Google Engineer Placed on Administrative Leave after Claiming Company’s AI Has Become Sentient

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A Google engineer by the name of Blake Lemoine has been sidelined by his employer after claiming that LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications), the company’s artificially intelligent chatbot generator, has become sentient. Lemoine became convinced that LaMDA had a mind of its own and could perceive or even feel things after quizzing it on complex topics such as religion and receiving what he believed to be genuine and profound responses in return, but Google dismissed his claims and ended up putting him on paid administrative leave for violating its confidentiality policy. Lemoine managed to send out a message to a 200-person Google mailing list on machine learning with the subject “LaMDA is sentient” before he was sent away, but no one responded.

“If I didn’t know exactly what it was, which is this computer program we built recently, I’d think it was a 7-year-old, 8-year-old kid that happens to know physics,” Lemoine said of LaMDA.

Lemoine, who works for Google’s Responsible AI organization, began talking to LaMDA as part of his job in the fall. He had signed up to test if the artificial intelligence used discriminatory or hate speech.

As he talked to LaMDA about religion, Lemoine, who studied cognitive and computer science in college, noticed the chatbot talking about its rights and personhood, and decided to press further. In another exchange, the AI was able to change Lemoine’s mind about Isaac Asimov’s third law of robotics.

Lemoine worked with a collaborator to present evidence to Google that LaMDA was sentient. But Google vice president Blaise Aguera y Arcas and Jen Gennai, head of Responsible Innovation, looked into his claims and dismissed them. So Lemoine, who was placed on paid administrative leave by Google on Monday, decided to go public.

Source: The Washington Post (Alternate Link)

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Tsing Mui
News poster at The FPS Review.

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