Microsoft Is Now a Military AI Company
Just as in China many major technology companies are State-backed, it’s now official — America is on the same path. At the Last Futurist we say this due to Microsoft’s increasingly lucrative contracts with the U.S. Army. In technological capitalism this is inevitable but also very dangerous.
- Microsoft will deliver to the U.S. Army more than 120,000 devices based on its HoloLens augmented reality headset.
- The deal, which could be worth as much as $21.88 billion over 10 years, follows a contract Microsoft received to build prototype headsets for the Army.
- The contract comes a year and a half after Microsoft won a cloud contract from the Pentagon that could be worth up to $10 billion.
This means Microsoft is the most diversified business now in the world. More than Google, Amazon or Apple. It also means Microsoft is the U.S. State’s choice of technology partner along with Palantir. What happens to societies and democracies when technology companies enable them to make more efficient soldiers, better killer drones (Google’s AI) and so forth? What happens when the lines between the state and corporations begin to blur?
Microsoft’s entry into the Cloud and with the HoloLens product has started a journey that takes it to a very dark place. Its employees know this, while its management will play this down out of greed. The deal shows Microsoft can generate meaningful revenue from a futuristic product resulting from years of research, beyond core areas such as operating systems and productivity software.
This will also incentivize Microsoft to develop AI products that augment the military capabilities of the United States. It will stoke an AI-arms race with China.
The standard-issue HoloLens, which costs $3,500, enables people to see holograms overlaid over their actual environments and interact using hand and voice gestures. Basically this means augmented soldiers who can aim and kill enemies (humans) better. The United States will say this is to protect. But it kickstarts an era of augmented soldiers that is in the 2020s now in full R&D mode.
That an ethical company like Microsoft would engage in this sector shows the depravity of the future of technology leadership. These were supposed to be the good guys among Silicon Valley’s considerable greed that’s ventured to the point of evil.
The headset enables soldiers to fight, rehearse and train in one system, the Army said in a statement. This suggests Microsoft will be the Army’s cloud, cybersecurity, R&D and future AI unit of choice. These contracts are so lucrative Microsoft has no choice but to put more resources into them and increase their AI capabilities.
The deal makes Microsoft a more prominent technology supplier to the U.S. military. That’s not however the end game of this journey.
Employee concerns at Microsoft have been and will be shut down. The U.S. will say this is a matter of national security. The levels of augmentation in the tech will continue full-force. But what kind of a world will this create for future citizens in the cold tech war against China? Microsoft has turned to the dark side with this contract and now its path is set in its corporate culture of military nationalism.
This is par for the course of powerful corporations that are being recruited into the cold tech war. In China, it appears ByteDance is inheriting the mantle once held by Huawei, that has struggled in 2020. China has a veritable pantheon of national champion corporations.
The only way the U.S. can compete is to tether itself to its most innovative companies. However this will change the very nature of democracy, accountability and pervert capitalism into a form of surveillance capitalism as Google and Facebook have already started. Microsoft is just joining in, ready to profit from the cold-tech war.