- Microsoft announced Friday that it plans to sell artificial intelligence technologies to the military.
- The military is looking into using more artificial intelligence for its defense, as the Chinese government has set goals in surpassing the U.S. military.
- In Silicon Valley, whether tech companies should become involved in projects with the military and federal law enforcement has flared up controversy among employees.
On Friday, Microsoft said it plans to sell artificial intelligence and any other advanced technologies needed to the military and intelligence agencies to strengthen defense, the New York Times reported.
Microsoft decision, which the Times said was announced in a small town-hall style company meeting on Thursday, contrasts sharply with the decision of its rival Google, which has said it will not sell technology to the government that can be used in weapons.
“Microsoft was born in the United States, is headquartered in the United States, and has grown up with all the benefits that have long come from being in this country,” Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith was quoted in the report as saying.
The debate about military AI among US tech companies comes as the Pentagon is in a race with the Chinese government to develop next-generation security technologies.
Employees within tech companies have protested against their companies' involvement in military and federal law enforcement work. For example, thousands of employees signed a petition, and some even resigned, after revelations that Google had sold artificial intelligence technology to the Pentagon to analyze drone footage.
Others, such as Oracle founder Larry Ellison and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, have shown their support for the U.S. military. In a recent interview, Oracle founder Larry Ellison said of Google, "I think U.S. tech companies who say we will not support the U.S. Military, we will not work on any technology that helps our military, but yet goes into China and facilitates the Chinese government surveilling their people is pretty shocking."
Likewise, Amazon is seen as the forerunner for winning a cloud computing contract with the Pentagon. Meanwhile, Google recently dropped out of that same bid, saying it would conflict with corporate values. As for Microsoft, it's also seen as a strong contender for that contract.