According to a recent statement by the President of Microsoft Brad Smith, the company plans to continue working with the US military.
Smith acknowledged the fact that new technology such as autonomous weaponry and artificial intelligence are eliciting both legal and ethical issues.
He added that no technology entity has surpassed Microsoft when it comes to being active in dealing with public and legal policy problems.
Smith made this statement through a blog post, after holding a meeting with Microsoft employees recently.
His remarks follow a push by Microsoft that calls for the federal government to control how facial recognition software is used.
“All of us who live in this country depend on its strong defense. The people who serve in our military work for an institution with a vital role and critical history,” he said. “We want the people of this country and especially the people who serve this country to know that we at Microsoft have their backs. They will have access to the best technology that we create.”
Smith added that employees who do not intend to continue lending their support to military initiatives are allowed to shift to another company division.
“We don’t ask or expect everyone who works at Microsoft to support every position the company takes. We also respect the fact that some employees work in, or maybe citizens of, other countries, and they may not want to work on certain projects. As is always the case, if our employees want to work on a different project or team — for whatever reason — we want them to know we support talent mobility.”
Even though the blog post concurs that artificial intelligence (AI) poses various challenges and no one wants to wake up from the dream to discover that a machine has already begun a war. The issue on whether Microsoft will back the development of autonomous weaponry was unaddressed in the post.
Instead, Smith asserted, “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.”
According to Smith, a withdrawal from offering support for the United States military acts as a denial of support to individuals involved in defending the US. It minimizes chances for public debate regarding how to utilize new technology responsibly.
“We are not going to withdraw from the future,” said Smith
The statements made by Smith follow the news released by Google earlier this month that the company would not bid on JEDI, which is Department of Defense contract worth $10 billion. Both Amazon and Microsoft are continuing the bidding for the Joint Enterprise Defense Initiative (JEDI) contract.
After it was found out earlier this year that Google took part in Project Maven. Chief Executive Officer Sundar Pichai issued an artificial intelligence (AI) code of ethics that says that its technology cannot be utilized in creating autonomous weaponry.
“If big tech companies are going to turn their back on U.S. Department of Defense, this country is going to be in trouble,” said Bezos.