Google CEO bans autonomous weapons in new AI guidelines

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 in this undated

The charter sets "concrete standards" for how Google will design its AI research, implement its software tools and steer clear of certain work, Pichai said in a blog post. Google is widely seen as a potential contender for a massive contract to move Defense Department systems to cloud servers.

The secret program wasn't reported on in the past, Reuters reports, and it could help the U.S. deal with threats from North Korea and other nations with nuclear capabilities.

More than 4,000 Google employees signed a petition protesting Google's contract, and some staffers resigned over it.

"Where there is a material risk of harm, we will proceed only where we believe that the benefits substantially outweigh the risks, and will incorporate appropriate safety constraints", the company claimed, adding that they would also refrain from pursuing, "Weapons or other technologies whose principal goal or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people", "Technologies that gather or use information for surveillance violating internationally accepted norms", and, "Technologies whose objective contravenes widely accepted principles of worldwide law and human rights". The Google official acknowledged that enforcement would be hard because the company cannot track each use of its tools, some of which can be downloaded free of charge and used privately. AI projects need to "be socially beneficial" and "avoid creating or reinforcing unfair bias".

Google's contract with the Defense Department came to light in March after Gizmodo published details about a pilot project shared on an internal mailing list. They asked not to be identified criticising their employer.

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Technologies that cause or are likely to cause harm.

"While Google's statement rejects building AI systems for information gathering and surveillance that violates internationally accepted norms, we are concerned about this qualification", said Peter Asaro, a professor at The New School and one of the authors of an open letter that calls on Google to cancel its Maven contract.

Academics and students in the fields of computer science and artificial intelligence joined Google employees in voicing concerns about Project Maven, arguing that Google was unethically paving the way for the creation of fully autonomous weapons. "But it's a start".

The staff who opposed the Project Maven deal also noted, in an internal email on Friday, that they would look closely at the charter and weigh in.

The new rules could set the tone for the deployment of AI far beyond Google, as rivals in Silicon Valley and around the world compete for supremacy in self-driving cars, automated assistants, robotics, military AI and other industries. And we will continue to share what we've learned to improve AI technologies and practices.

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