Some Google employees have sent CEO Sundar Pichai a letter. Well, more than some: It has at least 3,100 signatures—not quite 5% of the workforce—and implores Pichai to withdraw the company from Project Maven. That's a Pentagon program focused on using artificial intelligence to analyze drone footage, and the New York Times reports it could increase the precision of drone strikes. The Times sees this fight as a sort of bellwether for what's to come as AI advances developed in Silicon Valley are more frequently put to use by the military. "We believe that Google should not be in the business of war," states what Fast Company calls a "fiery" letter. The employees write that they want the company to turn that sentiment into policy by pledging to never "build warfare technology."
Though Google says the company's role in Project Maven is limited to "non-offensive purposes," the letter states that "the technology is being built for the military, and once it’s delivered it could easily be used to assist in" tasks like launching weapons. The Times makes the argument that the publicity around the contract—first revealed in March by Gizmodo—could hamper Google when it comes to the ultra-competitive recruitment of AI researchers, who might find the military connection off-putting. That said, Amazon and Microsoft also have Pentagon contracts, but the letter-signers write that those companies' military work "doesn't make this any less risky for Google. Google's unique history, its motto Don’t Be Evil, and its direct reach into the lives of billions of users set it apart." (AI researchers make "startling" salaries.)