google employees.

      Also they said Google wouldn't continue. That might not mean what everyone think's it will mean.
      But it will probably be shipped off to some obscure branch not located on the same campus and obfuscated by a few rings of paper companies.

      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 04 2018, @12:58AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 04 2018, @12:58AM (#688171)

        Because everybody forgets they are a TLA funded constitutional bypass.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by looorg on Sunday June 03 2018, @06:34PM (3 children)

    by looorg (578) on Sunday June 03 2018, @06:34PM (#688077)

    It might not be Google but it wouldn't surprise me if Alphabet just created a new company under its umbrella just to deal with all the "nasty" sides of the business, as in it serving the intelligence community/military/government/law enforcement with various software and hardware solutions. Far away from all the sensitive souls and people over at Google.

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by opinionated_science on Sunday June 03 2018, @06:40PM

      by opinionated_science (4031) on Sunday June 03 2018, @06:40PM (#688079)

      that was my first thought when they created alphabet - liability "dispersal".

      Look at the brand names from 100 years ago - how many have since been found out to have "helped the Nazis"?

      They figured out that the shell games works best, when the shells can be moved to take liability and PR heat, of relatively immoral business practices.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03 2018, @08:07PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03 2018, @08:07PM (#688083)

      Google says it will not renew Project Maven--but collaboration with Pentagon will continue []

      In comments to the World Socialist Web Site, academics Lucy Suchman and Peter Asaro, two of the authors of a recent open letter signed by more than 1,000 academics demanding that Google end its participation in the illegal drone murder program, said they were "gratified to see Google take the decision not to renew its contract for Project Maven, and to make the decision public". They demanded that Google take "a clear and consistent stand against the weaponization of its technologies".

      "I do think it's significant, in other words, that there was sufficient resistance inside the company that Google has had to respond, and it's posed a tangible obstacle to growing relations with the DoD", said Dr. Suchman. "The fact that those who entered into this contract attempted to do so quietly, if not actually in secret, shows that they anticipated how contested it would be (and then of course went ahead with it anyway)."

      While Google claims it will not renew the contract, it will be involved with the project for the rest of the year, and will continue to deepen its intimate collaboration with the Pentagon. The company will also keep bidding for other contracts with the military not directly involving the use of artificial intelligence. Dr. Suchman added, "I suspect they'll continue to look for ways of sustaining their Pentagon relations and spinning them as benign."

      it wouldn't surprise me if Alphabet just created a new company under its umbrella

      From just a few days back:
      "Don't be Evil" Disappearing From Google's Code of Conduct []

      -- OriginalOwner_ []

    • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Monday June 04 2018, @08:50AM

      by darkfeline (1030) on Monday June 04 2018, @08:50AM (#688294) Homepage

      But that still prevents the new company from using Google technology and resources, no?

      If Alphabet created an Evil Co to contract with the US military, Evil Co would have to use its own technology and resources for that. It could theoretically also contract with Google to provide the actual AI for the military contract, but I would guess that Google employees would catch on to that.

      Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03 2018, @06:36PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03 2018, @06:36PM (#688078)

    Left hand meets right hand then goes back into pocket. Like Google was ever not part of the U.S. Military Industrial complex.

    • (Score: 2) by realDonaldTrump on Sunday June 03 2018, @08:38PM

      by realDonaldTrump (6614) on Sunday June 03 2018, @08:38PM (#688090) Homepage Journal

      Google is a creation of CIA & NSA, they called it Massive Digital Data Systems. They don't like to be called the military-industrial complex, it's politically incorrect. They like to be called the intelligence community. I call them leakers, liars & traitors. The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by "intelligence" like candy. Very un-American!

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03 2018, @10:23PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 03 2018, @10:23PM (#688118)

    does anyone really for a second believe it won't be continued in secret?

    PRISM not ringin' a bell?

    • (Score: 2) by frojack on Monday June 04 2018, @12:10AM (1 child)

      by frojack (1554) on Monday June 04 2018, @12:10AM (#688156) Journal

      Perhaps it should continue in secret.

      Isn't that how most weapon systems are developed?
      Not sure an Advertising company it the best choice for that, especially one who makes it their business to be all up in everybody else's business.

      Maybe the guys sitting in Creech Air Force Base are hitting too many "Wedding Parties" by mistake.
      Maybe some AI might prevent that.
      We've already proven you don't need AI to hit hospitals and schools.

      No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
      • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday June 04 2018, @04:13PM

        by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 04 2018, @04:13PM (#688420) Journal

        It does not need to be continued in Secret.

        Microsoft would be proud to openly participate in a project like this. Just think of it. AI helping to kill humans. What's not to love?

        Sort of like IBM []

        The people who rely on government handouts and refuse to work should be kicked out of congress.
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 04 2018, @11:20AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 04 2018, @11:20AM (#688319)

    Hey Google, why not just buy Canada? Move it all north, and get JT to put a tariff on exporting AI research. Touché!

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday June 04 2018, @04:29PM

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 04 2018, @04:29PM (#688427) Journal

      Hey Google,

      Be Careful !!! What you say there could unintentionally cause something with major international implications to occur.

      The people who rely on government handouts and refuse to work should be kicked out of congress.
  • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday June 04 2018, @02:44PM (2 children)

    by VLM (445) on Monday June 04 2018, @02:44PM (#688383)

    Is anyone else sick of these stories where normies talk about Maven?

