Silicon Valley needs to agree “AI principles” to work with military
Eric Schmidt, former CEO and chairman of Silicon Valley titan Google, said on Tuesday that big tech needed to agree on how to work with the military. Schmidt, who remains an Alphabet board member, was testifying before the House Armed Services Committee last week in a private capacity – hence, his statements are not necessarily a reflection of the wider thinking at the company.
Alphabet’s share price has risen by 27% over the past 12 months
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He said that artificial intelligence (AI) could be useful for “defensive and perhaps offensive purposes” in warfare, but pointed out that the military would need to work with private companies to get the best tech available. At the moment, this is a problem: Silicon Valley is notoriously unwilling to become a part of the military-industrial complex.
This was made particularly clear at Google itself last month, when the company’s involvement in “Project Maven” (analysis of drone imagery for the U.S. military) was made public. It prompted the release of an open letter, signed by 3,000 Google employees, addressed to CEO Sundar Pichai. The letter read:
“We believe that Google should not be in the business of war. 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.”
Nonetheless, Schmidt thinks agreements can be reached – provided the requisite consensus between heavyweights in the tech world is assured. He said: “The industry is going to come to some set of agreements on AI principles — what is appropriate use, what is not — and my guess is that there will be some kind of consensus among key industry players on that.”
Elaborating in his written statement, he continued: “The world’s most prominent AI companies focus on gathering the data on which to train AI and the human capital to support and execute AI operations. If DoD is to become ‘AI‑ready,’ it must continue down the pathway that Project Maven paved and create a foundation for similar projects to flourish... It is imperative the Department focus energy and attention on taking action now to ensure these technologies are developed by the U.S. military in an appropriate, ethical, and responsible framework.”
Dominion holds Alphabet, the parent company of Google, as well as other big technology companies, in its Global Trends Managed Fund.
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