Microsoft to keep Pentagon bid amid ethics concerns

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella James Martin CNET

Officials at Microsoft, Amazon and Oracle this week maintained their decisions to work with the US military, despite backlash from employees who have expressed concern that technology, such as artificial intelligence, could be weaponized by the Pentagon to kill people.

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. He wrote that he and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella addressed employee concerns about Microsoft's military work in a regularly scheduled meeting Thursday, and conceded some workers are still uneasy about it.

"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", Smith writes.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said recently his company would maintain its JEDI bid, saying it was important to support USA defense efforts even if unpopular. "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".

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"But 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".

The Microsoft post specifically mentioned comments by Department of Defense Chief Management Officer John H. Gibson II that the JEDI program 'is truly about increasing the lethality of our department'. "They will have access to the best technology that we create", Smith wrote.

His letter went great lengths to portray the US military as a force for good, noting that "millions of Americans have served and fought in important and just wars", including freeing enslaved African Americans in the Civil War and liberating European nations in World War II.

Microsoft also pledged to "engage as a company in the public dialogue" with the Defense Department and policymakers about ethical issues surrounding artificial intelligence, including autonomous weapons. "We are not going to withdraw from the future".

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Therefore, Microsoft decides to bid for the DOD's Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud project called "JEDI" that will strengthen the DOD's end-to-end IT infrastructure, he added. The company, he said, is already working with experts to help it do so.

Nearly two weeks ago, anonymous Microsoft employees posted on Medium, a social journalism platform, an article that concluded: "Microsoft, don't bid on JEDI".

'We need to put JEDI in perspective, ' it said.

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

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