Pentagon worried it lost ‘hearts and minds’ on defense tech

Great piece in Wired with some startling insights from internal Pentagon memos. After a year in which Silicon Valley employees – particularly at Google – have demanded their firms shun defense contracts, there was considerable panic within the DoD about how to recapture the narrative so that progress is not slowed:

“We have stumbled unprepared into a contest over the strategic narrative,” said an internal Pentagon memo circulated to roughly 50 defense officials on June 28. The memo depicted a department caught flat-footed and newly at risk of alienating experts critical to the military’s artificial intelligence development plans. “We will not compete effectively against our adversaries if we do not win the ‘hearts and minds’ of the key supporters,” it warned.

Silicon Valley was, of course, built on war. But the cultures cultivated by tech firms in more recent years – where employees go to work feeling they are changing the world for the better – has made companies almost completely incompatible with the military’s desire to improve its weaponry.

There is a major exception, though: Amazon. Jeff Bezos has made his thoughts on this perfectly clear. I predict it’ll become a leading revenue source for the firm next year.