The Department of Defense has teamed up with Google in order to use artificial intelligence in the military. The Defense Department needs help with the technology of their new algorithmic warfare initiative, and who better to do it than Google? The tech giant has been working on so many new projects, and branching out into numerous areas of gadgets and technology.
One of those areas is artificial intelligence (AI), so Google is perfect for this job, and it is easy to see why they would jump at the chance to spread their technology to the Department of Defense (DOD). Google and the DOD were brought together by the technology staffing company, ECS Federal, and the partnership has been kept very private – the contract was first reported on Tuesday. So, what does the Pentagon want Google for exactly?
The Pentagon already has a fleet of 1,100 drones with the intention to improve combat performance “by automating the decision-making process in locating and targeting combatants…” (The Intercept). Google is being used to help these drones detect images, faces, and behavioral patterns while looking through copious amounts of video footage in order to achieve this goal of accuracy in bombing and other aspects of combat.
This is all part of Project Maven, which was launched in 2017 to create an, “Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Functional Team which advocates using sophisticated algorithm-based technologies to combat rising competitors…” (rt). The Pentagon wants to begin using big data and machine learning to improve combat and speed up the process of analyzing collected data. This will not only take out human error, but it will also cut down on the number of humans actually needed.
Race for AI
This comes at a time when AI is extremely prevalent in warfare. According to a DOD report, the three main things causing a push for AI are, “…department budgetary challenges, evolving security requirements, and a changing military environment”. Right now, the Pentagon maintains the title of the top AI developer in the world, but it is in a heated competition with other countries. Just last month, there were discussions of Chinese efforts to develop quantum computing and AI to try to get ahead of the US, so Google is a very important addition to the team at this time.
In order to help the Pentagon, Google is providing its AI framework, TensorFlow, which will aid in drone imagery and analysis. TensorFlow is an open-source, machine learning framework which was released at the end of 2015. Since then, it has been used for both research and production at Google.
According to a Google spokesperson, this particular AI for the Department of Defense is being trained to simply analyze drone footage and flag specific things for human review. This is huge for Google as the company looks to expand its reach for its cloud and AI service businesses. However, some Google employees don’t agree with working with the military.
Debate at Google
A Google spokesperson has already reassured people that the company’s technology is not being used in any sort of combat capacity, but some employees are still not satisfied. All that is known is that the program Google is helping develop will determine what data is safe to discard and what data should be kept for training, but it is unknown what the training is for.
Google has the mottos “Don’t Be Evil” and “Do the right thing”, so working with the military carries the possibility of violating those. It is easy to see how some employees are worried about the technology being used in negative ways, but combat will happen with or without Google. With Google involved, the company is helping keep the country and troops safe while profiting. It seems to be a win-win, and using Google’s technology means Google can control how it’s used anyways.