Raising ethical concerns over Google’s continued involvement in developing Artificial Intelligence for military and warfare purposes, about a dozen Google employees have reportedly resigned. Since inception, many Googlers have been against Project Maven – Google’s project with the Pentagon, regarding the supply of machine learning technologies for image recognition and object detection purposes in the military drones.
Earlier in April, Google employees had signed a petition, urging Google CEO Sundar Pichai to dissociate themselves from the Department of Defence by pulling out of Project Maven. They were of the opinion that humans, not AI algorithms, should be responsible for the sensitive and potentially life-threatening military work, and Google should invest in the betterment of human lives, not in war.
Google had reassured their employees that the technology would be used in a non-offensive manner, and that policies were in effect regarding the use of AI in military projects. However, the resigning employees are of the view that these policies were not being strictly followed. The employees also felt that Google were less transparent about communicating controversial business decisions and were not receptive of the employee feedback like before. One of the employees who has resigned said, “Over the last couple of months, I’ve been less and less impressed with Google’s response and the way our concerns are being listened to.”
The resignation of the employees sheds a bad light on Google’s employee retention strategy, and their reputation as a whole. These resignations might encourage more employees to evaluate their position within the company, given the lack of grievance redressal from Google’s end. Surrounded by fierce competition, losing talent to their rivals should be the last thing on Google’s agenda right now, and it will be interesting to see what Google’s plan of action will be in this regard. On the other hand, rivals Microsoft and Amazon have also signed partnerships with the US government, offering the required infrastructure and services to improve the defence functionalities. While there has been no reports of protests by their employees, Google seem to have found themselves in a soup, on ethical and moral grounds.