Complicating matters more so, tech employees throughout the left-leaning Silicon Valley have moved from apathy to activism in the past few years. In recent months thousands of tech workers from top companies, including Google, Salesforce, Amazon and Microsoft, have led large-scale internal rebellions against their employers over contracts with the government. Employee outrage has largely stemmed from the sale of technology, particularly AI, for military application.
The response from the top has been mixed. In June, Google announced that it would not renew one of its contracts, known as Project Maven, with the Pentagon. The project utilized Google's AI technology to improve drone strikes in the battlefield. However, executives from Salesforce, Microsoft and Amazon refused to cede to employee demands and did not terminate their contracts.
Elsa Kania, an adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security, a think tank that explores policy related to national security and defense, said she believes that regardless of whether executives take employee demands seriously, the reluctance from employees is "concerning."
In order for the United States to hold its lead over China, she said it is "vital for the military to learn from and take advantage of the expertise and perspective" from Silicon Valley. "It appears that China's leading companies and leading universities may be more willing to work with the military, whereas their U.S. counterparts are seemingly less willing," said Kania.
While the press was focused on Elon Musk smoking weed during an appearance on the Joe Rogan podcast this week, the tech billionaire and outspoken thinker on the dangers of AI also noted in the interview that an advantage China holds over the U.S. is high-level politicians who are knowledgeable on science.