In my opinion, the potential for the technology that microsoft could develop for the military is just as dangerous if not more so than chlorine gas, which was used in WW1.
You should watch this video . It is about Einstein and Fritz Haber (who was the father of chlorine gas). Einstein was horrified at the way Haber was so casual about mass murdering people.
Speaking for myself: I have never and will never work on any weapon technology that is meant for killing other people. If I was at MS and someone asked me to do that I would raise hell like these people and absolutely refuse to do it and quit.
There is no reason or need for an arms race on super high end weaponization of AI between the US, Russia, and China. That is super dangerous and crazy talk. We need peace in this world, not more high tech weapons.
I support the action of the protesters at MS 1000%. Hope that helps you understand them.
I feel like I'm stating the obvious, and you probably already understand this point, but I'll make it anyway for the sake of advancing the discussion. From the perspective of the world as a whole, an arms race doesn't make sense. From the perspective of any single major player (United States, Russia, China) advancing your own military technology makes sense regardless of if the other players do so; if they do you have MAD (maybe) protecting you from being exploited, if they don't you can exploit them. We can argue that the major players "shouldn't" be trying to exploit each other, but the fact is that they are, and the best defense against exploitation seems to be military power. So it goes.
Peace is a matter of good diplomacy backed by military force. You can be a peaceful nation without having a strong military until a country with a stronger military decides they don't want peace with you. At that point, your sovereignty and safety is at the whim of that other country's might.
The United States is the world's only superpower and as such is a major deterrent against military action from countries like China and Russia. But those countries are actively pursuing technologies that will change the balance of power in their favor. The moment an adversary gains a capability you are unable to counter, that decreases your power of deterrence. If China attained enough capability to be sure they could prevail against the United States in a conflict over Taiwan, they might take the opportunity to mount a first strike. If Russia thought they could forcibly take back their former Soviet satellite states with no pushback they would.
The United States (and it's allies) for all its sins and flaws still stands as a deterrent against the ambitions of several illiberal regimes. It is better to maintain the power of that deterrent by staying ahead of the military technology curve than to ignore nee technologies and get surprised when an adversary develops and uses it against you. We've already sort of seen that with Russia's offensive cyber warfare and social media active measures offensives.
(well, maybe not Powerpoint - I suspect it doesn't make the military more efficient at their objective either...)
putting a hololens on a soldier serves only a single purpose: to increase their “lethality” as the US military puts it
i’m certain that if the contract was for medics, there would be no issue
There's a continuum from boots thru iron bars thru to assault rifles. (And, I guess, thru to Predator drones and nuclear weapons.)
I'm questioning just where the hololens fits on that continuum.
I guess selling them to the army makes them "for killing", but is it really "for killing" like an automatic weapon (which many people would choose not to be employed making, and would rightly be upset if their boss sprung that on them)? Or is it more like selling iron bars to the army (which even if they don't directly beat whoever we've always been at war with this week to death, are still obviously going to be used in some small or large part to "increase their lethality" (or at least enable it, I suppose)).
Would it make sense for an iron factory worker to get upset his boss lands a deal with the army and sells them iron bars? The feels kinda precious to me. Sure an end-of-the-bell-curve pacifist could object, but I think most people would say that's about the pacifist rather than the iron factory boss. Would that be different if the iron factory boss was already selling sheet iron and iron filings to the army? I kinda feel it would.
Does it make sense to people who work for the company who makes hololens to protest their boss selling them to the army, when that company is already selling other products (Windows, Word, Excel, pretty much every enterprise MS product) to almost every western military in on the planet? Again, at least to me, it feels kinda precious. It seems like end-of-the-bell-curve pacifism, from people who's living has previously been made working from a company who's _other_ products earn profit from the military, but "my project" is a pure as the driven snow and now all of a sudden I've got blood on my hands...
Like putting sugar in petrol tanks
Are you saying you'd never help the Allies develop weapons that might help end the war?
seems to have gone badly to me.
I can never understand those protesters
It's only evil when China and Russia do it. Including military stuff.
I'm amused people think the Huawei 5g thing is getting so much push back by 5-eyes countries + Germany is about 'security' instead of unequal access to penetrate networks globally. Mobile networks are the backbone of the modern intelligence community - agencies who are entirely offensive-focused with the odd defensive help to giant companies on the friendslist (by that I mean "information sharing" list to help "detect malware").
Obviously this is not possible and usually leadership understands this, but occasionally bow to small numbers of activists because they have painted themselves into a corner. I don’t think MS (or Amazon) have done that though.
These people might think human beings are fundamentally good and war is just evil people doing evil things to each other.
But evil is just a reality. People band together to kill others to get what they want unless you kill them or raise a credible threat to kill them in return. This is what war ultimately is.
If men were angels, no government would be necessary
> Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.
> Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
> This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.
Stopping this "total influence" from affecting the values of your employer is a separate goal from ending war altogether.
It's nowhere close to eradicated. The broadest measure of slavery today includes roughly 50 million people. A more narrow figure, that would be similar to the slavery you're referring to, is closer to 10-20 million people.
There are an estimated 7.5 million people in forced labor slavery in fields like construction and mining; 1.7 million in agriculture labor slavery; there are several million women held in sexual slavery, in the sex trafficking trade, across the world.
In the US, slavery was eradicated literally by the sword.
The real genius of the Founding Fathers of the US was their distrust of human nature (and consequent aversion to centralized power).
That's not even close to true. There are ~30 million slaves worldwide today . I can't find a concise worldwide total for around the time most people imagine is the peak of slavery, at least in the US (1860?), but that was "only" less than 4 million .
Whatever point was being made about slavery as an example in this conversation IMO points exactly the opposite way the GP intended: that slavery is a "natural" state for humans to end up in, and it requires continuous effort to prevent it. Just like war.
So currently 30 million slaves out of a 7 billion population is under a half a percent, compared to 4 million slaves in the us out of a US population of 30 million is almost 7 percent.
I'd say that's an improvement
Just because it's universally accepted as wrong in the West doesn't mean the rest of the world agrees.
At any rate, what ended slavery in the US? War!
You don't even need to resort to extreme examples that I think go without saying. Things such as China today are a perfect 'moderate' example. Their government, and most people, value a system that 'we' generally consider to be wrong. By contrast they consider our system wrong. Both sides have valid arguments for and against each system. Yet this lack of clarity notwithstanding, both sides would also happily have the entire world embrace their personal interpretation of what ought be done, given the opportunity.
The primary reason that this does not happen in modern times anymore is not because we've become somehow better, more ethical, or inherently more peaceful. In large part it's quite the opposite - we just became too capable of killing one another. Unrestrained war between nuclear nations is a non-starter simply because a single nuclear weapon would be enough to catastrophically damage a country. The nukes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killed hundreds of thousands. By the 1960s Russia had already tested 'Tsar Bomba' , a nuke that was on the order of 5,000 times more powerful. And that was testing done at half power simply because full power posed too great a risk of nuclear fallout as well as being impossible to detonate without killing the pilots. Just to emphasize, that was tech developed nearly 60 years ago. We haven't just been twiddling our thumbs since.
Compare our actions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We destroyed the Afghanistan government and engaged in a lengthy occupation that continues, to a lesser degree, to this very day. This was done because we suspected they might be harboring Bin Laden. They were not. By contrast when we had such suspicions in Pakistan we staged fake vaccinations drives  to engage in a mass DNA collection to try to pinpoint Bin Laden's location by collecting DNA of his children. Once his location was confirmed, and he was housed right next to a government training academy, we did a rapid pin-point in and out strike completed in a matter of hours, completely pulled out, and then continued to pay billions to Pakistan in aid. Pakistan has nukes, Afghanistan does not.
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsar_Bomba
 - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poliomyelitis_in_Pakistan#Conn...
They chose to not support the war industry in general, the country is irrelevant. Ultimately, that is all we, as individuals, can do - to participate in something or not, diminishing it by one.
A future of increasingly automated killing is not a pretty path. And if you believe there is no choice but to go along such a path, I can only say that it's easy to resign yourself to the "inevitable" and harder, much harder, to fight for a better path. I promise you though that brighter futures/timelines do exist and reaching them is very much possible and realistic. All it takes is not immediately giving into cynicism.
Every person has his/her own moral values and it is right from their own perspective. If someone did not signup to build something for army, and that is one of his/her values. It would make sense to me that he would refuse so.
And what kind of value it would be if you say I won't keep it until everyone else do the same? That is not a value anymore.
This argument that says "You should do it, because they will do it" is exactly the same argument that worst countries are using to brain wash and turn citizens. What is the difference then?
Secondly, I see some comments are saying: "Perhaps a Chinese/Russian wouldn't want to work with military only because military might build something against China/Russia". NO my friend! Don't make that assumption. I believe it is more likely that the same person wouldn't want to work for China/Russia military either.
I think this is one thing lost on the protesters.
We have to stop this arms race.
One is when you sign an enforceable treaty with your rivals. That would be something like START.
Two would be when you know that the arms race is very unlikely to bear fruit. For example, it didn't make sense to keep throwing money at the Star Wars (ballistic missile defense) program because it was very unlikely to succeed.
Military applications for AI could change the global balance of power in a fundamental way. If you care about peace and human rights you don't want the repressive regimes to gain an advantage in that sphere. Because that makes conflict more likely, not less.
I don't mean to be snarky, but with the inevitable colonization of space, do you really expect people to just be super awesome peaceful and loving? And not have an arms race?
