Microsoft President and chief lawyer Brad Smit doubled down on his promise to always supply the US military with “our best technology” as “we see artificial intelligence entering the world of militaries around the world.”
Smith made his comments in an interview with Maria Bartiromo on Fox Business Network on Wednesday.
Generally speaking, tech companies have never questioned whether to supply the US military with their best technology — at least until earlier this year, when Google employees rose in protest against Project Maven, a pilot program with the Pentagon to supply AI-powered image recognition technology for drones.
Googlers didn’t want the AI technology they are developing to be used for weapons. After an employee uprising, Google essentially agreed to their wishes, all but taking itself out of the enormously lucrative defense market.
Microsoft and Amazon have been quick to raise their hands and say, “we’ll take your business.” The largest US tech makers, like Microsoft, already earn big bucks selling tech to the US federal government and military agencies. How big? Just one contract to supply the CIA with Microsoft cloud services signed earlier this year will generate hundreds of millions, according to Bloomberg.
The Pentagon is also on the verge of awarding a $10 billion contract to one cloud provider — probably Amazon— unless fellow competitors like Microsoft and Oracle can convince it to divvy the deal up among multiple clouds. Not surprisingly, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has publicly taken a similar stance to Microsoft in support of the US military. Notably, Google withdrew from consideration for this same deal, saying that it could conflict with its values.
All of which is to say, with his statements, Smith gets to pursue an enormous area of business, declare Microsoft’s patriotism and slide a not-so-subtle dig at his competitor Google, all at the same time.
Here’s the full text of what Smith told Bartiromo when she asked if technology companies should help the United States (emphasis ours):
“I think that’s right. This country has always relied on having access to the best technology, certainly the best technology that American companies make. We want this country and we especially want the people who serve this country to know that certainly we at Microsoft have their back. We will provide our best technology to the United States military and we have also said that we recognize the questions and at times concerns or issues that people are asking about the future.
As we see artificial intelligence entering the world of the militaries around the world, as people are asking about questions like autonomous weapons, we’ll be engaged but we’ll be engaged as a civic participant. We’ll use our voice. We’ll work with people. We’ll work with the military to address these issues in a way that I think will show the public that we live in a country where the U.S. military has always honored the importance of a strong code of ethics.”
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