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Google may be one of the bigger players in the world of artificial intelligence but it's unlikely many could have foreseen their latest move. According to Gizmodo, Google has teamed up with the United States Department of Defense (DoD) to assist the agency in the development of AI capable of analyzing drone footage.
Dubbed "Project Maven," the project is primarily focused on using machine learning and AI to identify vehicles and "other objects" in drone footage in order to reduce the workload for human analysts. It's unclear what the information gained from this analysis will be used for.
If you're a bit wary of some of the potentially-negative implications of a tech company like Google collaborating with a military organization like the DoD, you aren't alone. The partnership has attracted criticism from several Google employees, many of whom are concerned with the ethical ramifications of using machine learning for military purposes.
"The technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only."
However, the search giant has said their work with the DoD is unrelated to combat uses. "We have long worked with government agencies to provide technology solutions. This specific project is a pilot with the Department of Defense, to provide open source TensorFlow APIs that can assist in object recognition on unclassified data," said a Google spokesperson. "The technology flags images for human review, and is for non-offensive uses only."
Furthermore, the spokesperson recognizes the ethical questions Google's involvement with Project Maven has raised in some circles, stating "We're actively discussing this important topic internally and with others as we continue to develop policies and safeguards around the development and use of our machine learning technologies."
Whether or not these statements will be enough to reassure Google's more skeptical employees remains to be seen.