Choosing to not do work, or requesting to not do work, that is mostly (entirely?) unrelated to the work you were expecting to be doing at a software company in the US is not "sabotaging" the US military.
It is also no indication of intent to help the Russian or Chinese military. Your words are very nearly slanderous to the protesters, as you have placed a false intent to commit some kind of treason? on them, an intent for which they have shown no evidence of having.
So what? Exercising their right to free speech does not "sabotage U.S. military".
> so Microsoft drops the contract completely,
Yes, effecting larger change is the purpose behind most political speech.
These employees are simply exercising their rights to speak their opinions, assemble with other like-minded people, and advocate for their political position to as wider audience in the press. To argue that they somehow don't have these rights denies the long history of SCOTUS decisions that support speech critical of the military or US policy.
I strongly agree.
The employees very clearly have the right to speak their minds, on their time. And they can quit if they disagree with the business path Microsoft ultimately chooses.
Microsoft typically has the right to fire employees if they're not compatible with the business path that Microsoft chooses to pursue.
Overall it's a simple context. Each side has to choose what's most important. Microsoft historically is nowhere near as ideologically driven as Google and other modern Silicon Valley companies, it's obvious what Microsoft will choose to do.
Or, they can collectively petition, negotiate, or even apply direct political pressure against their employer.
Is that what the real argument is about here? Lots of fear and anger that if engineers start to gain experience with the power of collective action, they might start to have notions about creating a union?
The United States must set positive examples for the world. A country that effectively forces corporations and their employees for the military is fascist. The public pressure for Microsoft to work with the military is disconcerting. Opposing people like the OP make it sound like anyone who holds a differing opinion is mentally ill or something.
This isn't an okay state of affairs.
If none of the United States tech giants sign with the Government, it's very likely that the US's technology used for an upcoming world war will be inferior to that of the US's enemies.
Citation needed? How do you know this? And if they don't have that, it seems like they might not have that due to totalitarian rule and a fear of the population to speak opinions. That's not a society we should emulate.
> I also highly doubt the US 'setting an example' will change any of their minds.
Why not? I think that it would. Demonstrating the economic impact of focusing these developments on useful, productive concerns would leave them in the dust. Seems like they would like to keep up? I don't follow your logic.
> If none of the United States tech giants sign with the Government, it's very likely that the US's technology used for an upcoming world war will be inferior to that of the US's enemies.
Again, I disagree and view it as the opposite. Also, if we are so bent on preparing for this future war - without conversation or allowing any kind of other ideas at all - it seems like the war will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There might be some sort of justification for it that people don't see(other than jobs) but it's really in bad taste when there's so many other things that should get funding first.
How would you feel about working for the military against your own country?
When I agreed to the contract for Google, my contract said ,,don't do evil'', not ,,work for a company that contracts to the US military''
By the 2000s? We certainly don't live in anything like a utopia, but we also live in what is undoubtedly the safest time ever. And while there are still many issues in society, they're becoming ever more difficult to pinpoint in terms of precise solutions. And I think it's safe to say that there will never be a time without issues in societies. People are different and often don't get along. Stick billions of them on a planet and even in systems we could describe as utopia, we'd find a way to not get along.
So the point of this is that I think many people want to find an issue or an enemy to fight against. Augmented reality for military use is hardly controversial and something every single nation around the world will be applying to military purposes. But when you need to find an enemy, any enemy, just to give your life some sort of meaning -- tech that will be applied to help soldiers perform more effectively in combat, which does include killing the enemy, makes a soft target. Whether it's really a logical or reasonable thing to protest against is secondary to the issue that it's something to protest against.
Why are they protesting?
Because the company mission statement has changed, and they are being drug into a morass of political entanglements they want nothing to do with.
What is their self-interest?
They do not want to be involved on US Military projects, nor do they want to create the weapons systems of tomorrow. That's someone elses job.
I guess their self-interest here must just be "something" to fight for. Being dismissive is not the correct response to what they are doing.
Anyone that thinks if the US suddenly stopped every dime of military spending today would make the world full of rainbows and gumdrops is incredibly naive. I'm glad that Microsoft took this stand.
Maybe you don't work in the US, or come from the US, but are a microsoft employee. Maybe you you do not fully agree with the united states military policies or with their use of technology to further US military objectives and began working for Microsoft because, despite their flaws, you love tech and want to improve the world. Maybe you did not think, like the founding fathers did, that a standing army ought to be needed. Certainly, it's a new age and not every ideal is practical, nor what we think to be practical a good idea.
Whatever the reason, you now have a conflict of interest; a change in the corporate mission statement and identity that is sudden and significant.
