Report: How Big Tech and Silicon Valley are Transforming the Military-Industrial Complex

In its pursuit of AI-driven weapons systems, the Pentagon increasingly awards billion-dollar contracts to Big Tech companies and startups. In his latest report for the Costs of War project, Professor of Cultural Anthropology Roberto J. González traces these contracts along with the narratives and interests that fuel them to dissect how they are changing what we call the American military-industrial-commercial complex (Gould et al. 2024). 

With Big Tech firms like Microsoft, Amazon, and Alphabet receiving ever increasing funds from the Pentagon, González notices a lack of transparency regarding the actual worth of the Big Tech defence contracts. This is because they are classified and withheld from public databases. Driving the pursuit of these contracts are overblown and inaccurate socio-technological imaginaries provided through a network that includes tech executives, venture capitalists, and Pentagon leaders. Boosting the demand for military AI, those constructing these narratives are the same ones profiting from them. 

In addition to being untransparent, Big Tech business models are likely to produce inadequately tested or flawed AI-enabled military technologies. One significant risk Gonzáles identifies is that advanced tech startups are driven by venture capital. Seeking out rapid returns on investment, these startups are under pressure to quickly create,  produce and sell weapons systems. González argues that, therefore, such aggressive investments can lead to inadequately tested weapons systems that could harm both combatants and civilians.

Ultimately, González’ report explores how both large and small defence contractors are transforming the political economy of war, creating expensive high-tech defence products that are ineffective, unpredictable, and unsafe.

To read the full report by Roberto J. González, click on the reference below.
González, Roberto J. 2024. ‘How Big Tech and Silicon Valley Are Transforming the Military-Industrial Complex’. Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

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