On The Weaponization Of Artificial Intelligence And Its Ties To The ‘Paypal Mafia’

When one searches for images to represent artificial intelligence, various engines return pictures of serene, benevolent faces formed by the convergence of digital code or blocks of data with the light of sudden illumination pouring from their foreheads. Alternatively, one finds images of robotic and human hands shaking in a symbol of peace, or new interpretations of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam.  Meanwhile, news reports tell us that the technology is now to be used in drone warfare. So, what is the real face of this new weaponry at the center of an international arms race?

In a previous report, this author cited the excellent work of independent Journalist Caitlin Johnstone on the social dangers of artificial intelligence, as well as Julian Assange’s warning on the matter. At the time of writing, the potential influence of artificial intelligence on social media and in framing the narrative of public discourse was my primary concern.

A Tweet by Wikileaks changed that focus.

 Wikileaks wrote: “The beginning of the end of humanity: Google has put artificial intelligence (AI) into the Pentagon’s drone program,” linking an article published by The Bulletin. The piece indicates that artificial intelligence has been weaponized, and is involved in the analysis of drone footage as part of Project Maven. The Bulletin’s report appears heavily biased in favor of the military and its collaboration with companies like Google in order to militarize AI.  The Bulletin describes the operation as a “crash Defense Department program that was designed to deliver AI technologies—specifically, technologies that involve deep learning neural networks—to an active combat theater within six months from when the project received funding.”

The Bulletin’s report goes on to describe Maven’s use of artificial intelligence to focus on the analysis of “full-motion video data from tactical aerial drone platforms.” That drones are now being used in tandem with Artificial Intelligence in warfare is concerning, and deserves dramatically increased scrutiny from establishment media. The need for additional coverage on this issue is especially pressing considering that the actual role of artificial intelligence in warfare is likely far more advanced than the latest news suggests.

Buried in the Bulletin’s report is an admission that the “secret sauce” ingredient for the program’s success was “external partnerships,” raising the specter of Google’s most devastating collaboration with the industrial death complex to date. The Bulletin explicitly describes Google’s advocacy for the expansion of artificial intelligence for military use in terms of an arms race against Russia and China. The report rapturously states:

“The US national security community is right to pursue greater utilization of AI capabilities. The global security landscape—in which both Russia and China are racing to adapt AI for espionage and warfare—essentially demands this. Both Robert Work and former Google CEO Eric Schmidt have said that leadership in AI technology is critical to the future of economic and military power and that continued US leadership is far from guaranteed.”

Robert Work joined the board of Raytheon a mere three months after leaving his position as Deputy Defense Secretary, embodying the revolving door between the corporate and state branches of the economy of death. Work’s giddy excitement at the prospect of increased military spending on research and development is, then, par for the course.

Graffiti in Yemen. Image via Telsur, Reuters.

The Bulletin’s admission that the program will likely spawn ‘a hundred copycats’ raises additional concern. Will one of those copycats aid in the ongoing genocide in Yemen? Will artificial intelligence be used to analyze footage from domestic spying operations? These fundamental questions will not be put to the likes of Eric Schmidt or Robert Work by members of the corporate media. As Lee Camp and Caitlin Johnstone have often reported, establishment press is now openly affiliated with the CIA and military interests.

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A report by Fox News confirmed Google’s participation in Project Maven, relating that: “Google’s artificial intelligence technologies are being used by the U.S. military for one of its drone projects [Maven], causing a stir both inside and outside the company.” Wired specifically commented on the depth of Google’s involvement with artificial intelligence in general, describing it as the “core of almost all of Google’s current and future technologies.”

