Google employees were worried about what entrepreneur Elon Musk would think about the company’s artificial intelligence contract with The Pentagon, leaked emails from September 2017 revealed.
The September emails show company employees deliberating over whether it should publicly announce its “Project Maven” contract with the Pentagon, which it did not end up doing until March 2018.
Tesla co-founder Elon Musk would probably be critical about the program, Google Cloud’s chief scientist for AI, Fei-Fei Li, implied.
“Weaponized AI is probably one of the most sensitized topics of AI — if not THE most. This is red meat to the media to find all ways to damage Google. You probably heard Elon Musk and his comment about AI causing WW3,” Li wrote. (RELATED: ‘Thin-Skinned Bully’: Elon Musk Is Owning The Media, And CNN Does Not Like It)
“I don’t know what would happen if the media starts picking up a theme that Google is secretly building AI weapons or AI technologies to enable weapons for the Defense industry,” Li continued. “Google Cloud has been building our theme on Democratizing AI in 2017, and Diane and I have been talking about Humanistic AI for enterprise. I’d be super careful to protect these very positive images.”
Project Maven is a pilot program aimed at developing AI to potentially use in drone strikes. After 12 Google employees resigned in protest and over 3,000 employees signing an open-letter to Google asking it to end the program, Google finally had a meeting to discuss whether AI should be used in the military, The New York Times reported on May 30.
Musk has been an outspoken critic of AI, constantly warning about its potential dangers, and saying it poses an existential threat to humanity.
“I think we should be very careful about artificial intelligence. If I had to guess at what our biggest existential threat is, it’s probably that. So we need to be very careful,” Musk said, according to The Guardian’s October 2014 report. “I’m increasingly inclined to think that there should be some regulatory oversight, maybe at the national and international level, just to make sure that we don’t do something very foolish.”
Forbes ranked Musk the 25th most powerful man in the world on May 8.
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