The AI Column: Time For A Moral Reckoning Down In Silicon Valley

The Long March
Aerial view of Apple Park, the corporate headquarters of Apple Inc., located in Cupertino, California.
Wikimedia Commons/Daniel L. Lu

The recent revelation that China’s security services had successfully compromised the servers of thousands of leading tech' firms cloud computing platforms has sent shockwaves through the tech world. The hardware hack may have compromised some of the most sensitive computer systems used by the military and intelligence services. While the scope and sophistication of the operations were alarming, it was no surprise to some in national security circles.


This reckoning was a long time coming.

For years, China has leveraged its intelligence services to engage in large-scale theft of intellectual property from firms around the world. Counter-intelligence experts say that Silicon Valley is now a prime battleground for Chinese spies and spy catchers.

While the tech giants have grumbled, their complaints have been measured. China has the world’s largest population and will soon boast of the largest economy. No multinational corporation wants to antagonize what will soon be the largest market on Earth. While cheap labor initially drew American firms there, the prospect of keeping a foothold in this market kept them there.

The emerging field of artificial intelligence may change this landscape further. China has declared that they want to lead the world AI and have made huge investments to that end. Some of their leading scientists were taught in the U.S. and many of their start-ups are funded by American venture capital.

While the AI race has been compared to the space race of the 1960s, this competition will include private tech firms like Apple and Google, who spend more on research and development than government agencies like DARPA. Leveraging the investments made by China and getting access to their massive data troves could give these firms a critical edge. But this help comes at a price.

No firm has seen this new price more than Google. The ink was hardly dry on their new ethical statement before it revealed that they were working on a secret project to assist the Chinese government with a new search engine. China’s internet is heavily censored and its government operates the most intrusive electronic surveillance regime in history.

At the same time, Human Rights Watch released a report of mass incarceration of Chinese oppression political dissidents and religious minorities. HRW estimates the government has imprisoned as many as a million people in these camps. While Google isn’t building these camps, they may be helping the government decide whom to put in them.

Before the revelations about the Chinese hardware hacking, firms could tell themselves they were pursuing the best interests of their shareholders by looking the other way at China’s malfeasance. Some small start-ups likely decided they might as well work in China, since someone there was going to steal their work anyway.

But the day of reckoning has arrived. These firms have to decide if they want to protect their secrets, the US government’s secrets and their customers or sell them to the highest bidder. The consequence of these decisions will affect us all.

“Mal Ware” is a veteran of the AI racket so salty that his Twitter account has been verified since 2002. Opinions expressed are his own.

"It's kind of like the equivalent of dropping a soda can into canyon and putting on a blindfold and going and finding it, because you can't just look down and see it," diver Jeff Goodreau said of finding the wreck.

The USS Eagle 56 was only five miles off the coast of Maine when it exploded.

The World War I-era patrol boat split in half, then slipped beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. The Eagle 56 had been carrying a crew of 62. Rescuers pulled 13 survivors from the water that day. It was April 23, 1945, just two weeks before the surrender of Nazi Germany.

The U.S. Navy classified the disaster as an accident, attributing the sinking to a blast in the boiler room. In 2001, that ruling was changed to reflect the sinking as a deliberate act of war, perpetuated by German submarine U-853, a u-boat belonging to Nazi Germany's Kriegsmarine.

Still, despite the Navy's effort to clarify the circumstances surrounding the sinking, the Eagle 56 lingered as a mystery. The ship had sunk relatively close to shore, but efforts to locate the wreck were futile for decades. No one could find the Eagle 56, a small patrol ship that had come so close to making it back home.

Then, a group of friends and amateur divers decided to try to find the wreck in 2014. After years of fruitless dives and intensive research, New England-based Nomad Exploration Team successfully located the Eagle 56 in June 2018.

Business Insider spoke to two crew members — meat truck driver Jeff Goodreau and Massachusetts Department of Corrections officer Donald Ferrara — about their discovery.

Read More Show Less
(CIA photo)

Before the 5th Special Forces Group's Operational Detachment Alpha 595, before 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment's MH-47E Chinooks, and before the Air Force combat controllers, there were a handful of CIA officers and a buttload of cash.

Read More Show Less

The last time the world saw Marine veteran Austin Tice, he had been taken prisoner by armed men. It was unclear whether his captors were jihadists or allies of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who were disguised as Islamic radicals.

Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."

That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.

Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.

Read More Show Less

"Shoots like a carbine, holsters like a pistol." That's the pitch behind the new Flux Defense system designed to transform the Army's brand new sidearm into a personal defense weapon.

Read More Show Less

Sometimes a joke just doesn't work.

For example, the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service tweeted and subsequently deleted a Gilbert Gottfried-esque misfire about the "Storm Area 51" movement.

On Friday DVIDSHUB tweeted a picture of a B-2 bomber on the flight line with a formation of airmen in front of it along with the caption: "The last thing #Millenials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today."

Read More Show Less