Last week, Google executives stated to employees at a companywide meeting that they are interested a Pentagon contract for cloud computing. It also said that working with the military would not be in conflict with the company’s own principles regarding how its artificial Intelligence technology would be used.
Three years after an employee revolt caused Google to stop working on a Pentagon program that used AI and to create new guidelines against A.I., Google is now pursuing the contract. for weapons or surveillance.
This pursuit could lead to another clash between employees and company leaders. Google’s cloud unit prioritized preparation for a bid on a Pentagon contract, The New York Times revealed this month, pulling engineers off other projects to focus on creating a winning proposal.
Google’s rush to get the contract is a significant shift. In 2018, Google said that it would not bid for a major cloud computing contract with Defense Department (known as Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure or JEDI) because it would be in conflict with its A.I. principles.
The JEDI cloud computing contract, which was worth $10 billion over ten years, was awarded to Microsoft in 2019. The Pentagon announced a new plan to buy cloud computing technology in July after it was faced with legal challenges by Amazon. The Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability will split the work among multiple companies.
The contract’s segmented nature allows Google to work on certain parts of the Pentagon cloud without violating its ban, executives from Google told employees during a videoconference meeting on Thursday. The recording was obtained by The Times.
The exact scope of work is not known because the government hasn’t submitted a formal request. Google has stated that it is interested, even though it hasn’t been invited to bid.
In a blog post published the same day as the meeting, Thomas Kurian, who oversees the company’s cloud unit, wrote: “If we are invited to be part of the J.W.C.C. contract, we will absolutely bid.”
At the meeting, Mr. Kurian said there are many areas where Google’s capabilities and expertise can be applied “with no conflict to Google’s A.I. principles.”
“We have governance processes that provide guidance and oversight into what A.I. Products we will offer and which custom A.I. projects we will and we will not pursue, and we will follow those governance processes,” he said.
Mr. Kurian’s remarks, which were reported earlier by CNBC, were made in response to a question from an employee about Google’s interest in the Pentagon contract and The Times’s reporting on it.
“We understand that not every Googler will agree with this decision, but we believe Google Cloud should seek to serve the government where it is capable of doing so and where the work meets Google’s A.I. principles and our company’s values,” Mr. Kurian said.
Google’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, echoed his remarks. “I think we are strongly committed to working with the government in a way that’s consistent with our A.I. principles,” Mr. Pichai said.
Google declined to comment.
Source: NY Times