Of Tech Companies & Military Contracts 💣


There has been a trend of sorts lately around tech giant employees boycotting their employers’ activities related to military and government contracts within the realm of AI. [1] I get it, none of these people signed up to make weapons. This is putting aside the fact that not all of the activities that have been boycotted were direct weapons projects. But still, they probably took these jobs wanting to improve peoples’ lives, not take them.

But! I would argue these are the kinds of people we want developing these technologies. Especially the iterations that involve features with the terms “intelligence” or “intelligent” attached to them. I want people with moral hang ups about this tech’s usage having an active voice in their development process.

Also, these is a long history of milestone tech achievements being directly related to military R&D. Autonomous vehicles, it could be argued, are in part due to DARPA. Google Maps can thank the military’s Global Positioning System for being possible. And, oh yeah, the internet! Basically, this isn’t the first time that tech and war have intermingled.

I fear what gets lost in the decision making process of these individuals is that just because they say “no” doesn’t mean the military is just going to say “well, we tried” and walk away. Nor are other countries, friend or foe, going to take any notice of our hesitancy and let it guide their decisions. This means we could be left with only people who experience no moral qualms about the work developing the next generation of smart weapons and technologies. And honestly, that thought terrifies me.

  1. Google. Amazon (not war and the potential use cases do freak me out). Microsoft.