Google retreating from military Artificial Intelligence project

The contract is reported to be worth just under US$10 million to Google, but could potentially lead to more extensive cooperation with the Pentagon. She added that the decision to embark on the project had been made "at a time when Google was more aggressively pursuing military work".

Known as Project Maven, the controversial pilot program involves Google providing artificial intelligence capabilities to the DoD for the analysis of drone footage.

This use case is well suited for AI given how humans can not analyze all the available drone footage, with Google noting that the system sifts through "unclassified data" for later review by humans and that it's being leveraged for "non-offensive uses only".

The project got off the ground in April 2017, but it didn't make waves until a year later when more than 3,100 Google employees signed a letter to CEO Sundar Pichai opposing the partnership on ethical grounds.

Targets acquired: As first reported by Gizmodo, Google has been supplying technology and know-how to the USA military for automating the analysis of drone footage.

Google will release guidelines on the ethical use of AI next week, according to the Gizmodo report.

DigitalGlobe, a geospatial data provider that's been reported to provide data to the project, didn't reply to a request for comment.

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A senior Google scientist once warned in an email that winning a military artificial-intelligence contract would spark a controversy beyond the company's control.

Disquiet around Google's involvement with US Pentagon programme Project Maven has been building for some months now.

The Mountain View, Calif. -based firm is said to have been using machine learning to help the Department of Defense classify images captured by drones. About a dozen employees resigned in protest.

The employees fear that the project is the first step towards using artificial intelligence for lethal purposes.

Some employees planned to hold a public rally in San Francisco in July, coinciding with a Google conference, according to one source. "We value all of our relationships with academic institutions and commercial companies involved with Project Maven". Its budget also had the possibility of growing to as much as $250 million.

"Google management is finally recognizing that their workforce will not let this issue slide, but TWC is skeptical that internal rules will substantially alter their position in regards to military contracts", a TWC representative said in an email to Fast Company.

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