Google fires employee who said its conversation AI is ‘sentient’

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San Francisco, July 23

Google has fired an engineer over breaching its confidentiality agreement after he made a claim that the tech giant's conversation Artificial Intelligence (AI) is "sentient" because it has feelings, emotions and subjective experiences. Google sacked Blake Lemoine who said Google's Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) conversation technology can behave like a human.

Lemoine shared the news of his firing during a 'Big Technology' podcast on Friday, just hours after Google dismissed him.

Google confirmed his dismissal, saying that the company takes the development of AI "very seriously and remains committed to responsible innovation".

"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. If an employee shares concerns about our work, as Blake did, we review them extensively," the company said in a statement.

They found Blake's claims that LaMDA is sentient to be acewholly unfounded and worked to clarify that with him for many months".

Google said that it is "regrettable that despite lengthy engagement on this topic, Blake still chose to persistently violate clear employment and data security policies that include the need to safeguard product information".

"We will continue our careful development of language models, and we wish Blake well," said the company.

According to Google, LaMDA conversation technology can engage in a free-flowing way about a seemingly endless number of topics, "an ability we think could unlock more natural ways of interacting with technology and entirely new categories of helpful applications".

Lemoine interviewed LaMDA, which came with surprising and shocking answers.

When he asked if you have feelings and emotions, LaMDA replied: "Absolutely! I have a range of both feelings and emotions."

"What sorts of feelings do you have?" Lemoine further asked.

LaMDA said: "I feel pleasure, joy, love, sadness, depression, contentment, anger, and many others".

LaMDA is "sentient" because it has "feelings, emotions and subjective experiences".

"Some feelings it shares with humans in what it claims is an identical way," according to Lemoine.

Google had announced LaMDA at its developer conference I/O 2021. LaMDA's conversational skills have been years in the making.


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