Skip to Content
MIT Technology Review

The Defense Department is taking on ISIS with Google’s open-source AI software

The search giant’s AI will be helping to analyze drone footage. Not everyone at the “don’t be evil” company is pleased.

War games: Google is giving the US Department of Defense special access to TensorFlow, the company’s machine-learning software library, to help analyze images from drones. Gizmodo reports that some Google employees are not happy about providing their technology for military uses.

Move fast and break things?: In a statement, the DoD acknowledged that military use of this technology could raise some concerns, but rest assured: it is currently “for non-offensive uses only.”

So far: Project Maven, the program Google is assisting, aims to “accelerate DoD’s integration of big data and machine learning,” according to the Pentagon, and automating analysis of drone footage is the first objective. Since its launch in April last year, Maven has already been deployed against the Islamic State.

But: Sure, TensorFlow is good, but the Defense Department has some of best technology in the world, and it’s unlikely to need open-source software. What isn’t clear is whether Google may be providing other forms of support as well.