Google’s decision to withdraw from some Pentagon business following an internal revolt is creating a moral hazard for itself and its employees, former Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said.
In April, some 3,100 Google employees signed a letter urging the company to forgo work on Project Maven, a pioneering, if still small-scale, Air Force program that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to sort through surveillance video footage. In May, company officials announced they would do no more work on Maven after their contract runs out next year.
Speaking Tuesday at the Defense One Tech Summit in Washington, D.C., Work said that company employees who worry that the Pentagon’s artificial intelligence will kill people should should consider that it would increase risks for someone else.
“They say, ‘What if the work is ultimately used to take lives. But what if it saves American lives? 500 American lives? Or 500 lives of our allies?”
Work said he isn’t hearing the same employees complain that Google also opened an AI research center in China last year.
“Google has a center in China, where they have a concept called civil-military fusion,” he said. “Anything that’s going on in that center is going to be used by the military.”
Work, who stepped down as the Defense Department’s No. 2 civilian leader last July, recently joined the board of advisors of big-data firm Govini. He said that Maven was launched as a pilot program, to help the Pentagon learn how AI could help, and how the military could put it to work.