Microsoft strongly defended its work with the USA military Friday, addressing a topic that has caused an employee backlash throughout the tech industry this year.
Smith asserted that engaging in the public dialogue is a wise way to address new ethical and policy issues created by new technology. We also respect the fact that some employees work in or may be citizens of other countries, and they may not want to work on certain projects.
"The contract is massive in scope and shrouded in secrecy, which makes it almost impossible to know what we as workers would be building", the employees protesting that decision said.
The answer was clear: "when it comes to the US military, as a company, Microsoft will be engaged", Smith wrote in a blog post.
The head of Microsoft emphasized that we are talking about the sale of technologies that are necessary to protect and build the weapons to lead which is possible with the help of artificial intelligence.
Nevertheless, Smith says Microsoft will extend its more than 40-year relationship with the U.S. Department of Defense because the company believes its home country should have a strong military with the best technology. In early October, Google announced that it would not bid for a lucrative cloud contract with the Pentagon over fears the job does not align with the company's principles on artificial intelligence. Amazon, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle submitted bids by the October 12 deadline, company spokespeople confirmed this week, and the Defense Department is expected to award a contract next year.
Recently Microsoft bid on theDOD's Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud project - or "JEDI" - which will re-engineer the Defense Department's end-to-end IT infrastructure, from the Pentagon to field-level support for soldiers.
However, it was unclear how many employees were behind the letter.
'So we ask, what are Microsoft's A.I. Principles, especially regarding the violent application of powerful A.I. technology?
Google was provisionally certified in March to handle USA government data with "moderate" security, but Amazon.com and Microsoft Corp have higher clearances. Microsoft isn't the only tech giant to forge ahead with military contracts, regardless of the controversies they evoke.
"We believe that Google should not be in the business of war", read a letter addressed to Sundar Pichai, Google's chief executive officer, and signed by company employees, according to The New York Times. By working with the military and government, Microsoft can be more directly involved in these ethics conversations, Smith wrote.