back to article Microsoft to staff: We remain locked and loaded with US military – and will keep adding voice to AI ethics debate

Microsoft has responded to critics - some of them on the payroll - over its decision to keep selling tech to the US military, including its recent bid for a whopping $10bn cloud contract tendered by the Pentagon. There are three reasons why, president Brad Smith said in a blog, the company shouldn’t heed calls from some …

  1. Dwarf Silver badge

    Likely outcomes

    I’m. Sorry sir, the fleet of T-1000’s are all off line due to a critical update to Windows that is currently installing. Yes, I know we are in the middle of a battle, they should only be off line for a couple of hours. I’m expect that some drivers won’t work after the ‘upgrade’ so the primary weapon is unlikely to function properly, it might only take a couple of months to get that fixed by the vendor once enough users complain or that might just say it’s by design due to our obsolete hardware.

    Shall I break out the bows and arrows as an alternative ?

    1. Korev Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Likely outcomes

      Would the T1000s Terminator and Stay Resident?

    2. malle-herbert Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Likely outcomes

      The update would most likely delete all your files ?

  2. Warm Braw Silver badge

    We can’t expect these new developments to be addressed wisely...

    ... under any circumstances.

    Ironically, the way the US is most likely to be attacked on its home turf is through cyberwarfare. If Microsoft were really that keen on "defence", they have more power in their hands than they seemingly appreciate.

    1. cNova

      Re: We can’t expect these new developments to be addressed wisely...

      "Ironically, the way the US is most likely to be attacked on its home turf is through cyberwarfare."

      A war that doesn't cost a trillion dollar in military hardware is a war that's not worth fighting.

    2. rmullen0

      Re: We can’t expect these new developments to be addressed wisely...

      Good point. Microsoft and the government are a match made in heaven. Both INCOMPETENT. Though, I would argue that the whole way of developing software with languages with no array bounds checking is gross incompetence in general. The fact is that companies like Microsoft don't care about security. They care more about jamming garbage like Cortana and random other garbage down your throat than making their software secure. Besides that, they worked with the NSA when designing Windows Vista and admitted it. No doubt they have continued that relationship and you can pretty much guarantee that they put back doors in. Just like when people from the NSA were on that encryption committee trying to bully other nations into accepting their back doored algorithm. Never mind that fact that the push into forcing you to put everything in the cloud is also completely insecure and untrustworthy.

  3. Khaptain Silver badge

    Solid Defense

    Presonally I am not convinced that relying on MS to "defend" an entire country is the most appropriate option.

    They are a shitload of talented people out there that could probably do far better than MS for this kind of contract...

    AI - Artificial Intelligence is just that, it is artificial.... Why not use the real world, grey cell matter version to pick of targets...

    I can't think of anything more frightening than allowing a computer algorithm the "right" to select it's victims. What happens when the algorithm is hacked and the targets suddenly become local rather the distant....

    IT and AI have their place, but choice of target is just damned scary...

    1. A.P. Veening

      AI - Artificial Intelligence is just that

      And at that it still is more usefull than that oxymoron Military Intelligence.

    2. DougS Silver badge
      Terminator

      Windows for Warships

      I guess the reason anti-war Microsoft employees didn't complain when they heard about the UK using Windows in their new ships earlier this century is because they knew it would make the UK less able to go to war.

  4. DJV Silver badge
    Facepalm

    "including from Microsoft"!!

    "we want the people who defend it to have access to the nation’s best technology, including from Microsoft"

    Did they really say the "including from Microsoft" bit with a straight face?

  5. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    March 1, 2019. Microsoft unveils a new AI, called BobClippy, in order to manage the JEDI project.

    March 27, 2019. BobClippy becomes self-aware.

    August 29, 2019. Humanity is waging a bitter war for survival against hordes of flying paperclips and staplers.

    *** ALTERNATIVELY ***

    March 1, 2019 : Some ne'er-do-well manage to hack into JEDI and cryptolock everything, causing the entire American economy to fall into a death spiral.

    April 2, 2019 : China buys the US of A and annexes it.

    August 29, 2019 : All Americans are now Chinese citizens.

    1. Khaptain Silver badge

      "August 29, 2019 : All Americans are now Chinese citizens"

      Once could argue that that is almost the case at the moment...Trump is trying to regain some control with his import taxes kerfuffle but I am not sure that he will win in a war of attrition..

  6. Christian Berger Silver badge

    One could argue...

    ...that pulling money of armies and giving them inferiour products is a way of pacifism.

    I mean SAP ensures that the German Bundeswehr can't even solve it's toilet paper logistics.

