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Google staff: we are different

via:博客园     time:2018/4/11 19:28:10     readed:499


One thing that happened recently in the scientific and technological community. This incident also blew on the U.S. Department of Defense and caused a storm.

The thing is this: Google employees have published open letters opposing the participation of the US Department of Defense's artificial intelligence program and have signed more than 3,100 signatures. The appeal of this open letter is: Google should not be involved in war, and Google and its supply chain ecology should never develop war technology. Ask the company to withdraw from the US Department of Defense project, Project Maven.



Foreign media scrambled to report on this matter:

  1. The Pentagon uses Google’s TensorFlow API to analyze the footage captured by the drone lens.


2. Member of the executive board of Google Holding's parent company, former executive chairman of the company, Eric Schmidt, and also a member of the Defence Innovation Board.


3. The US Department of Homeland Security spent US$1.5 million in cooperation with Google and its crowdsourcing competition platform, Kaggle, to find new algorithms to identify objects detected by airport security agency scanners.


As soon as the incident occurred, external opponents said that although the company should listen to employees' opinions, employees should also be clear that the company as a management organization should not make decisions in a democratic way. It can thus be seen that the opinions of opponents just reflected his ignorance of Google's culture. "Transparency" is one of Google's core cultural concepts.

What is a transparent corporate culture? To put it plainly, it is the cultural atmosphere that supports employees and senior management personnel to conduct various forms of open communication. Many companies have similar forms, but the culture does not support them. When employees meet the management, they dare not say anything. Indeed, transparency fosters a culture of integrity, accountability, and openness, rather than the guesswork and suspicion that corporate employees have in common. Make the team full of anxiety and mistrust.

A good corporate culture can establish a link between people and people, which can give people strength and anger. However, some analysts pointed out in the media that a number of Google employees familiar with the contents of the letter only uttered anonymity, indicating that they may still be worried about being drafted after the fall. However, after the issuance of the open letter, more than 3,100 signatures were issued to prove that the employee's recognition of contradictions and conflicts is very high. They are willing to participate and are willing to discuss.

Google employees dared to flagrantly antagonize the company's management. The main reason was that Google employees felt that they were "not the same." After receiving the open letter, a statement made by Google’s relevant spokesperson to the “New York Times” showed that employees and the company must first publicly communicate this form. To characterize it as "very important and useful". However, he did not mention any plans to brake the project. The statement also emphasized that the technology used by the Pentagon can be used for "any customer of Google Cloud Services" and will only be used for "non-attack purposes".


A Google spokesperson stated that we have long been working with government agencies to provide technical solutions. This particular project is a pilot project of the Department of Defense that provides open source TensorFlow APIs. This technology can mark images and is only used for non-offensive purposes. The application of machine learning in the military field naturally attracts attention. We are actively discussing this important topic internally and with others because we will continue to develop policies and protections around the development and use of our machine learning technology.

We use the open letter of Google employees themselves to see exactly what triggered the internal debate within Google.

US Defense urgently needs to embrace Silicon Valley Technology Corporation

First, let's take a look at the background of Project Maven, the US Department of Defense project.

In the war on terror, terrorist organizations acquired the technology needed to carry out a terrorist attack through purchase. Their use of advanced technology led the US Department of Defense to reflect on it, especially in comparison with the relatively backward national defense system. During the period from 2000 to 2008, the rapid development of technological Internet technology contrasts sharply with the old state clock of the United States defense information technology. The U.S. Department of Defense is a well-known bureaucracy. Its bureaucratic culture is deeply entrenched, and the resistance and difficulty of innovation can be imagined. "We do not have the motivation to embrace the risks." "Similar to this statement, has long been the consensus of the Ministry of National Defense personnel at all levels.

In this context, various projects have emerged. Hopefully, we will be able to break the bureaucratic and conservative culture. Project Maven is one of them. The executive board member of the parent company of Google Holdings mentioned in the previous article also serves as a member of the National Defense Innovation Committee. This can also be considered as an important measure for the US Department of Defense to absorb the role of a professional technology board.


Why does the US Department of Defense Project Maven find Silicon Valley technology giant Google? Mainly to obtain cutting-edge technology, commercial technology innovation is needed to address defense needs. In fact, the thinking of the US Department of Defense is also very simple, lack of money to buy, buy and buy, not bad money.

Artificial intelligence war algorithm bears the brunt

At present, the U.S. Air Force is taking action to integrate artificial intelligence into its operations. The U.S. Department of Defense has already discovered that artificial intelligence technology meets the needs of military intelligence. Their first project was Project Maven, which will use artificial intelligence and machine learning to quickly screen drones to collect images and gather useful intelligence. As early as April 2017, the Deputy Secretary of Defense of the United States Department of Defense issued a project memo to launch Project Maven to launch a drone full-motion video artificial intelligence algorithm project to improve the autonomous level of drone video processing, discovery and distribution.

