Project Maven: Google employees resign over controversial United States military AI programme

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Now, according to Gizmodo, "about a dozen" Google employees are resigning due to Project Maven.

Google's role has been to provide AI smarts to allow drone footage to be classified and tagged, thus making it easier to identify certain objects and people - some of whom would be, therefore, potential targets.

Citing sources, the report said employees who have resigned raised a variety of concerns, including ethical questions about using artificial intelligence in drone warfare.

Discussing their decision to leave Google, the employees told Gizmodo that they believe executives are becoming reluctant to discuss business decisions with the workforce.

But according to Gizmodo, this project has been hugely controversial within Google, with some employees saying that it jeopardises trust and goes against the company's core beliefs.

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In addition to those who resigned, there are also almost 4,000 employees who have signed an internal petition asking Google to immediately cancel their contract and institute a policy on future military work.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that more than 90 academics have this week released an open letter that has called on Google to end its work on Project Maven and to support an worldwide treaty prohibiting autonomous weapons systems.

The message was addressed to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, Google's parent company, Larry Page and two high-level cloud executives, Diane Greene and Fei-Fei Li.

Google has defended itself by arguing that the technology the military is using is open-source and thus can be used regardless of the company's actual involvement, and insisted that the technology would not be used for combat operations. These sessions featured speakers who supported and opposed Maven and stressed the difficulty of drafting policy about the ethical use of machine learning, an attendee explained. "I realized if I can't recommend people join here, then why am I still here?" a resigning Google employee said.

"At some point, I realized I could not in good faith recommend anyone join Google, knowing what I knew".

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"I tried to remind myself right that Google's decisions are not my decisions".

"But I do feel responsibility".

"An important part of our culture is having employees who are actively engaged in the work that we do". The letter says Google should "commit to not weaponizing its technology" and terminate its contract with the DoD. "The technology is used to flag images for human review and is meant to save lives and save people from having to do highly tedious work".

"The tech flags pictures for human inspection, and is "Military usage of machine learning obviously raises legitimate concerns".

Fortune contacted Google for comment about these resignations and will update this post if it responds. According to Gizmodo, the resigning employees were told that that company was fleshing out a new ethics policy on AI research, but that it had yet to materialize.

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