Google Won't Renew Pentagon AI Drone Deal After Staff Backlash

Furious staff members have flooded message boards, attended fractious meetings, created anti-Maven stickers, and resigned in protest.

The collaboration with the US Department of Defense was said to have sparked rebellion inside the California-based company.

The contract is reported to be worth less than $10m (£7.5m) to Google but could potentially lead to more extensive cooperation with the Pentagon.

They feared it was the first step towards using artificial intelligence for lethal purposes. The Department of Defense said machine learning was critical to "maintain advantages over increasingly capable adversaries and competitors," but critics say Google's involvement could help improve the accuracy of drone missile strikes. "And there will be no follow-on to Maven", Greene told cloud division staff on Friday.

The source said Google does plan to outline its views on the ethics of its artificial intelligence work at some point in the near future. "Weaponised AI is probably one of the most sensitised topics of AI - if not THE most".

"This isn't a subject we're discussing at this time", a spokesperson wrote in an email to Fast Company. "I believe in human-centered AI to benefit people in positive and benevolent ways", she said.

Google would not choose to pursue Maven today because the backlash has been awful for the company, Greene said, adding that the decision was made at a time when Google was more aggressively pursuing military work. More than 6,400 employees signed a petition calling for Google to cancel the deal, with at least 13 employees resigning in recent weeks in protest at Google's involvement, according to a second person familiar with the deal.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai.

After all that internal strife, Project Maven's dissenters have apparently won out.

Google declined to comment on internal documents and messages seen by Reuters.

The Google workers also noted the company's well-known former motto, "Don't be evil", warning that Project Maven "will irreparably damage Google's brand and its ability to compete for talent".

Google didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

While what these guidelines will entail is not yet known, Google will include a ban on the use of AI in weaponry.

Diane Greene, the chief executive in charge of Google's cloud businesses, told employees during a morning meeting that the company won't seek another contract for the Pentagon partnership, three sources told the tech website.

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