Google helps Pentagon recognize war drones

Publication Gizmodo has learned to Google from anonymous sources that among the rank and file employees unfolded hot discussion of the joint project, which Google launches with the US Department of Defense. We are talking about the Maven project , which the Pentagon launched in April 2017.

As part of the Project Maven, by the end of 2017 it was planned to “implement advanced computer algorithms in government platforms for recognizing objects in a large number of moving or still images.”

Everyone knows that Google has long been developing machine vision systems, and its neural networks have repeatedly won the competition for the accuracy of object recognition. There is a suspicion that now the American army may take advantage of these advanced developments.

“People and computers will work together to increase the ability of weapons systems to detect objects,” said Colonel Drew Cukor, head of the Algorithmic Warfare Cross- group, in his speech at the Defense One Tech military technology summit in a July 2017 speech. Function in the Office of Intelligence and Surveillance of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence. - In the end, we hope that one analyst will be able to do twice as much work, potentially three times more than now. This is our goal. ” Kukor then described the algorithm as 75 lines of Python code "inside a large software and hardware complex." He said that he was primarily interested in recognizing 38 classes of objects that are especially necessary to detect in ongoing operations against ISIS (banned in Russia) in Iraq and Syria.

Project Maven is fully focused on the development of military machine vision systems using neural networks. For these purposes, applications for the purchase of the necessary equipment, including powerful GPUs in large numbers, were issued.

Even then, the head of the Algorithmic Warfare Cross-Function group recognized that the only way to achieve their goals is to work with commercial companies that specialize in this field. He then said that five large American companies specialize in this area, and the machine vision industry itself is booming. In 2016, the private sector invested $ 36 billion in these technologies. Now we know with whom exactly the Pentagon plans to cooperate. This is Google.

Last week, Google organized a mailing list for its employees, where they notified them of their participation in Project Maven. Some disagreed that the company provides services to the military. Others suggested that this project generally raises important ethical questions about the development and use of machine learning and AI systems.

Last fall, Eric Schmidt expressed concern at the Artificial Intelligence and Global Security Summit that such advanced machine vision systems and AI can "be misused by the military to kill people." According to him, in the technology industry there is some concern about this, because generally speaking, IT companies are not developing machine vision systems for this purpose. Many scientists and researchers from universities and departments of AI do not suggest that their development can be used in this way.

But the Pentagon believes otherwise. The Maven project was launched in April 2017, and last year the Department of Defense invested a total of $ 7.4 billion in areas related to Artificial Intelligence, the Wall Street Journal wrote. . Now all work on the purchase of equipment and software, as well as the implementation of AI systems, is coordinated within the framework of the Maven project.

The most obvious and primary task is object recognition and analytical processing of a huge number of video frames shot by scout drones. Colonel Kukor spoke about this above.

Google’s collaboration with the Pentagon is somewhat surprising, because this company has never been particularly close to the US government. Unlike the same Microsoft and Amazon, which even have special cloud service packages for government use.

But now the de facto collaboration has begun. It is known that Google already provides the military with access to the TensorFlow API software interfaces through which objects are recognized on military aerial photographs.

Perhaps this could have been foreseen. If what technology can be used to obtain a military advantage - it will certainly be used in this way. I wonder if Google will begin to provide the same service to military customers from other countries under market conditions. Except rogue countries, of course.