Just days after Google announced that it was pulling out of the race to win the $10 billion JEDI contract from the Pentagon, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has stated that Amazon will continue to support Pentagon and Defense projects.
But Bezos went further, criticising tech companies that don’t work with the military.
Speaking at Wired25 Conference, the Amazon chief said “if big tech companies are going to turn their back on U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), this country is going to be in trouble… One of the jobs of senior leadership is to make the right decision, even when it’s unpopular.”
Bezos remains unfazed by criticism
It would seem that Bezos isn’t fazed by criticism that other companies have faced.
Google explained its withdrawal by saying “we couldn’t be assured that it would align with our AI Principles.” However, it’s likely that the significant internal debate about the ethical uses of AI, as well as a wave of protests against Project Maven earlier in the year were critical components in the final decision.
Microsoft remains in the running for the JEDI contract, but there appears to be much more internal conflict over the issue. Anonymous Microsoft employees have, for example, published an open letter to senior management on Medium.
The letter states:
“What are Microsoft’s AI Principles, especially regarding the violent application of powerful A.I. technology? How will workers, who build and maintain these services in the first place, know whether our work is being used to aid profiling, surveillance, or killing?”
Clearly, Jeff Bezos isn’t too worried about upsetting his employees. Perhaps the story says something about the difference in the corporate structure of these huge companies. While they all have high-profile management teams, its only at Amazon that the single figure of Bezos reigns supreme in the spotlight.
With Blue Origin he’s got his sights set on something far beyond ethical decision making – sending humans into space. Cynics might even say it’s the logical extension of the implicit imperialism of his enthusiasm for Pentagon.