Microsoft, Amazon pledge to work with Pentagon following anonymous online rebukes

Sheri Evans
October 29, 2018

Here too Microsoft has a reason to stay engaged - Smith argues that "we can't expect these new developments to be addressed wisely if the people in the tech sector who know the most about technology withdraw from the conversation".

In a blog post titled "Technology and the USA military" that was published on the Microsoft's website, Smith wrote that the company would continue to work with the us military while looking for ways to ensure its technology is used responsibly.

But Smith said the company "readily decided this summer to pursue this project, given our longstanding support for the Defense Department".

'First, we believe in the strong defense of the United States and we want the people who defend it to have access to the nation's best technology, including from Microsoft.

Microsoft said Friday it is prepared to provide its technology to the US military, including for a massive cloud computing project, despite ethics concerns among some of its employees and others in Silicon Valley.

"We'll engage not only actively but proactively across the USA government to advocate for policies and laws that will ensure that AI and other new technologies are used responsibly and ethically".

Withdrawal "from this market is to reduce our opportunity to engage in the public debate about how new technologies can best be used in a responsible way", said the Microsoft president.

The retorts by the executives followed a pair of anonymously authored posts on the website Medium over the past month - both of which the site said had been verified by its editorial staff - in which self-described employees of Amazon and Microsoft raised concerns over the tech companies' relationship with the Defense Department.

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However, it was unclear how many employees were behind the letter.

"Recently Microsoft bid on an important defense project".

'So we ask, what are Microsoft's A.I. Principles, especially regarding the violent application of powerful A.I. technology?

Microsoft should adhere to its own recent publication, The Future Computed, that laid out ethical guidelines for building artificial intelligence, the letter stated.

The Pentagon's $10 billion JEDI cloud contract bidding process has drawn a lot of attention.

The move comes following protests by Google employees on the tech giant's involvement in separate military effort known as Project Maven using artificial intelligence to help interpret video images.

Microsoft is "proud" of the work it does with the military, Smith continues.

In early October, Google announced that it would not bid for a lucrative cloud contract with the Pentagon over fears the job does not align with the company's principles on artificial intelligence.

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