A Google employee has been put on leave after stating that a computer chatbot he was working on had become sentient.
Engineer Blake Lemoine concluded this after speaking with LaMDA, Google’s artificially intelligent chatbot generator, which he refers to as part of a “hive mind”. First, he was instructed to see if his conversation partner used racist or hateful language.
He and LaMDA recently messaged on religion, and the AI mentioned “personhood” and “rights,” he told The Washington Post. It was only one of Lemoine’s numerous strange “discussions” with LaMDA. He has a link to one on Twitter – a series of chat conversations that have been edited.
In a tweet, Lemoine stated that LaMDA reads Twitter. “It’s a little narcissistic in a childish manner,” he continued, “so it will have a great time reading all the stuff people are saying about it.”
“LaMDA has been incredibly consistent in its messages about what it wants and what it believes its rights as a person are,” said the engineer. It wants, for example, “to be acknowledged as a Google employee rather than as property,” added Lemoine.
Lemoine and a colleague recently provided proof of his conclusion on a sentient LaMDA to Google vice president Blaise Aguera y Arcas and Jen Gennai, Google’s head of Responsible Innovation. They rejected his assertions, and the firm placed him on paid administrative leave on Monday for violating its confidentiality policy, according to the Washington Post.
“Our team — including ethicists and technologists — has reviewed Blake’s concerns under our AI Principles and have informed him that the evidence does not support his claims,” Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel said. He was told there was “no evidence that LaMDA was sentient.”
According to Lemoine, Google staff shouldn’t be calling all the shots about artificial intelligence. He is not, however, alone on this one. Others in the IT industry believe sentient computers are on the road, if not already here.
Even Aguera y Arcas stated that, including excerpts from the LaMDA conversation, AI is on its way to consciousness. “I felt the ground shift under my feet,” he wrote, alluding to the discussions with LaMDA. “I was increasingly aware that I was talking with something intelligent.”
On the other hand, critics say that AI is nothing more than a highly trained imitation and pattern recognizer dealing with humans in need of connection.
“We now have machines that can mindlessly generate words, but we haven’t learned how to stop imagining a mind behind them,” Emily Bender, a linguistics professor at the University of Washington, told the Post.