Google drops out of $10B JEDI competition

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Getty Images

Though Maven itself was of limited value to the company, senior Google executives allegedly viewed it as a gateway to lucrative defence contracts involving projects like as surveillance systems that could monitor entire cities.

Google's decision not to make a bid comes months after it faced severe backlash from its employees thanks to its participation in another military program called Project Maven, which involved using AI to identify targets for drone strikes.

The contract is winner-take-all, with Amazon seen as the frontrunner.

In a statement to Bloomberg, the Tech Workers Coalition said that "sustained" pressure from employees opposed to Google involvement in JEDI showed workers "have significant power, and are increasingly willing to use it". While it will still work with the military, the guidelines would prohibit the use of AI in weaponry. Only one provider will be chosen for the contract, a decision that the Department of Defense defended to Congress stating that the speed of handling task orders in a multiple-award contract operated by more than one firm "could prevent DOD from rapidly delivering new capabilities and improved effectiveness to the warfighter that enterprise-level cloud computing can enable".

Google is taking a pass at a potential $10 billion contract.

"We are not bidding on the JEDI contract because first, we couldn't be assured that it would align with our AI Principles", a Google spokesman said in a statement to Bloomberg.

Companies competing for the contract must submit their bids by October 12.

IBM has officially griped to a top U.S. government watchdog about JEDI - the Pentagon's proposed 10-year $10bn single-vendor IT system for America's Green Machine. "Google Cloud believes that a multi-cloud approach is in the best interest of government agencies, because it allows them to choose the right cloud for the right workload". The company says that this particular project is not in line with its AI policies, but it will continue to work with the USA government in other ways. Some employees even resigned in protest. Google's AI principles clearly state the firm will not be involved in "technologies that cause or are likely to cause overall harm", "weapons or other technologies whose principal goal or implementation is to cause or directly facilitate injury to people" or "technologies that gather or use information for surveillance".

Google cited its AI principles, which were published back in June, as the reason for dropping out of the bidding process.

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