Dear Microsoft workers protesting the Army: Have you heard of PowerPoint?

Opinion

In a recent open letter to Microsoft President Brad Smith and CEO Satya Nadella, a group of Microsoft workers demanded that Microsoft cancel its $479 million contract with the United States Army. Established last year, this contract committed Microsoft to supply technology for the Army's Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS), leveraging its HoloLens augmented reality technology to design headsets for use in combat and training. The letter is the workers' refutation of creating technology for "warfare and oppression," arguing that the contract is Microsoft's foray into weapons development.

Rather than provide insight or commentary on the ethics of corporate cooperation with government, the letter lays bear the signatories' ignorance of warfare and combat trauma.

It is virtue signaling masquerading as thought leadership.


Their liberal use of the word 'weapon development' to describe what amounts to an integrated headset is paradoxical considering the current widespread, mandatory use of the Microsoft Office suite in the Department of Defense. This global coalition of Microsoft workers concerned about their part in the perpetuation of conflict need look no further than Microsoft Outlook or PowerPoint — tools that are used daily to craft, communicate, and execute operational plans.

Microsoft Office, alone, has done more to facilitate America's use of military force than nearly any weapon system in our arsenal. The use of deadly force matters little if we cannot communicate when and for whom. If they were serious about change, they would demand Microsoft revoke its license agreement with our government.

While the Army describes the project as a way to increase "lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries," it remains unclear how this technology would accomplish that goal. Available information regarding the project suggests the headsets will merely integrate existing technology, such as night vision capability, or integrated physiological features detecting and displaying "soldier readiness," into one package.

However, the coalition of Microsoft workers conclude that such technology will turn warfare into a "simulated video game, further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed." By their words it is easy to believe that this Microsoft technology might be used to turn real life into a cartoonish version of itself.

But that is neither the intent nor the purpose of the Army's IVAS. As those who have used night vision devices in an operational environment can tell you, the green glow cast by such devices does not disallow the sights, smells, or sounds of death. It does not prevent the wearer from deeply feeling the threat to their own life or those around them, a potential precursor to the development of post traumatic stress disorder.

assets.rbl.ms

The reality of bloodshed is in the blood shed itself, not the fancy equipment a soldier carries.

Army speak aside, this technology appears to be more related to preserving soldier life than increasing enemy dead.

Values and ethics matter but not when they are cherry-picked for personal effect.

It appears the authors' have forgotten the history of their own field. Colossus, an electronic digital programmable computer, was invented to decipher messages sent by Nazi encryption machines and birthed the age of the modern computer. The world wide web exists today because of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) that answered the need for a connected computer system during the Cold War. Or global positioning systems (GPS), a project launched by the Department of Defense in 1973. Or microwave ovens, a technology developed during World War II. Or penicillin or canned food or wristwatches or EpiPens or blood banks and blood transfusions.

It's easy to accept that a headset might somehow engender a sense of distance on the battlefield, when living behind a computer screen has apparently done just that. The letter is a reflection of their own experience, a display of their personal distance generated by the technology they helped create.

Meaghan Mobbs is a clinical psychology predoctoral fellow at Columbia University, where she specializes in veteran and military issues. A West Point graduate and Afghanistan veteran, she is a George W. Bush Institute Veteran Leadership Scholar and Tillman Military Scholar. She is currently a President Trump appointee to the United States Military Academy Board of Visitors.

SEE ALSO: 'We do not want to become war profiteers' — Microsoft employees outraged over Army HoloLens contract

Cris Weisbecker, Education Services Officer at the Wiesbaden Education Center, gives a presentation to U.S. Army Signal Soldiers about higher education opportunities and Army services during the 102nd Strategic Signal Battalion, 2nd Theater Signal Brigade, quarterly Soldier Development Program Jan. 18, 2018 in Wiesbaden, Germany. The Soldier Development Program provides Soldiers with information on a wide variety of personal and professional topics, including higher education, designed to grow junior Soldiers into future leaders. (U.S. Army photo by William B. King) (Photo Credit: William King)
Navy photo.

The Navy has identified the missing sailor from the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as Aviation Electronics Technician 2nd Class Slayton Saldana, who was assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 5, with Carrier Air Wing 7.

Read More Show Less
(Reuters/Nick Oxford)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force has suspended paying incentive fees at all 21 military housing bases operated by landlord Balfour Beatty Communities following a Reuters-CBS News report that the company falsified maintenance records at an Oklahoma base to help it qualify for millions of dollars in bonuses.

Read More Show Less
(U.S. Marine Corpss/Staff Sgt. Bryan Nygaard)

The wait is over: the Marine Corps's brand new sniper is officially ready for action.

The Mk13 Mod 7 sniper rifle reached full operational capacity earlier this year after extensive testing, Marine Corps Systems Command announced on Wednesday. Now, the new rifle is finally available in both scout snipers and recon Marine arsenals.

Read More Show Less
(Reuters/Lisi Niesner)

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran announced on Monday it had captured 17 spies working for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and sentenced some of them to death, deepening a crisis between the Islamic Republic and the West.

Iranian state television published images that it said showed the CIA officers who had been in touch with the suspected spies.

In a statement read on state television, the Ministry of Intelligence said 17 spies had been arrested in the 12 months to March 2019. Some have been sentenced to death, according to another report.

Read More Show Less
Photo by: Christoph Hardt/Geisler-Fotopres/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images.

One of the few things that aggravates your friend and humble narrator more than hazelnut flavored coffee is Soviet apologists.

Case in point: A recent opinion piece in the New York Times claims the Soviet space program was a model for equality, noting the Soviets put a woman into space 20 years before NASA when Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova orbited the Earth in 1963.

"Cosmonaut diversity was key for the Soviet message to the rest of the globe: Under socialism, a person of even the humblest origins could make it all the way up," wrote Sophie Pinkham just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing.

Read More Show Less