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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

How tech employees are pushing Silicon Valley to put ethics before profit

Alexia Fernández Campbell
vox.com
Originally published October 18, 2018

The chorus of tech workers demanding American tech companies put ethics before profit is growing louder.

In recent days, employees at Google and Microsoft have been pressuring company executives to drop bids for a $10 billion contract to provide cloud computing services to the Department of Defense.

As part of the contract, known as JEDI, engineers would build cloud storage for military data; there are few public details about what else it would entail. But one thing is clear: The project would involve using artificial intelligence to make the US military a lot deadlier.

“This program is truly about increasing the lethality of our department and providing the best resources to our men and women in uniform,” John Gibson, chief management officer at the Defense Department, said at a March industry event about JEDI.

Thousands of Google employees reportedly pressured the company to drop its bid for the project, and many had said they would refuse to work on it. They pointed out that such work may violate the company’s new ethics policy on the use of artificial intelligence. Google has pledged not to use AI to make “weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people,” a policy company employees had pushed for.

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