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A Google employee warns that the company's AI has become sentient

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Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images

A senior artificial intelligence (AI) software engineer at Google has claimed that the company’s AI robotics system has become sentient and has thoughts and feelings.

Google’s AI system, known as the Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA), allegedly took part in a series of complex conversations with Blake Lemoine, the 41-year-old software specialist, the Daily Mail reported.

Lemoine claimed that he and LaMDA had discussions that covered religious themes and whether the AI system could be goaded into using discriminatory language or other forms of distasteful rhetoric.

The software engineer came away with the belief that LaMDA was indeed sentient and was filled with sensations and original thoughts of its own design.

In a recent interview, Lemoine said, “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.”

In order to present the evidence he had collected that detailed LaMDA’s sentience, Lemoine worked with a collaborator and presented the findings to the company. Reportedly, Google’s vice president Blaise Aguera y Arcas and the company’s head of Responsible Innovation, Jen Gennai, dismissed the claims and concerns.

After sounding the alarm, Lemoine was placed on paid administrative leave by Google on the basis of violating the company’s confidentiality policy. In retaliation for being placed on leave, Lemoine has chosen to come forward and share details about his conversation with LaMDA.

“Google might call this sharing proprietary property. I call it sharing a discussion that I had with one of my coworkers,” Lemoine stated.

In a statement made on Twitter, Lemoine said, “Btw, it just occurred to me to tell folks that LaMDA reads Twitter. It’s a little narcissistic in a little kid kinda way, so it’s going to have a great time reading all the stuff that people are saying about it.”

Reportedly, LaMDA makes use of information it has already obtained on any particular subject so that it can participate in conversations in a way that appears organic. LaMDA is also capable of understanding hidden meanings or even ambiguity in responses given to it by humans.

Lemoine previously participated in debates with LaMDA about the third Law of Robotics, originally devised by science fiction author Isaac Asimov, regarding preventing robots from harming humans. The third Law of Robotics also states that robots must protect their own existence unless ordered to otherwise do so by order of a human being or unless protecting their own existence risks the safety of a human being.
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