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It’s been a rough few weeks for Facebook. Its planned new cryptocurrency took an enormous amount of shit from all sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill. It’s been turning a blind eye to people pretending to be U.S. military servicemen who are ripping off lovestruck women from around the world. It’s gotten lumped in with Amazon in the president’s personal vendetta against Jeff Bezos. Even the relatively good news—a mere $5 billion fine for helping elect that president and make Brexit happen—and good things—noodling around with ditching the toxic “like” counts on Instagram—earn the tech giant a hailstorm of attacks, which it quite frankly deserves.

But, you know, a lot of the other FANGs deserve some criticism, too. Google, for instance, is pretty slimy, to say the least. But did you know that it’s also basically committing treason? I know this because a guy who supports the president that Facebook helped elect and who also likes to accuse people and things he doesn’t like of treason said so in a TL;DR Times op-ed.

A.I. is a military technology. Forget the sci-fi fantasy; what is powerful about actually existing A.I. is its application to relatively mundane tasks like computer vision and data analysis. Though less uncanny than Frankenstein’s monster, these tools are nevertheless valuable to any army — to gain an intelligence advantage, for example, or to penetrate defenses in the relatively new theater of cyberwarfare, where we are already living amid the equivalent of a multinational shooting war….

A.I.’s military power is the simple reason that the recent behavior of America’s leading software company, Google — starting an A.I. lab in China while ending an A.I. contract with the Pentagon — is shocking…. Perhaps the most charitable word for these twin decisions would be to call them naïve…. We should understand that the real point of talking about what’s good for the world is to evade responsibility for the good of the country.

The author of this screed is Peter Thiel, great champion of such bedrock American principles as the First Amendment, and identified by the Times as “an entrepreneur and investor.” Neither Thiel nor the Times itself bothered to mention that among Thiel’s investments is Facebook, and that he sits on the company’s board, and that Facebook has had its own difficulties with AI, including helping another foreign power interfere with elections and undermine democracy to its own liking. But, you know, why would that ever come up?

Good for Google, Bad for America [NYT]



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