Microsoft employees protest: HoloLens for good, not war

onetheycallEric

TS Addict
Staff member

Microsoft employees have issued an open letter addressed to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and president Brad Smith protesting the controversial $480 million contract Microsoft inked with the U.S. Army to provide AR technology.

Under the terms of the contract, Microsoft would supply as many as 100,000 HoloLens headsets to support the Army's Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS. IVAS is a program designed to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy.”

Microsoft's employees, particularly those who have worked on HoloLens development, have vehemently objected to this. The letter, allegedly signed by more than 50 employees already, was published Friday afternoon and outlines employees' moral stance on the contract.

We are a global coalition of Microsoft workers, and we refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression. We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country's government "increase lethality" using tools we built. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.

The letter, which also cites Microsoft's past dealings with the military, states that the company is crossing the line into weapons development with the contract. The employees state that they believe IVAS will turn warfare into a simulated video game, while distancing soldiers from the reality and bloodshed of war. Moreover, the employees feel they've lost their say in how their work is used, believing "it would be used to help architects and engineers build buildings and cars, to help teach people how to perform surgery or play the piano, to push the boundaries of gaming, and to connect with the Mars Rover (RIP)."

As such, the letter demands that Microsoft:

  • Cancel the IVAS contract
  • Cease any and all weapons technologies and development, and draft a public policy to back that commitment
  • Appoint an external ethics review board to enforce the policy and ensure compliance

This is the latest manifestation of an increasing dissent between tech companies and their employees. Last year, Microsoft again faced internal criticism for their involvement with ICE amidst the policy of separating families at the border. Google halted their partnership with the Pentagon to work on drones after widespread, internal backlash. Google also faced protest and walkouts over their handling of misconduct and discrimination, leading to the trending #GoogleWalkout late last year.

While Microsoft has stated that they remain receptive to the voice of their employees, the company also reiterated its longstanding relationship with the Department of Defense. It remains to be seen whether or not Microsoft will accede to any of the employee demands.

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amghwk

TS Guru
$480 million or a measly letter to void the contract?

I think Satya will toss out the letter after reading the heading...
 
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SimonJ

TS Rookie
So they want America to be weaker? They want soldiers to get killed because they lack the weapons that the enemy will be using? What if that dead soldier was someone you loved? What if it was you?
 

JB3543

TS Enthusiast
Here's how the snowflake media portrayed this: First headline is "Microsoft Employees...", then once in the article it's "A group of Microsoft employees...", then we finally get the actual number - "50 Microsoft employees". Out of how many? 200,000? Gee, let me do the math... (50/200,000), that's 0.00025% of all "Microsoft Employees". Maybe the snowflakes need reality lessons?
 

misor

TS Evangelist
I wonder what happens next if them aliens suddenly attack earth or them zombies creating havoc everywhere and the 'HoloLens tech' is not available for use. I wonder if on the principle of reciprocity, the military and the police will also make their policy to protect all civilians except Microsoft employees.

as I see it, let the military use whatever tech they can afford to buy since in the first place, they were created to defend the nation against all threats, external or internal. the military can also help in search and rescue, etc. a weapon or technology is as good as the people who handle it, intention to use how, when, and where included.
 
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yRaz

Nigerian Prince
My dad changed his major in college from nuclear physics to organic chemistry. At the time the only place for a nuclear physics degree was designing bombs for the military.

So he then went on to develop some of the first flu vaccines and gave children autism instead. The autism bit was ajoke but I hope you get where I'm coming from. These people did not go to school, get a degree and work on a career so that their work could be twisted by the military and used to kill.
 
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toooooot

TS Evangelist
Best war like feature to work on: erase people you dislike when you wear hololens. They turn into something pleasant to the eye when you save their faces.
No casualties, no people you don't like.

Then send these to terrorists and let them erase the infidels.
Let poor fighters for justice rest.
 

VitalyT

Russ-Puss
I'd love to quote Tony Stark here, from Iron Man I @8:00, but there's no video of that:
It's an imperfect world, but it's the only one we've got. I guarantee the day weapons are no longer needed to keep the peace, I'll start making bricks and beams for baby hospitals...

Tell me, do you plan to report on the millions we've saved by advancing medical technology or kept from starvation with our intelli-crops? All those breakthroughs, military funding, honey.
 

nismo91

TS Evangelist
I notice that the quote states "we are a global coalition". does that mean the majority of them does not come from the US? so they work for a US-based company but does not want to assist the company's interest to work with the government? unbelievable.
 
