Google Promised Not To Use Its AI In Weapons, So Why Is It Investing In Startups Straight Out Of ‘Star Wars’?


24-12-20 09:13:00, More than two years ago, Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai promised to no longer use his company’s artificial intelligence expertise to develop weapons. But that hasn’t stopped Google’s parent company, Alphabet, where Pichai is also CEO, from investing in a couple of companies that are getting into the business of war.

In June 2018, Google CEO Sundar Pichai made a sweeping promise. In a blog entitled ‘AI at Google: our principles,’ Pichai said Google would not develop artificial intelligence for “weapons or other technologies whose principal purpose or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people.”

Pichai’s pledge hadn’t come out of the blue: earlier that year, employees protested the company’s participation in Project Maven, a Department of Defense (DOD) initiative worth a reported potential $250 million a year – and $15 million over 18 months to Google – to use AI to identify buildings and other targets “of interest” to the military from drone footage. Insiders at the Mountain View-based giant fumed. More than three thousand signed a letter to Pichai, writing, “We believe that Google should not be in the business of war.” Google eventually let the contract lapse.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, has been having to put out another fire of late, after the departure of AI researcher Timnit Gebru. In a letter to staff he wrote that it was “a painful but important reminder of the progress we still need to make.” CHRISTIAN PEACOCK FOR FORBES

Pichai may have promised Google AI wouldn’t harm people, but he said nothing about Google’s parent company Alphabet. In late 2019, Pichai became CEO of Alphabet while still retaining his job as CEO of Google – and through investments by Google and its venture capital wing, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Alphabet is still very much in the business of war.

GV positions itself as an “independent, return-driven fund” with $5 billion under management. But the Mountain View, Calif.-based firm was spun out of Google back in 2009 and it’s all Alphabet money. As it says on its website, “GV is the venture capital arm of Alphabet,” and Alphabet is the firm’s “sole limited partner.” (GV and Pichai declined repeated requests for comment on this story.)

Both Google and GV have minority stakes in companies supplying military surveillance tools.

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