Oculus Founder’s Vision For Military AI, Which He’s Helping Build, Is Kinda Yikes

Oculus Founder’s Vision For Military AI, Which He’s Helping Build, Is Kinda Yikes
Photo: David Fitzgerald, Getty Images

One of the founders of Oculus, now called Meta Quest, has been busy since being pushed out of the company in 2018 with, um, military tech that may be involved in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In an frustratingly coy interview with Wired, Palmer Luckey skirted around the question of whether or not technology from Anduril Industries, a military technology company Luckey founded in 2017, is being used in Ukraine.

“There’s a few assumptions in that question, like we aren’t involved,” Luckey responded without saying whether that assumption was correct or not.

In a follow-up question where he was asked explicitly whether he and Anduril are involved in Ukraine, Luckey outright refused to confirm or deny this detail. He did, however, mention that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy “reached out” to Anduril in the interest of deterring conflict.

Kotaku reached out to Luckey and Anduril for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Anduril also struck a deal with the Trump administration to install surveillance towers around the border between the U.S. and Mexico in 2020. He was also a vocal supporter and donor for former President Donald Trump.

Anduril uses its Lattice technology, among others, which is a counter-drone system that detects hostile drones using AI-powered sentry towers, then deploys its own drones to take the other out of the air. A demo video boasts that Lattice operates autonomously with “computer vision, machine learning, and real-time data.” It’s already under development for the U.S., the U.K., and Australia, leading to the question of whether Ukraine might be part of that list.

Luckey mentions in the Wired interview that working on weapons is “less sunny” than the “fun” he had in developing video games. Of course, that could be in part due to his unnerving stance towards AI weaponry. While Luckey acknowledges the controversy behind machine decision-making, his answer makes it a bit difficult to sleep at night. The military startup founder says that he doesn’t want to “make it impossible for these systems to ever be used in certain ways.”

Here’s his approach to AI in layman terms: Luckey doesn’t want to make it impossible for a weapon to fire on a target if an actual human isn’t manning the communications. His rationale is that the enemy could learn that shutting down communications is the key to disabling an entire defence system. Instead, he looks to ensure that “the responsibility for [weapons firing] always lands on a person,” rather than the pulling of the trigger itself ” A Republican donor thinking that the ethical rammnifactions of murder technology should be dictated by personal responsibillty? Who could have possibly seen this coming?

Luckey talks big about the future of military technology and his good intentions, but he’s making good money from militarised conflict. The startup recently landed a billion-dollar contract from the Department of Defence in January. And its work on the border wall wasn’t cheap either–that five-year contract with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency was worth $US250 ($347) million, though it’s unclear if that deal is still in place with the current Biden administration. And though Luckey likes to send “mean tweets,” as he refers to them, about Anduril having more money than taxpayer-funded weapons manufacturers since Anduril and other private companies aren’t tied only to public funds. But maybe it’s actually a bad thing for private companies to be incentivized by armed conflict.



  • Last year i watched an ABC investigation about China’s use of experimental AI tech to determine guilt in Ulguirs (guess spelling) based on the muscles in their face.

    Point is that even the shittiest democracies need to develop terrible technologies in places where we have free speech, media and elections so a moral majority can (in theory) guide how they’re used. Otherwise we eventually end up under the thumb of someone worse.

    I don’t like that reality either, but it is what it is. This shouldnt be seen as a criticism of Sisi either- noting my above point about people having the freedom to voice concerns.

    Companies and assholes like Meta Quest do need to be enabled though.

    • “moral majority can…”

      That’s your first problem… unfortunately, morals can be very subjective, especially when you start splitting hairs.

      It’s literally:
      – if you are in the majority, you are moral and the minority are immoral.
      – if you are in the minority, you are moral and the majority are immoral.

      What defines such things as “moral”, especially since morals change more often than my mum’s hair colour. What was moral 20 years ago, is no immoral.

      And it gets even more murky when you factor in the current “multiculturalness” most western societies live in.

      Like how one user here loves to spit out the good ol, “paradox of tolerance” where a tolerant society must be intolerant towards intolerant… What and who defines what is or isn’t tolerant? The “moral majority”?

      I mean… I agree with you to an extent…

      • When i say ‘moral majority’ im referring to our evolutionary conditioning towards positive social interations with each other. Most people, most of the time will look to be decent to others as thats been a beneficial strategy in an evolutionaly sense. Its what underpins all our social interactions.

        “Treat others as you would like to be treated” is a better measure than any particular social code.

        A large, open democracy is the best defence against attrocities. Its the least-bad system and it needs to be able to protect itself from even worse options.

        • I’d like to believe you, but if the last 6000-odd years of human civilization has taught us anything… It’s that human’s tend toward being dicks. It’s a default setting or something. And rarely (and I’m being generous) has it been the majority that has offered the “positive social interactions” to anyone outside of the majority.

          We can see this today.. hell, have a look at half of what the “moral minority” are saying should happen to those who don’t align with them, should they get any sort of actual power.

          What’s the saying to do with power and corruption? You don’t think that “moral majority” will do everything within their power to stay the “moral majority”?

          I’d like to believe you, but history paints a very different tale

  • // A Republican donor thinking that the ethical rammnifactions of murder technology should be dictated by personal responsibillty? Who could have possibly seen this coming? //
    You Americans are INSANE with how you can only ever see things in black and white. All running around as if someone being part of one political affiliation automatically means they are incapable of sharing views with someone from the opposing side.

    It really is no wonder your country is such a fuckin’ political/ideological dumpster fire these days.

  • While the answer is self explanatory (bottom of the barrel AmeriKKKan journalism), it still has to be asked – how did someone get a job at Kotaku without having basic reading comprehension?

    Jiang: “…with, um, military tech that may be involved in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

    How do you draw that conclusion from Luckey stating that Zelenskyy was interested in his company’s products?

    Luckey: “But I will say Zelensky reached out to us way ahead of most world leaders, at a time when people didn’t believe in applying autonomy to warfare. He and a handful of others were seeing the future and realizing that autonomy was going to be an important part of deterring conflict. ”

    It’s one thing to preach to the choir about how Luckey contradicts with your politics, it’s quite another to insinuate his company is not only providing services to Russia’s military, but actively doing so during their brave mission to suppress the Neo-Nazi gangster ‘government’ in the Ukraine.

    Wait til Sisi finds out about how much AmeriKKKan technology Russia uses in military applications – will she call for a boycott of AmeriKKKa over it? https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2022/02/11/russian-military-drones-ukraine/

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