For Immediate Release: January 10, 2019
Media Contact: Tony Fleming, director for communications, (202) 463-8270 ext 110
(Washington, D.C.)—A group of 4,000 anonymous Google employees opposing the company's work on a Pentagon project using artificial intelligence (AI), which could be used to improve drone targeting, was chosen as the 2018 Arms Control Persons of the Year for 2018.
Due to the employees’ actions, which included an internal petition to company management, Google ended its work on Project Maven when the contract expired and announced it would focus on “socially beneficial” AI and avoid work that causes “overall harm.”
More than 1,200 individuals from over 70 countries voted in this year’s iteration of the online contest.
Nine individuals and groups were nominated by the staff and board of the Arms Control Association for their leadership in advancing effective arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament solutions or for raising awareness of the threats posed by mass casualty weapons during the course of 2018.
“Technological developments that remove or reduce direct human control over lethal weapon systems could change the nature of warfare and undermine global security. Not only do governments need to work harder to develop new rules to mitigate the risks, but researchers at private institutions and tech companies have a responsibility to step-in, when necessary, to ensure their projects are used responsibly,” said Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association.
“The initiative of this group of concerned Google employees helped to change company culture and policy for the better and is an example for others to follow,” he said.
Further details on the Google employees’ response to the company’s involvement in Project Maven were reported last year in a series of articles by Kate Conger published in Gizmodo.
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The runners-up in the vote for the 2018 Arms Control Persons of the Year were the founders and co-chairs of the International Gender Champions Disarmament Impact Group: Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations in Geneva Michael Gaffey, Permanent Representative of Namibia to the United Nations in Geneva Sabine Böhlke-Möller, Director of the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research Renata Dwan, Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations in Geneva Rosemary McCarney and Founder/Executive Director of [email protected] Caitlin Kraft-Buchman. The impact group developed specific aims for expanding knowledge about the importance of gender issues and practical actions for bringing gendered perspectives into disarmament discussions.
The second runner-up was South Korean president Moon Jae-in. He was nominated for promoting improved Inter-Korean relations and a renewed dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang on denuclearization and peace that has led to a number of significant steps to decrease tensions, including a North Korean moratorium on long-range missile and nuclear testing, a halt to U.S.-South Korean military exercises, and steps to avoid military incidents along the demilitarized zone that divides North Korea and South Korea.
Online voting was open from Dec. 7, 2018, until Jan. 7, 2019. A list of all of this year's nominees is available at https://armscontrol.org/acpoy/2018
Previous winners of the "Arms Control Person of the Year" are:
- Diplomats from Austria, Brazil, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, and South Africa, and Costa Rica who secured the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons;
- Tony de Brum and the government of the Marshall Islands (2016);
- Setsuko Thurlow and the Hibakusha of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, (2015);
- Austria's Director for Arms Control, Nonproliferation, and Disarmament Ambassador Alexander Kmentt (2014);
- Executive-Secretary of the CTBTO Lassina Zerbo (2013);
- Gen. James Cartwright (2012);
- reporter and activist Kathi Lynn Austin (2011);
- Kazakhstan's Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Umarov and Thomas D'Agostino, U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator (2010);
- Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) (2009);
- Norway's Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre and his ministry's Director-General for Security Policy and the High North Steffen Kongstad (2008); and
- U.S. Congressmen Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and David Hobson (R-Ohio) (2007).