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When Liz O'Sullivan was hired at the New York City-based artificial intelligence company Clarifai in 2017, she felt lucky to find work at the intersection of two of her main interests: technology and ethics. Two years later, she found herself facing a moral dilemma.
Clarifai was developing aerial photography and object detection tools as one of several companies working on Project Maven, a Pentagon drone surveillance program. After several conversations with friends and colleagues, O'Sullivan realized this type of technology eventually could be used for autonomous weapons.
January - Clarifai - CEO - Matt - Zeiler
In January, she wrote to Clarifai CEO Matt Zeiler on behalf of a group of employees, seeking clarification on whether the technology would be used to create weapons and asking him to commit to a series of ethical measures. Zeiler later explained at a meeting that Clarifai likely would provide tech for autonomous weapons. O'Sullivan quit the next day.
"I was very surprised and had to follow my conscience," she said. Zeiler and Clarifai did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press. In a 2018 blog, Zeiler defended Clarifai's involvement in Project Maven, saying it aligned with the company's mission of accelerating human progress with continually improving AI.
O'Sullivan - Considers - Part - Backlash - Tech
O'Sullivan, 34, considers herself part of a "growing backlash against unethical tech," a groundswell in the past two years in which U.S. tech employees have tried to remake the industry from the inside out — pushing for more control over how their work is used and urging better conditions, job security and wages for affiliated workers.
While some speak out and others sign petitions and attend rallies, workers are collectively taking action like never before:
Amazon - Microsoft - Employees - Companies - Services
— Amazon and Microsoft employees demanded the companies stop providing services to software company Palantir, which provides technology to federal agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Army.
— Amazon employees...
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