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ET3D

TechSpot Paladin
I notice that the quote states "we are a global coalition". does that mean the majority of them does not come from the US? so they work for a US-based company but does not want to assist the company's interest to work with the government? unbelievable.
Actually, that's quite believable, even reasonable, when considering this point. People in many countries don't trust the US to be on their side. Microsoft has offices all over the world. If Microsoft workers in Libya, Iraq, Russia or Mexico don't want Microsoft to support the US army, that's very reasonable of them.
 

TomSEA

TechSpot Chancellor
I notice that the quote states "we are a global coalition". does that mean the majority of them does not come from the US? so they work for a US-based company but does not want to assist the company's interest to work with the government? unbelievable.
Actually, that's quite believable, even reasonable, when considering this point. People in many countries don't trust the US to be on their side. Microsoft has offices all over the world. If Microsoft workers in Libya, Iraq, Russia or Mexico don't want Microsoft to support the US army, that's very reasonable of them.
Actually, this particular development group is based in Redmond, Washington.
 

treetops

TS Evangelist
If you want to make weapons go ahead. The main takeaway is that microsoft used to be a military contract free company. Some people took that into great consideration upon applying. Well now they know.

Who knows maybe will have to wear these at work one day as a monitoring device. Or a body cam.

"Microsoft's employees, particularly those who have worked on HoloLens development, have vehemently objected to this."

I'd love to quote Tony Stark here, from Iron Man I @8:00, but there's no video of that:
It's an imperfect world, but it's the only one we've got. I guarantee the day weapons are no longer needed to keep the peace, I'll start making bricks and beams for baby hospitals...

Tell me, do you plan to report on the millions we've saved by advancing medical technology or kept from starvation with our intelli-crops? All those breakthroughs, military funding, honey.
I'd love to quote Tony Stark here, from Iron Man I @8:00, but there's no video of that:
It's an imperfect world, but it's the only one we've got. I guarantee the day weapons are no longer needed to keep the peace, I'll start making bricks and beams for baby hospitals...

Tell me, do you plan to report on the millions we've saved by advancing medical technology or kept from starvation with our intelli-crops? All those breakthroughs, military funding, honey.
I prefer Good Will Hunting. 1997

Will: Why shouldn't I work for the N.S.A.? That's a tough one, but I'll take a shot. Say I'm working at N.S.A. Somebody puts a code on my desk, something nobody else can break. Maybe I take a shot at it and maybe I break it. And I'm real happy with myself, 'cause I did my job well. But maybe that code was the location of some rebel army in North Africa or the Middle East. Once they have that location, they bomb the village where the rebels were hiding and fifteen hundred people I never met, never had no problem with, get killed. Now the politicians are sayin', "Oh, send in the Marines to secure the area" 'cause they don't give a ****. It won't be their kid over there, gettin' shot. Just like it wasn't them when their number got called, 'cause they were pullin' a tour in the National Guard. It'll be some kid from Southie takin' shrapnel in the ***. And he comes back to find that the plant he used to work at got exported to the country he just got back from. And the guy who put the shrapnel in his *** got his old job, 'cause he'll work for fifteen cents a day and no bathroom breaks. Meanwhile, he realizes the only reason he was over there in the first place was so we could install a government that would sell us oil at a good price. And, of course, the oil companies used the skirmish over there to scare up domestic oil prices. A cute little ancillary benefit for them, but it ain't helping my buddy at two-fifty a gallon. And they're takin' their sweet time bringin' the oil back, of course, and maybe even took the liberty of hiring an alcoholic skipper who likes to drink martinis and ****in' play slalom with the icebergs, and it ain't too long 'til he hits one, spills the oil and kills all the sea life in the North Atlantic. So now my buddy's out of work and he can't afford to drive, so he's got to walk to the ****in' job interviews, which sucks 'cause the shrapnel in his *** is givin' him chronic hemorrhoids. And meanwhile he's starvin', 'cause every time he tries to get a bite to eat, the only blue plate special they're servin' is North Atlantic scrod with Quaker State. So what did I think? I'm holdin' out for somethin' better. I figure **** it, while I'm at it why not just shoot my buddy, take his job, give it to his sworn enemy, hike up gas prices, bomb a village, club a baby seal, hit the hash pipe and join the National Guard? I could be elected president. Share this quote

 
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Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
It's been said for many centuries but old Teddy Roosevelt hit the nail on the head; "Walk softly and carry a big stick". Technology rarely is contained within only one group and the military application is only one of a great many that will use this. Engineering, Geo-technical, Medical are just but a few that can make tremendous use of this technology. Some of the greatest technical applications came out of the space program, the military, and other governmental bodies yet have found their way into our everyday lives.

