Google

California: Google will not develop artificial intelligence (AI*) for use in weapons, its CEO Sundar Pichai has said, after facing a backlash over the technology giant’s involvement in a Pentagon project.

Google recently announced it would discontinue work with the US Department of Defense on Project Maven, an artificial intelligence project that analyses imagery and could be used to enhance the efficiency of drone strikes.

Following this, thousands of employees had signed onto a letter warning that Google’s participation contravened the company’s ethical tenets.

Stating that “Google should not be in the business of war”, the letter warned that the company’s involvement would compromise its image and drive away potential employees, The Independent reported.

*AI is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence which is displayed by humans and other animals. AI research is defined as the study of ‘intelligent agents’: any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals.

The Indian-origin CEO also said the company would not design or deploy AI in areas including weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people. He said Google will not develop technologies that gather or use information for surveillance violating internationally accepted norms and technologies whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.

“We want to be clear that while we are not developing AI for use in weapons, we will continue our work with governments and the military in many other areas,” Pichai said in a blog post. “These include cybersecurity, training, military recruitment, veterans’ healthcare, and search and rescue. These collaborations are important and we’ll actively look for more ways to augment the critical work of these organisations and keep service members and civilians safe,” he said.

Pichai also announced seven principles to guide the work going forward. He said that these were not theoretical concepts but concrete standards that will “actively govern our research and product development and will impact our business decisions”.