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A letter from Microsoft employees demands that the company reduce its contract with Army HoloLens



In a letter addressed to top managers, a group of Microsoft employees requires the company to cancel the disputed contract with the US Army.

Employees deny that the company last year signed a contract worth 479 million dollars. Integrated visual sighting system, or IVAS. According to the project, Microsoft, the manufacturer of the HoloLens headset with expanded reality, can eventually provide more than 100,000 headsets for combat and military training. The army described the project as a way to "increase mortality, increasing the ability to detect, resolve and enter the enemy."

"We are worried that Microsoft is working on providing US military equipment, helping one Government of the country" increase mortality "using the tools we have built," the workers write in their letter to General Director Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith "We have not signed up for the development of weapons, and we need to say how our work is used."

The letter, which according to the organizers included dozens of signatures of employees at the time of publication, claims to be Microsof "Toward the development of weapons" with the contract. "The intention to harm is not an acceptable use of our technology," it says. Employees demand that the company cancel the contract, stop the development of any weapon technology, set up a state policy that would did not build the technology of weapons, and also appointed a commission for external ethical review to implement the policy. Although the letter states that the company has an AI ethics review process, which is called Aether, the workers say that it "is not reliable enough to prevent tion of weapons, as demonstrated contract IVAS ».

Microsoft had previously experienced internal criticism of its work with the US government. Last year, after it became apparent that the company was providing immigration and customs services, hundreds of employees quickly signed up to an open letter requesting the company to terminate its relationship with the agency. However, Microsoft executives defended their government work, and the company did not join employees who sought to stop working with ICE.

] shareholders, we do not want to become military speculators ", – says in a letter sent today. "For this we believe that Microsoft should stop its activities aimed at expanding the ability of the American Army to cause harm and violence."

Demand for a contract with the army is the latest example of the organizers of the technical industry against the plans of their companies. Last year, Googlers came together to abandon plans for a project called PI called Project Maven. Under pressure, Google's management eventually shifted away from the plan. More recently, the staff of several technology companies have been pushing heads on such issues as sexual harassment and the development of face recognition.

A full letter from Microsoft employees is given below:

Dear Satya Nadella and Brad Smith,

We are a global coalition of Microsoft employees, and we refuse to create technology for war and oppression. We are worried that Microsoft is working on providing US military equipment, helping the government of one country "to increase lethality" using the tools we built. We have not signed up for the development of weapons, and we demand that we tell you how our work is being used.

In November, Microsoft received a contract with the Integrated Visual System (IVAS) for a total of $ 479 million with the US Department of Army. The task of the contract is to "rapidly develop, test and develop a single platform that soldiers can use to fight, rehearse and train, providing increased lethality, mobility and situational awareness, needed to meet the confrontation with our present and future opponents." . To do this, Microsoft intends to apply the advanced reality technology of HoloLens. Although the company has previously licensed technology for the US military, it has never crossed the line in the development of weapons. With this contract, he does. The use of HoloLens in the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and will work, turning the war into an imitation "video game", further removing the soldiers from the gloomy rates of war and the reality of bloodshed.

Intention to harm is not an acceptable use of our technology

We require that Microsoft:

1) Revoke the IVAS Contract,

2) Stopped the development of any weapons technology and developed an acceptable use policy for the public , clarifying this obligation;

Assign an independent external ethics committee that has the authority to perform and publicly verify compliance with its acceptable policy

Although there is a process of ethics review in AI, AETHER, it is non-transparent for Microsoft employees and is clearly not robust enough to prevent the development of weapons , as shown by IVAS contract. Without this policy, Microsoft does not inform its engineers of the intent of the software they are creating. Such a policy would also allow employees and the public to prosecute Microsoft.

Brad Smith's proposal that employees interested in working on unethical projects "will allow them to switch to another job in the company" ignores the problem that employees are not properly informed about the use of their work. There are many engineers who contributed to HoloLens before this contract even existed, believing that it would be used to help architects and engineers build buildings and cars to help teach people to perform operations or to play piano, expand Games boundaries and to connect with Mars Rover (RIP). Now, these engineers have lost the ability to make decisions about what they are working on, rather than being involved with military aliens.

Microsoft's accessibility and security guide is beyond the reach of ourselves because we care about our customers. We ask the same approach to the ethics and acceptable use of our technology. Providing our products with accessibility to all audiences required us to have an active and steadfast inclusion position. If we do not commit the same commitment to be ethical, we will not. We must develop against abuses and the potential to cause violence and harm

Microsoft mission is to give each person and organization on the planet more opportunities. But, apparently, in this statement, we believe that this is also the mission of Microsoft – to give each person and organization on the planet an opportunity to do good. We also need to remember about whom we give authority and what we give them. Expanding this core mission, which encompasses the war and deprives employees of Microsoft, is unbelievable, since "everyone" also means empowering us. As employees and shareholders, we do not want to become military speculators. To this end, we believe that Microsoft should stop its activities aimed at expanding the ability of the US Army to cause harm and violence.

Microsoft Workers


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