Google is sharing its AI secrets with the Chinese military

Following a 2017 constitutional amendment, all new technologies in the country must be shared with the Chinese Communist Party

Google opened its artificial intelligence (AI) research laboratory in Beijing in 2017 and, by doing so, is sharing its deepest secrets with the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army.

Inscribed in China’s constitutional amendments in 2017 was that new technologies developed by the private sector would have to be shared with its military.

So dangerous were Google’s AI military capabilities perceived by its own employees that 3,000 of them signed a letter sent to the company’s CEO warning against ‘Project Maven’, a collaboration with the US Department of Defense that would weaponize AI for more automated and refined drone strikes.

Yet despite pulling out of that contract with the Pentagon, Google didn’t stop those ambitions altogether, instead finding an ally in China which was more than happy to host them, opening the aforementioned lab in Beijing shortly after.

AI – Google’s ‘crown jewels’

PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel is among the prominent figures who has sounded the whistle over Google’s growing activity in China in regards to artificial intelligence.

“The crown jewels of Google’s R&D effort are the AI technology. AI means a lot of different things, it can be used in a lot of different ways, but it clearly has a lot of military applications: processing satellite images, helping process data, automating drone warfare, cyber warfare, there are all these ways that AI is a dual use thing, like nuclear has both military and civilian uses,” Thiel told Sunday Morning Futures.

“There was a Project Maven contract where Google was supplying this AI technology to the US military, it pulled out from that as a result of employee protest within Google. At the same time, Google has a major AI research lab in China, even though it’s not working directly with the Chinese military, in effect, all the technology gets handed on to the Chinese military.

“And this is not a controversial, crazy conspiracy theory, this is in black and white in the constitution of the Chinese Communist Party – as of 2017 it got amended to stress that there needs to be ‘civil-military fusion’ in China where all things need to be integrated and anything that has civilian uses must also be handed over to the People’s Liberation Army.”

The tech billionaire, who also sits on the board at Facebook, spoke of how, regardless of whether an American firm works with a civilian company in China, all technology is passed along to the country’s military.

“It’s not like the US, where you have different companies and different people and you have a government sector and a private sector and these things don’t always coordinate or work together. In China, these things are still tightly coordinated across the board,” Thiel said.

“I think it is unprecedented in the last 100 years, or ever, that a major US company refused to work with US military and has worked with our geopolitical rival. So this is not a liberal-conservative thing. This is absolutely unprecedented.

“This is an open secret in Silicon Valley. A lot of people think this is kind of crazy what Google’s doing. And I sort of feel like I’m the little kid saying ‘the emperor has no clothes’. It’s the secret hidden in plain sight,” he added.

Growth above ethics

The company may claim to be “global” and “post-national” as Thiel says, but the Chinese Communist Party, which Google is directly assisting through its artificial intelligence research, is anything but.

In the US and particularly Europe, big tech companies have faced serious questioning on an ethical level, yet in China there is a free pass, so long as it shares its capabilities with the state.

Supporting and enhancing a rising authoritarian power which has already digitalized its society through an Orwellian social credit system and has no plans of slowing down on a militaristic level demonstrates Google’s ambition for growth above ethics, if ever a sign was needed.