6-27-18 Thank You Letter to Google Employees Print

The following is the text of a thank you letter a few of us, representing World Can't Wait, kNOdrones.com, World Beyond War and Refuse Fascism, distributed outside Google headquarters on Eighth Avenue in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan on the morning of June 27, 2018.


THANK YOU 3,000 + GOOGLE EMPLOYEES who have called on Google's leaders to state that “neither Google nor its contractors will ever build warfare technology.”

This led Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene to announce on June 1, 2018 that Google will not seek to continue its work for the Pentagon on Project Maven after the current contract expires in 2019.  Maven intends to engage artificial intelligence in analyzing images from drone video cameras, aiding in target selection.

But, there is still a way to go to get Google out of the war business.  Google could and should stop Maven work now.  And, as far as we know, Google is still competing for the lead Pentagon contract on JEDI (Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure) a project that would dramatically expand the Pentagon’s use of cloud computing, particularly in integrating artificial intelligence into military operations. It would be used, for instance, to increase the killing capacity of the U.S. drone war program.

Since 2010, when the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism started keeping track of U.S. drone casualties in 2010, the Bureau reports that U.S. Predator and Reaper drones have killed between 7,584 and 10,918 in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia alone. All were killed without trial, a violation of international law and conscience. U.S. drones have also attacked in Libya, Syria, Iraq and the Philippines and attacks are intensifying dramatically in Afghanistan.

Google is a leader in AI (artificial intelligence) and AI gives drones and other weapons the capability to kill automatically, using facial recognition gear.  One might think that removing human pilots from control of killer drones would ease consciences of drone operators. But “The Wounds of the Drone Warrior,” in the June 13, 2018 New York Times, suggests that being responsible for taking a life can have long-lasting, damaging impact on human mental health, regardless of where one sits in the “kill chain”.

Speaking of the remorse of a drone operator, the Times reported:

“’…it’s still weird taking another life,’ he said.  Distance did not lessen this feeling.  ‘Distance brings it through a screen,’ he said, “but it’s still happening, and it’s happening because of you.”

This, of course, is recognized by those signing the Google petition and the petition of the Tech Workers Coalition, urging that Amazon, Microsoft and IBM employees also take a public position against war-related work.

We, who have been working to stop U.S. drone killing and for an international ban on weaponized drones, ask that you:

  • urge Google’s leadership to announce an immediate, complete break with any war -related work.
  • speak in public or release information about your concerns about the human impact of any specific war-related technology on which Google is working.
  • Sign the petitions of Coalition of Tech Workers and World Beyond War.

Thank you again for taking a stand against technology that will dramatically increase killing in war.

Nick Mottern,  Coordinator, Knowdrones.com
Marc Eliot Stein, Coordinating Committee, World Beyond War
Debra Sweet, Director, and Richie Marini, National Office Staff, World Can’t Wait

"The catastrophe of this war has proved the sensitivity of the system of modern civilization evolved in the course of centuries.  Now we know that we do not live in an earth-quake-proof structure.  The build-up of negative impulses, each reinforcing the other, can inexorably shake to pieces the complicated apparatus of the modern world.  There is no halting this process by will alone.  The danger is that the automation of progress will depersonalize man further and withdraw more and more of his self-responsibility.

"Dazzled by the possibilities of technology, I devoted crucial years of my life to serving it.  But in the end my feelings about it are highly skeptical.”

Albert Speer, chief of Nazi weapons industry, in his memoir Inside the Third Reich.


Defense One

Google Plans Not to Renew Its Contract for Project Maven, a Controversial Pentagon Drone AI Imaging Program

Tech should not be in the business of war

The Wounds of the Drone Warrior

‘The Business of War’: Google Employees Protest Work for the Pentagon

Thank you to Google Employees Who Reject the Business of War

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