  7. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Stolz der Nation! I told you Sovietism had infected everything. I'm not crazy!

    “We want the people of this country and especially the people who serve this country to know that we at Microsoft have their backs. They will have access to the best technology that we create”

    But anything beyond that....

    “When it comes to the US military, as a company, Microsoft will be engaged”

    "Captain America" ("Engage, Engage!") from Generation Kill seems to have found a new job?

  8. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Windows

    FTFY?

    "we believe in the strong defence of the United States and we want the people who defend it to have access to the nation’s best technology, including from Microsoft,”

    I think that bit after "nation's best technology" should read "and also stuff from Microsoft"

  9. JohnFen Silver badge

    Microsoft isn't wrong

    On one point, Microsoft is correct: it's not a secret that Microsoft has been an enthusiastic military contractor for decades, and this will certainly never change. Nearly everyone who works there has known (or should have known) this from before they submitted their application, so they've already said in loud and clear terms that they're fine with that.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Microsoft isn't wrong

      I don't understand why they are complaining about this JEDI contract. It is only storing information, that's like Seagate employees saying they don't want them to sell hard drives to the DoD.

      It is the so-called AI stuff that the DoD hopes will eventually lead to unmanned and autonomous fighters and bombers they should be worried about - giving a computer decision making power over killing people.

      If they complain about this, why didn't they complain about selling them Windows licenses for the past few decades?

      1. JohnFen Silver badge

        Re: Microsoft isn't wrong

        "It is only storing information"

        That's leaving out so much detail as to become misleading, though. It isn't just about storing information, it's about mining information. Phrasing it like that is pretty much the same as saying that the Big Data movement itself is only about "storing information".

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: Microsoft isn't wrong

          It is basically a really big database. I know they are selling it as being "AI" but it is basically a really big database that updates its own rules. Intel employees don't complain about Intel selling CPUs to the US government, which in some cases are no doubt used to help them implement some really terrible stuff like running computers that plan renditions and running calendar software that schedules waterboarding sessions for the renditees.

          Its a tool, that's all. If Microsoft was the ONLY supplier who could implement JEDI, and its function would suffer without them, then they might have a case. But if one steel company refuses to sell to Raytheon because it is used to build casings for guided bombs, another steel company will step up and there will be still be guided bombs made. Its a pointless gesture.

          1. JohnFen Silver badge

            Re: Microsoft isn't wrong

            "Its a pointless gesture."

            I disagree.

            Let's say that you're a supplier of something, and you refuse to supply a particular customer because you object to the actions of that customer. The fact that they can simply use another supplier is irrelevant, and doesn't make your refusal pointless.

            The point isn't to prevent the customer from doing whatever they do, the point is to avoid complicity with their actions.

            Note: I'm not necessarily 100% in agreement with the Microsoft employees, mostly because Microsoft has been a military contractor for decades so anyone working for them already declared that they're OK with that -- that's a substantial difference from, say, Google. However, their stance and the action they want Microsoft to take are not pointless just because the government can go elsewhere.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IF <insert OS here> Made KillBots

    I am not sure which OS I would be more scared of, or why. And if they are coming after me would I make a different choice.

  11. whitepines Silver badge
    Trollface

    Targeting order confirmed. Launch missiles!

    Sir! Our munitions system says it needs to install critical updates, and that it cannot fire for at least two hours!

    Reverse course, get us out of here!

    Propulsion is out! Computer is asking for .... $500 in bitcoin?

    Who needs enemy action when Microsoft is involved?

  12. Someone Else Silver badge
    FAIL

    Hubris, thy name is Micros~1

    Also interesting to note that Micros~1's management listens to its own internal critics as closely as it listens to external critics -- er...users.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a "defence contract"

    Microsoft will be a "defence contractor" joining the club where being over budget is measured in billions, not producing what you promised gets you MORE funding and you aren't liable for ANYTHING.

    Someone will be having a massive party soon.

  14. rmullen0

    The military has nothing to do with defending the country

    The military is not used for defending the country, it is used to steal resources from and control other countries. The Department of Defense should be renamed to the Department of War. The military budget needs to be drastically cut. 51% of the overall budget is ridiculously out of hand. Especially when you consider that we spend more on our military than the next 9 countries combined. The corrupt incompetents running our country can't even run out country in a competent manner, yet they have to meddle with every other country and topple governments left and right. The United States is a rogue nation and has been for a long time since before Trump. Furthermore, the war criminals running this country need to be held to account. Until that happens, things will continue to get worse.

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