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Microsoft workers protest $480m HoloLens military deal

Microsoft workers protest $480m HoloLens military deal
May 16
14:54 2019

Modern technology has drastically improved the lives of billions of people all around the people. From major technologies that allowed even the poorest of countries get electricity to technologies that let people enjoy online gambling on sites like Leovegas blackjack, which is now live in the Indian Market. It has brought the world closer and made it a safer place to live in. But like with almost everything that humans have ever created, modern technology to has always had a dark side to itself.

When Alfred Bernhard Nobel invented the dynamite, he did so with the intention of helping construction workers take down old buildings so that new ones can be built in their place. His invention had the power to destroy but his intentions were peaceful. However, it didn’t take long before people realized that the destructive power of dynamite had other applications, outside of the construction business.

Dynamite became a very popular weapon that was very effective against enemies in larger numbers and people used it to unleash death on whomsoever they wanted to remove from this world. Alfred Nobel was given the nickname of the ‘Merchant of Death”, even though he never had any desire for his intention to harm other people.

This raised a very important moral and philosophical question among the people, one that is still relevant to this day, and as the recent story about Microsoft and their HoloLens tell us, we are still very far from finding the right answer.

Microsoft HoloLens

Before getting into the controversy regarding this new product by Microsoft and what sparked it, let’s have a quick look at what the product actually is.

To put it simply, Microsoft HoloLens is like a headset which uses holographic images. These images are placed on the screen of the headset. It’s a device that is used to implement augmented reality, which in itself has lots of extremely fascinating applications.

This piece of technology by Microsoft has the ability to take experiences like driving, cooking, watching movies, clicking pics, etc to the next level and even though the price right now is too high for mainstream usage, it is expected to become much more affordable as newer and newer versions are launched.

This product might be just the thing that gives Microsoft the edge when it comes to the fight to bring augmented reality technologies to the mainstream which can prove to be extremely beneficial for the tech giant.

This makes the fact that HoloLens will forever remain in the shadow of this controversy all the more unfortunate for Microsoft as even if they manage to find a solution to the current problem, this product will never be seen with an unbiased eye.

Background on the Controversy

Once HoloLens becomes affordable and goes mainstream, it will mostly be used for amplifying the efficiency of day to day activates but currently, another use has been discovered for this gadget. As it turns out, by using the HoloLens, people can very easily detect and target others. This makes HoloLens a great tool for soldiers to have on the field who can use it to engage their enemies in a much more efficient way.

Just like dynamite became a great tool to get rid of one’s enemies, HoloLens has the potential to give the soldiers wearing it a drastic advantage on the battlefield against their opponents.

War is a complicated thing and people have extremely polarizing views regarding it, but no one can deny that whenever a war breaks out, people die. Moral philosophers debate to this day on who should be blamed for causing these deaths, the soldiers who were just doing their jobs, the governments trying to protect their nation, or the weapons that make taking human life so easy and the people who make these weapons.

War Profiteering is one of the worst business in the world and a nauseating amount of companies are involved in it. Microsoft is just the most recent one to be accused of this.

Microsoft made a $480 Million dollar deal to supply the HoloLens to soldiers, which will allow them to get rid of their targets in a more effective and efficient manner. While viewed purely from a business perceptive, the move makes a lot of sense as the HoloLens is a little too expensive to be sold to the public directly.

The top management at Microsoft might be perfectly happy selling technology to the army, however,it’s employees do not feel the same way about it and this is how this controversy started.

 The Actual Controversy

Tens of Microsoft employees have come out in protest against this $480 million with the US Army and many of them have signed a petition to stop it from ever taking place. These employees feel that selling the HoloLens to the US Army is the same as directly indulging in war profiteering.

They believe that Microsoft has no business selling technologies to the US Army which can be used to harm other people. “We are a global coalition of Microsoft workers, and we refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression,” is a line that can be found on an email that is been passed around within the multinational corporation.

Microsoft made a $480 Million dollar deal to supply the HoloLens to soldiersThese employees feel that their work should never be used to harm and oppress others and the vehemently believe that is exactly what will end up happening if the US Army gets their hands of the HoloLens.

While Microsoft has previously built technologies for the government and the military, in the minds of the employees who are against this $480 million deal, their company has never directly engaged in developing weapons, something which they believe the company would be doing if this deal ends up being successful.

“A lot of people feel uncomfortable about being involved in war-related business or producing weapons that hurt other people,” exclaimed one employee of Microsoft, “To me, it’s a basic violation of Microsoft’s mission statement to empower every person and organization on the planet to do more.”

Conclusion?

This controversy had started to gain a lot of momentum as more and employees are signing their name on the letter and it would definitely be interesting to see how the top-management responds to it. They have a lot of ways to deal with this but one that would definitely put them in a very bad light would be if they chose to penalize any of the individuals who are voicing their complaints about the $480 million deal with the US Army.

On the other hand, a lack of response from the company might also result in workers turning towards taking more drastic actions and many might end up leaving the company if it decides to go ahead with the deal.

This controversy can potentially set a precedent for other companies that might be thinking of offering their products to the Army and the how this controversy ends might end up having long and lasting consequences for the relationship between tech companies and military organization all over the world.

Meanwhile, the question of whether people who develop technologies for peaceful purposes that end up getting used to cause pain and destruction, should be blamed for the part they have inadvertently played still remains unanswered.

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