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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella defends the HoloLens military contract



Microsoft has agreed to take hundreds of millions of dollars to kill soldiers – but do not worry, the company's CEO says it's for democracy's sake.

On Monday, Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, ​​Nadella told CNN Business that despite staff protests, Microsoft will continue to develop HoloLens technology for the US military. He decided the decision regarding his company's duty to support the government.

"We have made the principled decision that we will not deprive the institutions we have voted in democracies of any technology to protect the freedoms we enjoy," Nadella told CNN Business.

Nadella unveiled the next generation of its AR headset, the HoloLens 2, at MWC. With this device, wearers can view the outside world layered with AR objects and applications.

But just a day before A group of Microsoft employees posted an open letter to Nadella and Microsoft President Brad Smith demanding that this technology not be used for military applications.

In November 2018, the US military awarded Microsoft a $ 479 million contract to develop an Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS). In other words, Microsoft has been tasked with finding ways in which the military can use the HoloLens on the battlefield.

The declared purpose of the treaty, according to government documents, is to "rapidly develop, test and produce a single platform" that "would offer." increased lethality, mobility and situational awareness. "Or, as Microsoft's staff put it," to kill soldiers. "

For letter writers and signers, this treaty" crossed the line. "They do not want to be involved in weapons development The employees, who have developed the HoloLens at all and who do not want to use their work in the war, are unfairly affected.

"As employees and shareholders, we do not want to become war profiteers," concludes the letter. "To that end, we believe that Microsoft must stop its activities to strengthen the ability of the US Army to cause harm and violence. "

According to a Twitter update of the group that issued the letter, Microsoft Workers for Good had over 250 employees Signed.

Nadella responded to these moral objections with a big, fat "nope". Microsoft will push ahead with the IVAS agreement.

Somewhat surprisingly, Nadella also claims the moral superiority of his decision.

"It's not about taking arbitrary action from a single company, it's not about 50 or 100 people or even 100,000 people in a company," Nadella said. "It really is about being a responsible corporate citizen in a democracy."

According to Nadella, the responsibility of a corporation lies in supporting government institutions; in this case the military, which "protects the freedoms we enjoy"

In fact, it is the duty of a company to pay taxes and obey the law. Any further duty is a philosophy, not a fact.

Of course, Microsoft has another reason to develop technology for the military.

Tech employees are increasingly facing the reality that the companies they work for are not necessarily "good" (as many have argued before). Subsequently, they objected both internally and publicly. Google employees have protested against Google's work on a Chinese search engine that could support the Chinese government's surveillance efforts and interfere with citizens' freedom of information. Amazon employees rejected the sale of facial recognition technology to law enforcement. In the cases of these leading technology giants – Google, Microsoft, and Amazon – employee policies stand in the way of cash from morally murky government contracts.

And where the CEOs stand is usually clear. Microsoft's Nadella and Smith and Google's CEO Sundar Pichai say they appreciate employee feedback. However, both parties then cite their own moral obligations (in the case of Pichai, allowed freedom of information in China). And then they end up right where they started: they accept lucrative government contracts with no guarantee that they will not be used to restrict freedoms or even kill people.

Is it the duty (or "responsibility") of a company to support governmental institutions in a democracy?

The concept is not necessarily disgusting, especially if you are working on technologies that can actually help people when used by government institutions such as health departments. But the US military specifically wanted to increase "lethality." Nadella could have gone; Instead, he took the money and made it a commitment. The bottom line could be Microsoft, which benefits from the violence of the war.

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