Google’s enmeshment within the US military and government lattice has been reported for years, primarily by Wikileaks’ Julian Assange. In ‘Google Is Not What It Seems,‘ Assange detailed Google’s role as part of the State Department and the deep state, specifically mentioning Eric Schmidt 26 times. Assange described the close collaboration between Schmidt and Jared Cohen, the President of Jigsaw and an adjunct senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, who previously served in the State Department under both Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton:

“Later that year the two co-wrote a policy piece for the Council on Foreign Relations’ journal Foreign Affairs, praising the reformative potential of Silicon Valley technologies as an instrument of US foreign policy.5 Describing what they called “coalitions of the connected,”6 Schmidt and Cohen claimed that: “Democratic states that have built coalitions of their militaries have the capacity to do the same with their connection technologies. . . . They offer a new way to exercise the duty to protect citizens around the world [emphasis added].7

With this context in mind, the tech giant’s involvement with the weaponization of artificial intelligence is as predictable as it is troubling. At this juncture, it appears that Google is one of many giant silicon valley companies that can be considered a corporate, technological wing of the State’s death apparatus.

Disobedient Media has provided coverage of former Google and Alphabet executive Eric Schmidt, reporting his sudden departure from Google parent company Alphabet. At the time of the announcement, press reports alluded to Schmidt’s strong interest in artificial intelligence as a possible factor in his resignation. The New York Post wrote that a source close to Schmidt said the move would: “Allow him to have a more ‘hands-on role’ in developing artificial intelligence for defense.” With all of this in mind, Schmidt’s participation in the United States’ unelected military power structure is striking.

However, his role in the economy of death reaches even farther. Schmidt also leads the Pentagon’s Defense Initiative Advisory Board, which is attended by the richest man on the planet, Jeff Bezos. Business Insider writes that additional members include Neil deGrasse Tyson, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, Google executive Milo Medin, Instagram COO Marne Levine, and Aspen Institute CEO Walter Isaacson.

The membership of this ‘advisory board’ illustrates the crux of the technocracy’s immersion in the US death machine. As Disobedient Media previously reported, Bezos has also been suggested by legacy press as a future CIA Director and has a contract with the agency to develop a cloud for their use via Amazon.

Another member of the Advisory Board, Marne Levine, is associated with social media platforms including Facebook and Instagram. According to the Defense Initiative Advisory Board, She is also a member of the Trilateral Commission, and: “Served in the Obama Administration as Chief of Staff of the National Economic Council (NEC) at the White House and Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. Previously, Marne was Director of Product Management for Revolution Money and Chief of Staff for Harvard University President Larry Summers. Marne began her career in 1993 at the United States Department of Treasury under President Bill Clinton where she held a number of leadership positions.”

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Even Levine’s former superior Larry Summers is in on the artificial intelligence game, holding a position on the board of the private intelligence corporation, Premise Data. Summers also served as Chief Economist for the World Bank in the early 1990’s, was a friend and biographer of Henry Kissinger, was the  71st Secretary of the Treasury in the Clinton Administration and is a senior fellow with the Center for American Progress, which was founded by John Podesta.

Meanwhile, Premise Data serves customers including USAID, The United Nations and multinational bank, Standard Chartered. In late 2016, ZeroHedge reported that Premise Data had emerged in association with an attempted smear against Julian Assange, a topic that deserves a separate discussion. The value in describing just a few of the aforementioned connections stemming from the Defense Initiative Advisory Board is in the demonstration of the total immersion of corporate figures in the state apparatus, and their collective focus on artificial intelligence.

Some of these connections are depicted in the above chart, which gives some indication of how interconnected the technocracy has become with affairs of state and governance. The most important aspect of these relationships in this author’s opinion, is the direct link between the Pentagon’s Defense Initiative Advisory Board and the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence fund through Reid Hoffman.

Given the seriousness of the situation and its potential repercussions, it is particularly unnerving that LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, a member of the Pentagon’s Defense Advisory Board mentioned above, donated almost $10 million to the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund, described as dedicated to steering AI in a way that maximizes the benefits to society.

Hoffman was joined in his donation by Pierre Omidyar, the multi-billionaire founder of The Intercept, who donated approximately $10 million to the cause. Tech Crunch relates that the fund will support artificial intelligence “ethics and governance projects and activities,” in the US and internationally.

Another primary donor to the Ethics and Governance of Artificial Intelligence Fund included the Knight Foundation. The Foundation’s President and CEO, Alberto Ibargüen, is the former Publisher of the Miami Herald and has served on the board of the Council on Foreign Relations. According to Ibargüen‘s profile with the Council on Foreign Relations, he is also a former member of the Secretary of State’s Advisory Committee on Foreign Policy, former chairman of the board of the World Wide Web Foundation and of the Newseum in Washington, DC. Additionally, Ibargüen is a member of the boards of PepsiCo, American Airlines and AOL.

