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Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

There's been a recent wave of resignations at Google over the company's participation in a Pentagon project, but the tech industry has a long history of working for the government and military, says Fred Turner, a Stanford professor and author of a book on Silicon Valley's cultural history.

Why it matters: "The tech industry has been entirely intertwined with our military-industrial complex," he tells Axios. "These industries were military industries," he adds in reference to the early federal investments that fueled the development of technologies like the internet.

Here are excerpts from Axios's chat with Turner.

What are your thoughts on recent reports of Google employees resigning because of the company’s work on a military project around analyzing drone images?

I think it’s wonderful, actually. It's an act of courage. It's hard to step away from the kinds of opportunities that Google affords... The ways in which the Maven project contradicts the company’s longstanding line of "don't be evil"... I think it undercuts the firm’s moral legitimacy.

[Note: Turner is one of many academics who signed an open letter urging Google to withdraw from Project Maven.]

Given Silicon Valley's military roots, was building technology for the government something that was inevitable?

I think it’s been ongoing, I don't think it’s ever stopped. I think the notion that it’s new is not true.

Why haven't people been worried about DARPA (also a defense agency) funding self-driving car competitions, for example?

I think first it’s because we don't see self-driving cars as military imagery. We see drones as directly connected to what’s going on on the battlefield.

Do you think the current political climate is a factor in this reaction?

Yeah, without a question. If you build a drone that Trump used on the battlefield, then you helped Trump.

Tech companies talk about working to change the world and building tech that's bigger than them, but they're also corporations—what's going on with this tension?

The tech industry here in the Valley has convinced us that they're a counterculture... I think that sort of naïveté is pretty cultivated by the companies—"We’re not companies, we’re world changers"... Tech companies are like every other company, they too will be military contractors. But I also think that it’s incumbent on us to say, “Is this something that's good?"

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

In photos: Pope Francis spreads message of peace on first trip to Iraq

Pope Francis waving as he arrives near the ruins of the Syriac Catholic Church of the Immaculate Conception (al-Tahira-l-Kubra), in the old city of Iraq's northern Mosul on March 7. Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis was on Sunday visiting areas of northern Iraq once held by Islamic State militants.

Why it matters: This is the first-ever papal trip to Iraq. The purpose of Francis' four-day visit is largely intended to reassure the country's Christian minority, who were violently persecuted by ISIS, which controlled the region from 2014-2017.

Cuomo faces fresh misconduct allegations from former aides

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February press conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The office of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was on Saturday facing fresh accusations of misconduct against his staff, including further allegations of inappropriate behavior against two more women. His office denies the claims.

Driving the news: The Washington Post reported Cuomo allegedly embraced an aide when he led the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and that two male staffers who worked for him in the governor's office accused him of routinely berating them "with explicit language."

In photos: Protesters rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Chaz Neal, a Redwing community activist, outside the Minnesota Governor's residence during a protest in support of George Floyd in St.Paul, Minnesota, on March 6. Photo: Kerem Yucel/AFP via Getty Images

Dozens of protesters were rallying outside the Minnesota governor's mansion in St Paul Saturday, urging justice for George Floyd ahead of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start this Monday, with jury selection procedures.

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