Is Silicon Valley going to war? In 2013, Amazon beat IBM for a contract to host the United States intelligence community’s data cloud. Microsoft now markets Azure Government Secret, its cloud-computing service designed specifically for federal and local governments, to the Defense Department and intelligence agencies. And last year, Google signed a contract with the Pentagon for Project Maven, a pilot program to accelerate the military’s use of artificial intelligence.
These partnerships might ease anxiety in the Defense Department about China’s artificial-intelligence advances and ominous, state-led fusion of civil and military technology development. But a comparable fusion of the United States government and Silicon Valley would be a mistake.
This is not so much because it would compromise Silicon Valley values, as more than 3,000 Google employees argued in a recent letter about Project Maven to the company’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai. Rather, it’s because the United States’ edge in techno-military competition exists in great part because we have a tech sector that is not dominated by the state and its needs.
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