This may seem like an endless list of associations, but each is important to take into account. Behind all the feel-good platitudes about moral guidelines for artificial intelligence, there lurks the hard reality that Hoffman is donating to a fund intended to determine the moral guidelines of a weaponized technology at the center of a new arms race, while sitting on the Pentagon’s Defense Initiative Advisory Board with Bezos, Schmidt, Levine and the rest. Reid Hoffman previously served as a former COO and Executive Vice President of Paypal, with Fortune Magazine characterizing him as a member of what the outlet jokingly referred to as the “Paypal Mafia.”

Reid Hoffman is photographed (center, back row) among those characterized by Fortune Magazine as the ‘Paypal Mafia.’

This too is significant, as Paypal was an instrumental part of the financial blockade against Wikileaks in 2010. Wikileaks recounted that the blockade destroyed 95% of their revenue at the time, writing that the basis for the attack on its finances was intimately linked with their publication of Cablegate: “The blockade came into force within ten days of the launch of Cablegate as part of a concerted US-based, political attack that included vitriol by senior right-wing politicians, including assassination calls against WikiLeaks staff.”

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That Paypal acted on behalf of the military industrial complex in retaliation against Wikileaks for publishing US diplomatic cables is clear. Important figures from Paypal’s history also provide significant funding for the development of the “moral” governance of artificial intelligence should be a cause for concern. Like Hoffman, Pierre Omidyar has played a significant role in Paypal’s development.

Tech Crunch noted that: “Hoffman and Omidyar, via his philanthropic investment fund, have each put in $10M. They’re joined by the journalist and arts-focused Knight Foundation, which contributed $5M. Other backers at this point are the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and Jim Pallotta, founder of the Raptor Group, who have each committed $1M — though the aim is to grow the size of the fund further, as other funders join.”

As an aside, the President of the Knight Foundation, Alberto Ibarguen, is reported to serve as a member and former board member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and has served on the Secretary of State’s Foreign Policy Advisory Committee. The committee was established during Hillary Clinton’s term as Secretary of State.

Reid Hoffman represents a member of the ‘Paypal Mafia’ rubbing shoulders with Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt on a Pentagon Advisory Board, while simultaneously donating millions to a fund dedicated to creating the moral guidelines for artificial intelligence’s development. In light this, Philanthropic efforts to steer guidelines on artificial intelligence appears to amount to a thinly-veiled publicity stunt that ultimately serves the technocracy-fueled deep state.

In this way, the richest men on the planet effectively control the parameters by which artificial intelligence will operate, and the average person should absolutely be concerned about the probability that the design will be in the interest of monopolistic corporations and unelected military power.

Returning to The Bulletin’s report, we also find that analysis performed by artificial intelligence as part of Project Maven will be tailored for end-user needs, while “end users can prepare their organizations to make rapid and effective use of AI capabilities.” This is particularly significant due to the findings made by this author and journalist, activist and current leader of the Internet Party of New Zealand Suzie Dawson, in our collaborative work on the Decipher You project. The initiative analyzes never-before scrutinized Snowden Files.

One of the key focuses of that project centers on the customers of the NSA, which are not exclusively government bodies and include entities like the Federal Reserve. So the Bulletin’s allusion to tailoring weaponized artificial-intelligence-generated-analysis for the “end-user” raises red flags immediately.

The Bulletin’s report further characterizes the use of AI in drone warfare as part of “the fight against ISIS,” blithely ignoring the reality that drone operations result in the deaths of a vast number of civilians. Even legacy press like The New York Times admits that: “The results of some strikes have often turned out to be deeply troubling. Every independent investigation of the strikes has found far more civilian casualties than administration officials admit.”

The military has attempted to remove the consciousness from soldiers for decades, to make them more and more efficient killing machines. With drones and artificial intelligence, we are on the verge of removing humanity from the warfare equation altogether.

Those who are structuring the moral guidelines for artificial intelligence are part of the same military interests that are currently weaponizing it.

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