Microsoft Workers Reject Military use of their Virtual Inventions

Some people may not know that Microsoft is in the military hardware industry. This has passed quietly for the most part with the mainstream media being fairly ambivalent about it. Thus far they’ve been fairly lucky. That luck seems to have run out. Reports are floating around that employees of Microsoft’s development division are unhappy with their current project: a military device. A project they had been working on is now being adapted for military use. This has got them riled up and rightfully so. They say they didn’t “sign up to develop weapons.”

The project is about an augmented reality headset, called HoloLens. The purpose of the project is to place digital images over real-world objects, and people. The plan is to use it to turn the battlefield into a virtual landscape. It would make everything appear as though it was a video game. Think of PokemonGo but with virtual images replacing the real world ones. Microsoft and the US Army hope that the technology will allow soldiers to spot and kill enemies more easily on the battlefield.

The objection was raised on an internal employee message board that quickly gained support. It seems the developers are adamantly opposed to the military application of the product. They have said that they “refuse to create technology for warfare and oppression.” To that effect, they’ve written a letter to the company to urge them to cancel the military contract.

“We did not sign up to develop weapons, and we demand a say in how our work is used,” the letter says. It requests Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith to cancel a $480 million contract the Army slated to be announced in November.

Microsoft has stated that they will continue working with the military on the HoloLens project and others.

The objection by the workers is quite well founded. Their concern is that “it will be deployed on the battlefield, and works by turning warfare into a simulated ‘video game,’ further distancing soldiers from the grim stakes of war and the reality of bloodshed.”

The fear makes perfect sense. The US is currently an imperialist empire that does not serve as a defensive force, but rather a thief of value, resources, and influence. Such a program would replace the real world victims of US conflicts with digital images that don’t even appear human. In the minds of the imperialist soldier, the casualties won’t even appear ‘real’. Much of the moral dilemma over the killings will be erased and replaced with ‘morally acceptable’ video game bad guys.

We’ve seen this before. In the past, the US and the old European colonial empires saw the subject people as less than human. They were seen as savages or inferior forms of life. This was the justification for treating them as less than human. Killing them was not seen as wrong for that very reason. We’re seeing this again. Now the colonized peoples are presented as ‘not even human’ by overlaying them with a video game character. It is obvious that we are looking at a whole new level of dehumanization of the victims of imperialism.

This just shows the level of inhumanity capitalism will sink to in order to reap in the resources of other countries. All of this suffering and suffering to come, all for the profit of the economic elite.