Being a former military officer I know how these things can be used and abused; that is why our military is run by civilian authority. Don't stop the development but do make sure the rules and laws prevent abuse so everyone can enjoy the benefits and be free from the detriments.
 

psycros

TS Evangelist
"We are a global coalition of Microsoft workers, and we refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression."

And by "global" they mean one small group at the main office.

"We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country's government "increase lethality" using tools we built. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used."

They signed up for whatever their employers assigned them with and no more. I'm no Microsoft fan (or a fan of any soulless corporate entity) but every one of these boobs should be shown the door. If their truly that ignorant then their not an asset to any company. I wonder if these snowflakes were opposed to Microsoft going above and beyond to help the NSA spy on every phone call and email that's passing through US phone lines?

"If you want to make weapons go ahead. The main takeaway is that microsoft used to be a military contract free company. Some people took that into great consideration upon applying. Well now they know."

Wrong...so, so wrong. Microsoft has been supplying their products to all branches of the US military for almost forty years as well as armed forces around the world, and not just to those of friendly nations.
 
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lazer

TS Addict
The M$ employees right to protest only exists because we have a strong army.

Sort of like the "what if they gave a war and nobody came" bumper stickers in the '60's. Lacking depth in thought.
 

FractalZ

TS Rookie
*** QUOTE ***
Under the terms of the contract, Microsoft would supply as many as 100,000 HoloLens headsets to support the Army's Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS. IVAS is a program designed to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy.
*** UNQUOTE ***

Even if some delicate, whiny snowclones at Microsoft are offended to learn they have been working on technology that has the U.S. Army entering into a contract where:

[...] Microsoft would supply as many as 100,000 HoloLens headsets to support the Army's Integrated Visual Augmentation System, or IVAS. IVAS is a program designed to “increase lethality by enhancing the ability to detect, decide and engage before the enemy.”
[...]

These technoweenies really ought to think about how easily the U.S. Military could just order the HoloLens headsets using an off-budget contract with Microsoft Executives who happen to have the necessary security clearances to help make sure the deal works well for Microsoft and the U.S. Armed Forces.

The fact is that any technology Microsoft is able to deliver 100,000 units of is almost certainly largely based on a commercial product that is or soon will be sold OTS to at least that many gamers, scientists, engineers, medical specialists, drivers of commercial vehicles (think especially of the kind of equipment companies such as Caterpillar make for mining, agricultural, and large infrastructure construction and maintenance purposes). If Microsoft were to turn down such a contract, the taxpayers would end up having to pay even more per unit delivered under the contract, because the military would just outsource any R&D, production, and other items it needs to take an OTC Microsoft HoloLens and modify it for specific purposes and then label the gadgets as M1$ Sensory Enhancement Headsets.

Of course then a lot more than 50 clueless pacifists would be objecting to the high cost of military issue headgear compared to commercial (read: Microsoft) gaming headsets that can be bought at Walmart for half, a fifth, or more likely a tenth what it costs to put the M1$ in the manifest of items each soldier trained for certain tasks has to take with him/her wherever troops are being assigned or deployed.

Several other respondents have mentioned the huge benefits to the health, safety, well-being, and general quality of life (QoL) of ordinary (non-military, non-LEO) people that make this sort of deal a win-win-win for the corporation(s), government agencies, and all who benefit directly or indirectly from the use of the resulting technology.

The Microsofties engaged in childish histrionics would be horrified to know that if the technology in question is going to be standard equipment for at least 100K soldiers, it can be copied by and manufactured in China for a hell of a lot less, by people who might well be killed if they complain that their work is going to military purposes.

One last comment, related to the last paragraph: companies such as Microsoft, Intel, IBM, etc. have many years of experience of striving to keep their technologies sold at drastically cut rates by copycats (IP thieves) and by working a little more closely with whatever U.S. agencies are tasked with developing advanced technology that is more advanced than whatever the usual list of military and terrorist organization threats can clone and/or buy in quantity, we are all significantly safer.

For example, look at the accuracy and precision of military-grade GPS technology compared to that of what you can buy online that (supposedly) utilize the last two significant digits of longitude and latitude that the mil-spec devices can. That is a huge advantage when ships or tanks or infantry units are engaged with enemy targets (many) kilometers away with no line-of-sight on the ground targeting ability in adverse weather and only somewhat crippled communications being major factors.

FractalZ

(All spelling, typographic, and grammatical errors above might or might not be mine. :)