    I soil myself by working with Java on rare occasion kinda like an alkie shamefully hitting the bottle, but hell, its really the only game in town to play on Android. So that shame aside, I see endless two minutes hate about "maven sux" "google should erase maven" "maven is pure evil" and EVERY frigging time I think "yeah F Apache Maven, I'm pretty happy using Gradle, or at least nothing bad has happened to me... yet". I don't know if android studio even supports legacy Maven. But I do remember doing Java stuff with Maven in the bad old days. I don't like IDEs other than emacs but for something with pages and pages of boilerplate, the modern COBOL of java requires an IDE, there's just so much repetitious data entry even with IDE help. I didn't like COBOL in school around the turn of the century (get an exciting job in Y2K remediation!) and I don't like modern COBOL aka java. I'm horrified to say "Enterprise Java Hello World" the one with 45 classes and every "software design pattern" that ever existed is no parody of actual java code. Ugly.

    Now if the military and google had a sense of humor, for PR reasons they'd shitcan this "Project Maven" (WRT NSA intel analysis) and rebrand the same project under a name no one (outside of tech) would expect, perhaps rename it to "Project Gradle". You have to admit that would be funny.

    I think at least half the kneejerk two minutes hate of Googles Project Maven is instinctual hatred of Apache Maven from the old days.

    • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Monday June 04 2018, @04:27PM (1 child)

      by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Monday June 04 2018, @04:27PM (#688426) Journal

      Yes. IDEs for Java. And yes, Maven is what I thought of too.

      People who prefer a simple text editor rather than the distracting noisy blinking lights of a modern IDE is like saying they prefer to dig ditches with a shovel
      rather than the distraction and noise of a backhoe. Both the IDE and backhoe have a steep learning curve. Anyone can learn to use the simple text editor or shovel.

      I think of Java as 21st century COBOL for a different reason. The sheer economic value of the code written in Java and the things that code does.

      I like Lispy languages more. But Java sits at a nice level of abstraction for almost any type of application or server code -- unless you really need to be close to the bare metal. In the last few years Java has gotten some very nice improvements. Lambda functions. Streams. Easier to use, higher level concurrency features.

      But like COBOL, yeah, Java is verbose. Modern IDEs type much of that verbiage for you with a few keystrokes. Type in the right hand part of an assignment, the IDE can generate the left hand side with a (usually) well chosen variable name and the appropriate type. Need a for() loop, a keystroke gets you a template at the current cursor position. And Ctrl-spacebar completes so many identifiers.

      The people who rely on government handouts and refuse to work should be kicked out of congress.
      • (Score: 2) by VLM on Monday June 04 2018, @06:18PM

        by VLM (445) on Monday June 04 2018, @06:18PM (#688475)

        But like COBOL, yeah, Java is verbose.

        Even the simplest project feels like writing PIC lines in COBOL again.

        In the "bad old days" if you wanted to hit a DB and see a query result, you'd have about 4 lines of perl as an apache CGI and for low load quick hacks (aka 90% of the computing world) thats good enough. Not the fastest thing in the world but very fast to write.

        Now, no kidding, the way you do that task on Android is you have an ORM for the DB named "room" so you have a class defining the table, then a data access object class holding all (one) of the queries and other SQL the magic annotator can't automagically figure out. Then that talks to a repository class that takes you from concurrent multithread UI mode to the singleton DB thread via insertAsyncTask and the magic of the LiveData library. Next is a viewmodel class that passes thru and caches the data so you don't whack the database every time you rotate the device. Then the viewmodel class talks to a list adapter class which busts the possibly multiple query responses into individual lines on a recyclerview type list, maybe. Then theres a listactivity class which is kinda the last java of your UI to handle like floating action buttons and what callbacks to kick when you select some menu or button or whatnot. Then that activity class calls a XML layout file usually named after the activity class that handles big pix UI (like FABs or menus ..) Then that usually includes a xml file for what yer working on, usually named content_whatevs_list.xml or some such. Then that probably contained a recyclerview or other list like thing so you call another layout to handle and format items inside a recycler list.

        So lemme think ... six java classes and three XML files? Of course thats not a working app, ye need a manifest XML file to define the whole stinking circus, some kind of MainActivity that boots it up and transfers control to the list activity class mentioned above, oh don't forget the whole point was having a database connection so there's a class to maintain one DB connection, do migrations if necessary and all that rot. Of course something like SQLite is funky so you'll probably need one, some, many type converter classes to convert data types like a java date into a sqlite plain old string or similar conversions, or maybe you'll be lucky.

        Also note on android you can't do things the wrong way... your app will crash out with some bullshit about not calling DB queries on main thread, if you dare such a thing. Do it all, all of it, with Async and callbacks, or die trying.

        Figure four lines of perl in a CGI script (maybe less) to do an ugly job of dumping a sql select into a pre /pre formatted web page, which works but is pretty ugly, vs 9 or so java classes and 4 or so XML files to do about the same thing "the right way" on android. Its at least a couple hundred lines of repetitive code.

        Actually for something really simple I'd skip the perl and have a shell script with about three lines, echo Content-type text/plain; echo ; mysql -e "select * from some_bs_table where whatevs" and some other fun options etc;