As was recently reported in the New York Times, Google purchased Boston Dynamics, a leading lab in the field of robotics which has been a regular recipient of US military contracts, and has performed prime research and development for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. With funding from DARPA, Boston Dynamics produced humanoid robots PETMAN and ATLAS, as well as collection of imitation animals, including Big Dog, Cheetah, and WildCat, each with their own military applications.
"The Avatar program will develop interfaces and algorithms to enable a soldier to effectively
partner with a semi-autonomous bi-pedal machine and allow it to act as the soldier's surrogate. Once developed, Avatar will allow soldiers to remain out of harm's way while still leveraging their experience and strengths to complete important missions such as sentry/perimeter control, room clearing, combat casualty recovery, and, eventually, dismounted combat maneuver. Anticipated service users include the Army, Marines and Special Forces."
In the New York Times article, there was a vague and unconvincing attempt to distance Google from the role of military contractor, stating that "Google executives said the company would honor existing military contracts, but that it did not plan to move toward becoming a military contractor on its own." The "on its own" phrasing appears to leave some wiggle room for ongoing military contracting, perhaps implying it would remain primarily an internet company (while doing some "side work" for the Pentagon), or referring to the search giant's intention to work in a cooperative effort with other individuals or research firms for the US government.
If Google continues its current development of high tech toys for the US military, there's no reason to believe that the general public would be aware of it. Recent SEC rule changes have allowed Google among other corporations to omit the majority of their subsidiaries from public records, and as a result, Google's publicly available list of subsidiaries shrank from over one hundred to just two, over the course of three years, according to the Wall Street Journal. Might some iteration of General Dynamics find itself rebranded and relocated overseas to avoid the scrutiny of those curious about Google's new found military connection? This legal cloak, coupled with a total lack of transparency within the US government, gives Google just the kind of cover it needs to go forward with creating technology for the US military, should it desire to do so.
It is also interesting to note that Google has previously crossed paths with DARPA and the US military. Google's fleet of self driving cars was developed under the direction of Sebastian Thrun, winner of the DARPA driverless car Grand Challenge competition, and second place winner of the DARPA Urban Challenge competition. Additionally, in 2012 Regina Dugan left her role as director of DARPA to work in an executive position at Google. And thanks to Edward Snowden, we learned that Google has been collaborating with the NSA under the PRISM program, giving the spy agency access to vast amounts of data stored on their servers. The company actually received millions of dollars in government funds to implement the program. It should be mentioned that the NSA operates under the jurisdiction of the Pentagon, and thus is a military agency.
All of this hints at the overlapping and evolving high tech power structure, where Google's acquisition of Boston Dynamics points to a high stakes, behind-the-scenes merging of government and corporate power. In order to stay competitive, national security players converge with military researchers and "civilian" tech giants, establishing an all pervasive security grid in which we all take part. Semi and fully autonomous robots, artificial intelligence, ubiquitous surveillance, and drones all become the subjects of bleeding edge interest in the interconnected world of the elites.