Furthermore, suppose you do work on the Hololens project. You wake up in the morning to find out the knowledge in your head is now national-security critical, which means your head is now US Government property and you will be subject to a mandatory gook risk assessment. This will affect your ability to travel, send funds abroad, contact family abroad, whom you may be employed by, and all sorts of other requirements you did not sign up for upto and including special conditions delivered by the G-Men themselves to you and if you refuse you, like many others, may become a disappeared persons statistic.
You did not apply for security clearance, and you have not been paid for the privilage. Perhaps you were a H1B working on that project who's H1B was ended by it.
There's a long tradition of companies making a great consumer product, and the military hiring the willing staff or convincing the principal architect of the need, and making a great military weapon. What's going on here is people are being drafted.
Good, creative IT people are hard to come by and they are pretty opinionated about not producing monstrosities because they are more capable than anyone of imagining how those weapons can be abused. Windows, Azure, and Office are all stagnating, dieing technologies at this point; Satya is looking for future revenue 5-10 years out.
Microsoft has to play a certain amount of politics and be in the right circles to be allowed to do things like buy Github or Linkedin, both of which given their history of abusing labor they ought not to have been allowed to do. This problem is not something that is going to go away, and alienating your engineering staff is a great way to lose experienced, critical engineers to competitiors and even foreign governments. Satya is playing with fire.
Protesting selling Hololens to the military here is like protesting contributing to Linux because the US DoD uses it. Should we all boycott Linux because of the lack of an anti-military-use clause in the GPL?
Edit: Upon reading their 'letter' it appears they take most issue with the use of Hololens to 'increase lethality'. I would argue that even the use of Hololens for training purposes (as they have done so in the past) would increase lethality anyway (as training of any kind might) and they apparently had no issue with it before. Even then, the military doesn't need Microsoft to do it, they could pay any of their contractors to implement it.
I wonder what Virtual Reality glasses Microsoft-ceo Satya Nadella was wearing when implicitly denying the existence of the https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military%E2%80%93industrial_co...
No mission is launched without first planning and revising using those tools.
One point of contention was the morality of developing the hydrogen bomb and people will ask the question "what if our enemies have it and we don't?"
On the other hand, anyone having a particular capability greatly increases the chances that everyone will have it. The US thought the Soviets would take 20 years to develop the atomic bomb. It took 4 years thanks in no small part to espionage efforts by the USSR. Part of the reason why this worked is people who didn't want a world where only the US had nuclear weapons. It would be too dangerous.
So for any military tech that US companies develop consider how likely that is to stay in their hands and not be stolen by China.
On a personal level I support employees holding their employers accountable. If you think you're absolved of moral responsibility for what the company does let me ask you this: why then aren't the lawyers who work for patent trolls or the price gouging executives at Big Pharma or those who worked for Big Tobacco?
I believe the technical term for these kinds of people is "useful idiots". How exactly was the world made a safer place by Joseph Stalin having a nuclear bomb?
Try this thought experiment, at the end of WWII the Soviets have the bomb and the United States does not. Does Russia wait 20 years for the US to develop the bomb? Or do they attack as soon as the are able?
Which part of Stalin's morality guides his decision?
Consider that General McArthur was advocating nuclear strikes into China in order to change the course of the Korean War. Would that have been vetoed at Presidential level if only the USA had nukes?
And what would the USSR have done in 1962 in response to US nuclear Jupiter missiles being deployed in Turkey and Italy? Instead of countering with missiles on Cuba they'd probably have been provoked to attack.
And in 1962, if the US has nukes and Russia doesn't, that's going to provoke Russia to launch an attack? "These people have weapons way bigger than we do, so let's attack them?" No. That's insane. Khrushchev wasn't insane.
> In 2014, former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden said in a public debate, “We kill people based on metadata.”
> According to multiple reports and leaks, death-by-metadata could be triggered, without even knowing the target’s name, if too many derogatory checks appear on their profile. “Armed military aged males” exhibiting suspicious behavior in the wrong place can become targets, as can someone “seen to be giving out orders.” Such mathematics-based assassinations have come to be known as “signature strikes.”
Wow! This is really a nice way to present his argument, which captures how I feel about this issue.
The BraveMind  project has been around sine ~2005 and has been shown to help with PTSD. USC's work with the DoD has even been shown on PBS's Frontline.
HUDs themselves, arguably a primitive form of AR tech like the Hololens, have been around since the early bomber sights of WW2. I'm sure we all remember Top Gun's use of HUDs.
Honestly, from a tech perspective, the Hololens is only innovative due to it's size, weight, and customer support. The DoD generally proclaims preference for Off-The-Shelf parts and equipment due to many factors. The Hololens is just an iteration of an idea and procurement process that has long been in use.
it's a little bit much....
can't they come up with a new and fresh identity to try and attract employees and developers rather than s/goog/us/? it seems a little... obvious? (and perhaps counterproductive?)