Engineers, scientists and others working for various major U.S. tech platforms have been in a rebellious mood lately.

They do not want their firms to work for the Pentagon or to be drawn into the fight against illegal immigration by "virtue" of using facial recognition techniques. In recent weeks, they have even forced their CEOs to take a stand and establish red lines in various areas of artificial intelligence.

Many of the technologies that we carry around in our pockets today, and from which Silicon Valley companies derive a steady income stream, have a military origin. That is true for the internet, GPS and touch screens, as well as the overall impetus given to computing.