Microsoft committed itself to supporting the US military in any way that it can.
President Brad Smith didn’t leave his company’s intentions in doubt when he pledged at the Reagan National Defense Forum that Microsoft is “going to provide the US military with access to the best technology … all the technology we create. Full stop.” This was a bold statement to make considering that some ‘techies’, both within his own company and especially others such as Google’s with generally younger workforces, are concerned about Big Tech’s partnership with the Pentagon. Smith is evidently trying to dispel any worries that his company’s promises could be jeopardized by rebellious employees in what can be seen as a marketing pitch meant to position Microsoft as a serious competitor to Google and Amazon when it comes to providing technical services for the US military, bearing in mind that both of those two have had workers speak out against some of their employers’ contracts with the Armed Forces.
The larger issue that should be discussed isn’t just the potential ethical implications of indirectly assisting drone strikes and other controversial actions by the American military but the role that Big Tech companies play in the military-industrial complex in the first place. Although the US government’s “Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency”, or DARPA, is famous for its innovative inventions like the Internet, it operates in a completely different professional environment devoid of the market competition that the Big Tech monopolies face with one another, which makes it ill-suited to managing the large-scale services such as military-wide cloud computing that its private counterparts are much more capable of providing. Partnering with the military is advantageous for these companies not only for reasons of prestige and profit, but speculatively speaking, possibly even for the unofficial perks that might come with it.
It’s difficult to imagine the government cracking down on these firms by breaking up their monopolies in advance of the public interest if they’re so dependent on their current internal organizational model for carrying out military-related tasks, not wanting to jeopardize the many ongoing missions that the Pentagon is constantly carrying out all across the world in order to score some populist political points at home. It’s true that an American leader might one day emerge who wouldn’t shy away from doing this so long as it’s carried out in an orderly and responsible fashion, but given the cutthroat competition between the main Big Tech companies, it would probably be easier to replace one with the other (and possibly for a cheaper price, at that!) and then crack down on the previous provider after the transition has been completed. Speculatively, this could bode really badly for Amazon but be extremely beneficial for Microsoft.
By Andrew Korybko
Source: Oriental Review