US Tech Giants Could Lead AI Arms Race Says Dutch Report

Visitors stand in front of a display screen at Microsoft's Oxford Circus in London
(Photo: REUTERS/Simon Dawson)

A report from Dutch NGO Pax examined 50 companies on whether their innovation could spur the rise of the killer robots; whether they are participating in military projects that wished to drive forward the weaponization of artificial intelligence, and whether they refused to engage in such fearsome initiatives.

The study found that Amazon, Microsoft, and Intel were the most likely tech companies to fuel global AI arms race despite ongoing debates against the weaponization of the technology.

Artificial intelligence, without question, can bring the world many benefits. At the same time, it could also hand humans the weapons that can destroy the world. The irony is that these tech giants are the ones who could spur beneficial AI innovation but they are also the ones leading the development of autonomous weapons at present. Unfortunately, these big tech corporations are also the strongest influence if only they could promote campaigns against the weaponization of technology. 

Amazon belongs to the Big Four along with Google, Apple, and Facebook. In July, it neared $1 trillion valuations, which could have been the second time since it already reached that value in September 2018. At the same time, Microsoft is currently the largest tech company with a market value of more than $1 trillion after Apple's valuation declined from $1.121 trillion to $937 billion as of July.

Out of the 50 companies examined by the Dutch NGO, there were 22 which innovation roused "medium concerns" while 21 fueled "high concerns." Amazon and Microsoft fell into the latter category as they compete against each other for a Pentagon cloud infrastructure contract valued at $10 billion.

By comparison, Google made it to the headlines when it refused to renew Project Maven, a contract it had with the Pentagon. Under Project Maven, Google provided the Pentagon with machine learning services that can identify people captured from drone videos. Further, Google opted out from the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure which was the same project that Amazon and Microsoft are competing for, according to the Dutch report.

Apart from the said project, Microsoft has also been developing an augmented reality headset for the US Army. The HoloLens is reportedly designed to boost lethality on the battlefield.

The market for artificial intelligence proves to be lucrative for these big corporations. One report valued the artificial intelligence market at $16.06 billion in 2017, growing to $190.61 billion by 2025. Of that, the market for AI used in healthcare, security, retail, automotive industry, manufacturing, and fintech is valued $71 billion by 2024, according to Lucintel.  

On the other hand, the Autonomous Weapons market - the AI used for guided missiles, mortar rounds, artillery, fired weapons, smart guns - is estimated to be worth $11.4 billion as of 2018.

© 2019 Business Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Sign Up for Newsletters and Alerts