Google assists US military

Google assists US military
The U.S. Department of Defense is being assisted by tech giant Google in analyzing drone footage. The US government is using Google’s advanced artificial intelligence..

The U.S. Department of Defense is being assisted by tech giant Google in analyzing drone footage. The US government is using Google’s advanced artificial intelligence technology to carry out its mission.

This is a controversial move by the tech company that has often kept its interactions with the military to the bare minimum in the past.

Background

Artificial intelligence is the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that can otherwise be performed only through human intelligence. This includes but is not limited to visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.

Presently, most of the technology focused on Artificial Intelligence is properly known as narrow AI or weak AI. Self-driving cars and Siri are some of the platforms that employ AI (narrow AI). Researchers and experts now believe that humanity is now on the path to creating General Artificial Intelligence (AGI). According to scientists, AGI would be able to outperform humans in nearly every single cognitive task.

Tech companies have also spoken against unregulated use of AI. In 2017, 116 robotics and artificial intelligence companies from across the world co-signed an open letter urging the members of the United Nations to ban ‘killer robots’. Apart from Tesla’s Elon Musk, Mustafa Suleyman, the co-founder of Google's DeepMind also signed the appeal. The letter stated, “Once developed, they will permit armed conflict to be fought at a scale greater than ever, and at timescales faster than humans can comprehend. These can be weapons of terror, weapons that despots and terrorists use against innocent populations, and weapons hacked to behave in undesirable ways."

One of the most successful programmes that have been created with regards to AI is Google’s AlphaGo. In 2016, the AlphaGo program beat a human professional Go player Lee Sedol for the first time. Go is a strategic board game that is considered even more difficult than Chess. In 2017, Google’s DeepMind achieved yet another landmark in the field. The team has created a program that has for the first time taught itself from scratch how to defeat human players in the complex Chinese game of Go.

Analysis

The U.S. Department of Defense is reportedly using advance artificial intelligence technology from Google to analyze drone footage. The US government is using Google’s advanced artificial intelligence technology to carry out its mission.

In a statement, a spokesperson from Google that the search giant were providing “open source TensorFlow APIs that can assist in object recognition on unclassified data”. "The technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only," the Google spokeswoman said. "Military use of machine learning naturally raises valid concerns. We’re actively discussing this important topic internally and with others as we continue to develop policies and safeguards around the development and use of our machine learning technologies."

Google’s pilot project with the Defense Department’s Project Maven, an effort to identify objects in drone footage. However, the media has reported that employees within the company are deeply divided about Google’s involvement with the US military. Google’s Eric Schmidt summed up the tech industry’s concerns about collaborating with the Pentagon at a talk last fall. “There’s a general concern in the tech community of somehow the military-industrial complex using their stuff to kill people incorrectly,” he said.

Google has said that its collaboration with the military had nothing to do with combat. After Google bought AI specialist DeepMind in 2014, the company set up an ethics committee to ensure the technology wasn’t abused.

Assessment

Our assessment is that experts and analysts have long warned about artificial intelligence prevalent in law enforcement and military applications. AI is already being deployed in the development of military equipment and this has caused concern in the international community. Governments across the world will also now be wary of Google’s presence in their countries if it expands its collaboration with US military.

Comments