Some 400 technology academics and researchers from around the world have also thrown their weight behind the Google protesters' cause, publishing an open letter calling on the company to withdraw from Project Maven and commit to "not weaponizing its technology".
Project Maven looks to help the USA military assess drone footage quickly using AI and machine learning.
It stated: "The private data collected by Google comes with a responsibility not only to use that data to improve its own technologies and expand its business, but also to benefit society. Building this technology to assist the US Government in military surveillance - and potentially lethal outcomes - is not acceptable". AI chief Jeff Dean revealed at the I/O conference that he signed an open letter back in 2015 opposing the use of AI in autonomous weapons. "These include so-called signature strikes and pattern-of-life strikes that target people based not on known activities but on probabilities drawn from long-range surveillance footage".
Google countered, saying the technology was nonoffensive, although that doesn't seem to have placated the disgruntled employees who want no part in war-related projects. When we first learned about the petition in April, it had been signed by over 3,100 Google employees.
The spokesperson added in the statement that their work was "intended to save lives" and that they were working on internal policies to govern complicated decisions involving AI technology and defense contracts.
According to Gizmodo, around 12 people have left Google and shared their reasoning for doing so in an internal memo.
In addition to the letter released by almost 4,000 employees and the petition signed by academics, the Tech Workers Coalition created their own petition criticizing Google not just for Project Maven but for doubling down on the controversy by bidding heavily on a contract to work on the Pentagon's JEDI program, an effort by the military to integrate cloud computing into their work.
"The DoD contracts under consideration by Google, and similar contracts already in place at Microsoft and Amazon, signal a risky alliance between the private tech industry, now in possession of vast quantities of sensitive personal data collected from people across the globe, and one country's military", the letter states. According to the Wall Street Journal, the Defense Department spent $7.4 billion on technology involving AI previous year alone.
However members of the tech industry are anxious. "We are then just a short step away from authorizing autonomous drones to kill automatically, without human supervision or meaningful human control", the letter said.
A number of employees have resigned from Google following the search giant's deal to provide artificial intelligence to the United States military.
According to the Pentagon, the project aims to develop and integrate "computer-vision algorithms needed to help military and civilian analysts encumbered by the sheer volume of full-motion video data that Department of Defense collects every day in support of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations".