Google sacks software engineer who claims AI chatbot is sentient
Blake Lemoine was fired after claiming that Google's chatbot generator LaMDA was sentient.
Blake Lemoine, the Google engineer who publicly claimed that the company's LaMDA conversational artificial intelligence is sentient, has been fired, according to the Big Technology newsletter.
After contacting members of the government about his concerns and hiring a lawyer to represent LaMDA, Google placed Lemoine on paid administrative leave in June for breaching its confidentiality agreement.
A statement obtained by The Verge on Friday by Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel appeared to affirm the firing, saying, “We wish Blake well.”
The company added: “LaMDA has been through 11 distinct reviews, and we published a research paper earlier this year detailing the work that goes into its responsible development.”
Google claims that it "extensively" investigated Lemoine's claims and found them to be "wholly unfounded."
This is consistent with the views of numerous AI experts and ethicists who have stated that his claims are, more or less, impossible given current technology. Lemoine claims that his interactions with LaMDA's chatbot have led him to believe that it is more than just a program with its own thoughts and feelings, rather than simply producing conversation realistic enough to appear that way, as it is designed to do.
He claims that Google's researchers should have obtained LaMDA's permission before conducting experiments on it (Lemoine was assigned to test whether the AI produced hate speech), and he published excerpts from those conversations on his Medium account as evidence.
The engineer, who spent the majority of his seven years at Google working on proactive search, including personalization algorithms, has stated that he is thinking about starting his own AI company focused on collaborative storytelling video games.
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