This project uses artificial intelligence algorithms to analyze and excavate the massive data obtained on the battlefield of drones through machine learning, transforming them into valuable operational intelligence and military insights, and opening the way for artificial intelligence military applications. An important milestone in the application process of the Ministry of Defense's battlefield artificial intelligence technology.


Project Maven Memo

The current headache is that analysts spend a lot of time or hours watching videos to find valuable content. If the project is successfully applied, it will reduce the time cost of military intelligence personnel.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense is no stranger to artificial intelligence:

  • In April 2017, the Air Force demonstrated an experimental F-16 fighter that could operate on its own.

  • In May 2017, the U.S. Marine Corps began testing a remote-controlled machine gun robot and expressed its desire for automation. This means that the United States hopes to lead its opponents in the current artificial intelligence arms race.

  • Project Maven is known as the Pathfinder-type project and has become a well-known "pilot project".

The attitude of the U.S. Department of Defense has been very clear ——full embrace of artificial intelligence. And Google employees explicitly openly oppose the participation of project Maven.


Amazon, Google, Microsoft grab government orders

In terms of cloud services, the U.S. Department of Defense also seeks cooperation from Silicon Valley technology companies, including Google. In addition, Amazon had spared no effort to publicize its image recognition research results for the US Department of Defense. Microsoft had previously signed a cloud service contract with the U.S. government to handle confidential information for military and defense agencies. Now Google employees openly stated that they do not accept orders from the U.S. Department of Defense as a super-large customer, and Microsoft and Amazon are very enthusiastic about the U.S. Department of Defense’s orders. The two cases are in stark contrast.


For cloud services, the U.S. Department of Defense has also set a special plan to purchase cloud services from technology companies and cooperate with the Enterprise Joint Defense Infrastructure Cloud. The US Department of Defense certainly knows the fundamental importance of cloud services in future wars, and it is undoubtedly the best choice for the industry giants that own the technology. The question is which one to buy, one to buy, or a few to buy together.

This special program aims to use the cloud infrastructure to achieve standardization and improve security. It helps the defense department to have better information sharing and computing capabilities. From the smallest combat unit to the commander can use the results to obtain real-time information in the war, better Land for operational decision-making. It is worth mentioning that when the US Department of Defense propagandized this special plan, it mentioned "decrease the number of casualties in combat personnel" and so on. It is well known that the Ministry of Defense will not use it for anything other than creating a dead machine. This time, the Chief of Defense of the Department of Defense, John Gibson (the third person in the Ministry of Defense, second only to the deputy minister) answered the media question, arguing that part of the reason for this cooperation was "to increase lethality and combat readiness."

There are also claims that Google will also compete with Amazon and Microsoft for the huge orders placed by the US Department of Defense. We can't confirm whether this statement is true at the moment, but it can be known that in the past Google has been cautious about adopting military projects and has tried hard to avoid becoming a part of the military industry. This notion even became an unwritten consensus of the company. For example: In 2013, Google had rejected funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) after acquiring a robotics company linked to military research institutions.

Some industry observers also said that the cloud-services program with the enterprise-style defense infrastructure aims to provide cloud service solutions to support the Department of Defense’s non-confidential, secret, and top secret requirements. The amount of orders for cloud services issued by the U.S. Department of Defense may total $2 billion. Everyone can make up the picture. A U.S. technology company posted on the official website a “Propaganda” page of the “US Department of Defense Cloud Service’s only partner company”. Does this seem like horrible? Technology companies participate in the war. Is this propaganda positive or negative?


The U.S. Air Force wants to introduce artificial intelligence technology into intelligence work

In addition, there is a point that Chinese artificial intelligence investors need to pay attention. The director of combat support for the Defense Intelligence Agency revealed to Reuters that they noticed that similar image recognition technology was developed by Silicon Valley Technology Corp. and would also be used by military rivals. So from 2012, CB Insights began tracking the number of artificial intelligence technology companies invested by China and developing in the United States. The director also believes that when China invests in a startup that develops advanced technology, the United States needs to bear the opportunity cost because China (investor) may ban the company from cooperating with the US Department of Defense.

to sum up

The impact of this open letter on Google’s internals remains to be seen, and the delicate game between Google and the government will surely continue. But the key lies in whether Google can find out exactly where the borders between tech companies' artificial intelligence technology and modern defense military are, and how to control such borders. We often hear people say that science and technology have no borders, but the existence of military forces is actually the existence of national boundaries. This will be a major issue that will rise to the future of mankind and the future of science and technology.

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