The free-to-use Unity game engine isn't just used for video games. Just like any tech that gets incredibly popular, it's now being used to help out the military. However, established employees aren't happy that their work is being used for war instead of entertainment.
In a report by Vice, it was revealed that Unity is struggling to explain its recent military contracts to upset employees. The report explains that developers wanted to “empower game makers”, not create military technology.
Unity employees unaware of military work
Vice spoke with current and former employees for the game engine company. Since March 2021, the company has pushed forward with its GovTech military contract. This military contract is designed to further the government's use of “AI and ML. [Machine Learning]”.
The Vice report explains that the application of technology developed at the company isn't entirely clear. Despite signing on to create for creative, employees’ tech may be used for military purpose without their knowledge. At this point, anti-war employees could be inadvertently creating military tech without being told.
A draft an internal memo details how managers should discuss the GovTech contract around employees are shareholders. Firstly, instead of military, the work should only be discussed as for “government” or “defense”. Secondly, it must be made clear that isn't “taking the lead on any single project”, merely providing “a service”.
Most employees are keyed into Unity's governmental projects. While employees can request additional information from managers, that's allegedly next to impossible.
Employees question the ethics of this work
As Unity employees work on military contracts, successful work furthers the company's defense relationships. As a result, more, higher-tier work will come their way as a result of past completed contracts. One employee questioned the ethics of this, saying:
“Most Unity AI work empowers other government projects, so in this way it can be difficult to gauge one's contribution to government projects.”
"I don’t think most employees were warned that they would need philosophy degrees before accepting a position at Unity," said a different employee. "Many of my fellow employees are very talented engineers or artists, but I don’t think that experience necessarily prepares us to be successful in passively identifying the complex repercussions of advancing certain emerging technologies."
At the moment, Unity claims that it will not create software that directly harms others. For now, one of the company's key principles states that it won't be “directly involve[d] the loss of life, harm of the planet, or a person's right to equity and inclusion."
No matter the application, employees are upset. One employee said that “reactions are mixed”. They explained: The largest group is angry to be finding out we're working with the military at all. There's a group that is confused or upset, but is withholding full judgement until they read the article. There's a group repeating some version of the 'slippery slope' argument over and over, and then there's a small contingent of men (mostly executives and upper management) who think we should all just Support 'Our' Troops and anything short of actually dropping the bombs ourselves is totally fine."