Amazon chief and owner of space company Blue Origin Jeff Bezos doesn’t plan on backing away from potentially lucrative (but controversial) Department of Defense contracts anytime soon.
Speaking Monday at the Wired 25 event in San Francisco, Bezos said “We are going to continue to support the DoD and I think we should.”
His comments come after Google said it would no longer bid for a $10 billion cloud computing and data crunching contract with the Pentagon, citing as one of its reasons that the contract conflicts with the company’s internal principles governing ethical uses of artificial intelligence technologies. Amazon, along with companies like IBM and Oracle, are still bidding on the contract.
Bezos’ comments come after Blue Origin scored a U.S. Air Force contract to help with unspecified “national security space (NSS) missions,” the company said last week.
Bezos acknowledged that some “people are conflicted about this,” referring to technology companies developing cutting-edge tech for the government that could be used in controversial ways. Some Amazon employees, for instance, were reported to have asked Bezos to stop selling facial-recognition services to various law enforcement in the U.S.
One of the hallmarks of being a great leader, Bezos said, is to “make the right decision even if it’s unpopular.”
Bezos believes the U.S. will “be in trouble” if tech companies do not work with the government on military and national security related technology.
“This is a great country,” Bezos said. “It does need to be defended.”
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Regarding Blue Origin, Bezos said the spaceflight services company is “the most important thing I’m working on, but I won’t live to see it all worked out.” In the meantime, he is “hopeful” that the aerospace firm will launch a rocket in 2019 and send six people into space in what he describes as a space “tourism” mission.
“I keep telling the team it’s not a race,” Bezos said. “I want this to be the safest space vehicle in the history of space vehicles.”
But Amazon and Blue Origin aren’t Bezos’ only efforts. Bezos and others are building a $42 million clock that will tick every year for 10,000 years. The clock’s purpose is to inspire people to think for the long term for the benefit of humanity. Bezos said he believes “powerfully in symbols and they do change thinking.”