“I don’t think that Microsoft, Amazon, or any of these big tech companies are going to go all-in and say we are going to build products that are going to be controversial, part of the kill chain, and designed specifically for DoD,” says the founder of Oculus VR and Anduril, Palmer Luckey. “Because if it reduces their consumer enterprise sales by one percent or increases controversy by one percent it’s likely not worth doing.”
Luckey added, “I don’t think that the United States leads in the technologies that are going to be relevant to the warfare of the future. I think that the US is falling behind in areas like autonomy and artificial intelligence.”
Big Tech Won’t Build Products That Are Part of the Kill Chain
No, (I don’t think Microsoft is a rival to Anduril). Actually, I think that we’re going to be doing a lot of work with Microsoft on a lot of this stuff. You’re not going to have one company owning everything anyway. I’m glad that Microsoft and Amazon are vigorously competing for this Jedi contract. Contrast that with Google that dropped out because they said they couldn’t be sure the government was going to abide to their internal corporate ethics principles. I think that there’s a big difference though between what Amazon and Microsoft are doing with Jedi and what we’re doing. Microsoft has said that the military will always have access to their best technology and that’s true. But they also are selling to everyone. They’re building a product that’s for everyone.
Everything that we’re building is specifically for the Department of Defense. We’re not going out there and saying, let’s resell the thing where we make 90 percent of our money in the consumer or the enterprise space. We’re going to say what do they need and what is the absolute perfect thing? I don’t think that Microsoft, Amazon, or any of these big tech companies are going to go all-in and say we are going to build products that are going to be controversial, part of the kill chain, and designed specifically for DoD. Because if it reduces their consumer enterprise sales by one percent or increases controversy by one percent it’s likely not worth doing.
US Is Falling Behind In Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence
In China, you have lots of new companies doing defense work and lots of consumer technology companies doing really strong defense. China has a very strong pipeline from new tech to military deployment. I think the United States knows that they can learn a little bit from that and that they’re going to have to if they’re going to keep up with our adversaries who are honestly much better at that innovation pipeline than we are right now.
I think that we lead right now especially when it comes to conventional military force and when it comes to conventional military operations. I don’t think that the United States leads in the technologies that are going to be relevant to the warfare of the future. I think that the US is falling behind in areas like autonomy and artificial intelligence. I think that China has structural advantages over the United States because they’re willing to surveil their entire population and use it as a training system for their artificial intelligence models. I’m not saying that we should do that. I’m very much against that in fact. But we do have to realize that China has certain structural advantages.
In China, the government by law is able to take any technology they want from the private sector and use it for military purposes. In the United States, we’re lucky that our companies are even able to say I don’t want to work with the government. I don’t agree with Google’s decision to pull out of the Jedi contract, for example, but I am very supportive of their right to do so. Again, I’m not saying we need to be more like China on this. I think that would be terrible. But we do have to recognize that there are structural advantages in what they’re doing and so we have to not just do the same thing they’re doing. We have to try new things, better things, and alternate routes where they don’t really have such a strong advantage.
Lockheed, Raytheon Do Not Have The Best New Tech Talent
I think our (smaller) size actually works in our favor. If it was a big landscape of smaller highly competitive players I think we actually would have a harder time raising money. As it is investors look and they say, hey, the whole field is dominated by a handful of players that make all of the money. They’re old, they’re very slow-moving, they don’t have all the best talent. That type of market is the one where you can believe the most that somebody can come in and disrupt it.
We’re a defense technology company first. We’re not a consumer technology company dabbling in defense work. We from day one said what can we develop that really helps the US Department of Defense and that helps keep America and our allies safe. That’s why we’re building artificial intelligence powered hardware and software. I think that we have a few big competitive advantages. The first thing is that we have a really strong team that comes from areas where the experts in autonomy, computer vision, machine learning, networking, those types of things, actually are.
Lockheed, Raytheon, the traditional defense primes, they’re good at building aircraft carriers and good at building fighter interceptors but they do not have the world’s best talent when it comes to artificial intelligence, computer vision, and machine learning. That’s why our company is focusing on that. We think we can add a lot of value there that other people cannot necessarily add.