Google's Project Maven program for AI-based military drone image recognition program could net the company up to $250 million per year, according to internal memos seen by The Intercept. That's a lot more than the $9 million Google reportedly told employees the contract was worth. What's more, the program may be tied to a much bigger contract, possibly the US military's JEDI Cloud program. The information came from an email chain between Google Cloud head scientist Dr. Fei-Fei Li and other employees. "Total deal $25-$30M, $15M to Google over the next 18 months," Li wrote.
It looks like the drama surrounding Google's controversial involvement in Project Maven is coming to an end. Yet another report from Gizmodo on the subject says that Google won't be renewing the project once its current contract runs out. Project Maven is an initiative from the Department of Defense, which aims to "accelerate DoD's integration of big data and machine learning." The DoD has millions of hours of drone footage that pour in from around the world, and having humans comb through it for "objects of interest" isn't a scalable proposition. So Maven recruited several tech firms for image recognition technology that could be used to identify objects of interest in the footage.
Google is ending its involvement with Project Maven, the controversial Pentagon research program that sought to use AI to improve object recognition in military drones. Diane Greene, head of Google Cloud, told employees during a Friday meeting that the company will let its current contract with the Defense Department lapse in 2019 and that it will not pursue a new one, according to the New York Times and Gizmodo. The announcement comes shortly after Google said it would draft an ethics policy to guide its involvement in future military projects -- one that would explicitly ban the use of artificial intelligence in weaponry. "It is incumbent on us to show leadership [in the ethical use of AI]," Green reportedly said during the meeting. I am happy about this decision.
Google is committing to not using artificial intelligence for weapons or surveillance after employees protested the company's involvement in Project Maven, a Pentagon pilot program that uses artificial intelligence to analyse drone footage. However, Google says it will continue to work with the United States military on cybersecurity, search and rescue, and other non-offensive projects. Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced the change in a set of AI principles released today. The principles are intended to govern Google's use of artificial intelligence and are a response to employee pressure on the company to create guidelines for its use of AI. Employees at the company have spent months protesting Google's involvement in Project Maven, sending a letter to Pichai demanding that Google terminate its contract with the Department of Defense.
Google employees have spoken out against the project and their opposition ultimately led to the company deciding not to renew the contract when it expires next year. Now, former Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, who started the Project Maven initiative, is saying he's "alarmed" by Google's decision to walk away from the program. Bloomberg reports that Work shared his concerns about the move during an event on tech in the military held today in Washington. "I fully agree that it might wind up with us taking a shot, but it could easily save lives. I believe the Google employees created an enormous moral hazard for themselves."