Microsoft has been awarded a $479,197,708.33 contract to develop an “Integrated Visual Augmentation System” for the US Army, in a move that has drawn plenty of criticism from all corners, including those who actually work at Microsoft.
The contract was awarded last year on November 20, and a number of employees at Microsoft have now written an open letter to CEO Satya Nadella and president Brad Smith to protest the move and request the company puts an end to the contract.
The letter is called “HoloLens For Good, Not War” and the gist of it is essentially that Microsoft employees are not happy that technology they worked on to change the world could now be used for war.
The letter begins:
We refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression. We are alarmed that Microsoft is working to provide weapons technology to the U.S. Military, helping one country’s government ‘increase lethality’ using tools we build. We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used.
It’s worth noting that when the contract was awarded back in November, Smith did write a blog post defending the military partnership, claiming – among other things – that Microsoft believes those who defend the US have the right to access the country’s best technology.
Obviously, Smith’s arguments have done nothing to quell the fears and concerns of those who work for him, arguing that while Microsoft has worked with the military in the past, it has never before “crossed the line” into weapon development.
While the company has previously licensed tech to the U.S. Military, it has never crossed the line into weapons development. With this contract, it does. The application of HoloLens within the IVAS system is designed to help people kill. It will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game,’ further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.
The letter makes it clear that many of the developers who worked on the HoloLens had no idea that it would go on to be used for such purposes.
On behalf of workers at Microsoft, we're releasing an open letter to Brad Smith and Satya Nadella, demanding for the cancelation of the IVAS contract with a call for stricter ethical guidelines.
If you're a Microsoft employee you can sign at: https://t.co/958AhvIHO5 pic.twitter.com/uUZ5P4FJ7X
— Microsoft Workers 4 Good (@MsWorkers4) February 22, 2019
You can read the entire letter – which was publicly Tweeted – above. One Microsoft employee told The Guardian that around 50 workers had signed the letter shortly after it was posted.