The developer of the world’s largest search engine is joining forces with the world’s largest military machine. It was announced this week that former Google CEO Eric Schmidt will be heading the Pentagon’s new Innovation Advisory Board.
“The Pentagon said the board would advise it on such Google-y topics as rapid prototyping, iterative product development, business analytics, mobile apps, and the cloud. In effect, the DoD seems to be asking Schmidt to help it become more streamlined, efficient, and, well, innovative.
Since its meteoric rise in the internet age, Google has reached technological capabilities that seem almost science-fiction. Their latest is a neural network with a “superhuman” ability to determine the location of almost any image. It has been argued that Google could rig the 2016 election just by adjusting their search algorithms.
The search giant’s immense collection of personal data amounts to its own surveillance network that likely rivals the best government spy program. The data sweep is not only online; Google’s Street View cars were caught collecting information from wi-fi hubs ranging from “people’s medical histories to their sexual preference to marital infidelity.”
Google has said that their collection of data, when used properly, advances the public well-being. This sounds eerily familiar to the propaganda campaign of intelligence officials defending the NSA’s domestic spying program and other intrusions of privacy revealed by Edward Snowden.
All of this makes the partnership between Schmidt and the U.S. military rather creepy. The Pentagon was given carte blanche after 9/11 to grow its own spy program and to kill anyone in the world at any time, including U.S. citizens. Can there be any expectation of restraint with this Innovation Advisory Board serving the interests of the military?
Julian Assange provided some perspective on the Google-Pentagon relationship:
“Wikileaks founder Julian Assange suggested that Google’s cozy relationship with both the US Defense and State Departments represents an existential threat to the utility of the Internet to the ordinary user.
Assange observed that “Google’s geopolitical aspirations are firmly enmeshed with the foreign policy agenda of the United States,” and he stated that, as Google’s monopolistic control of the Internet grows, the company will increasingly influence choices and behavior to steer outcomes in the favor of US and corporate interests.”
The 12-member Innovation Advisory Board will be handpicked by Schmidt and Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. Before this partnership was announced, Google had been dabbling in robotics and artificial intelligence on behalf of the Pentagon through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Google’s autonomous car is a result of this initiative.
If Eric Schmidt was serious when Google coined the slogan “Don’t be evil,” then his hookup with the Pentagon—the largest purveyor of violence in the world—may win the award for biggest example of hypocrisy.