We’re roughly halfway through 2018, and one of the most important AI stories to emerge so far is Project Maven and its fallout at Google. The program to use AI to analyze drone video footage began last year, and this week we learned of the Pentagon’s plans to expand Maven and establish a Joint Artificial Intelligence Center.

We also learned that Google believed it would make hundreds of millions of dollars from participating in the Maven project and that Maven was reportedly tied directly to a cloud computing contract worth billions of dollars. Today, news broke that Google will discontinue its Maven contract when it expires next year. The company is reportedly drafting a military projects policy that is due out in the coming weeks. According to the New York Times, the policy will include a ban on projects related to autonomous weaponry.

Most revealing in all of this are the words of leaders like Google Cloud chief scientist Dr. Fei-Fei Li. In emails obtained by the New York Times, written last fall while Google was considering how to announce its participation in Maven, executives expressed awareness of just how divisive an issue autonomous weaponry can be.

“Avoid at ALL COSTS any mention or implication of AI,” Li wrote. “Weaponized AI is probably one of the most sensitized topics of AI — if not THE most. This is red meat to the media to find all ways to damage Google … I don’t know what would happen if the media starts picking up a theme that Google is secretly building AI weapons or AI technologies to enable weapons for the Defense industry.”

Since Google’s involvement…

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