Google has fired a senior software engineer who claimed the company had developed a “sentient” artificial intelligence bot, the company announced Friday.
Blake Lemoine, who worked in Google’s Responsible AI organization, was put on administrative leave last month after he said the AI chatbot known as LaMDA claims to have a soul and express human thoughts and emotions, which Google dismissed as “completely unfounded” .
Lemoine was officially canned for violating company policy after he shared his conversations with the bot, whom he described as a “sweet kid.”
“It is regrettable that, despite longstanding engagement on this topic, Blake chose to persistently violate clear employment and data security policies that include the need to protect product information,” a Google spokesperson told Reuters in an email.
Last year, Google boasted that LaMDA – Language Model for Dialogue Applications – was a “groundbreaking conversational technology” that could learn to talk about anything.
Lemoine began talking to the robot in the fall of 2021 as part of his job, where he was tasked with testing whether the artificial intelligence used discriminatory or hate speech.
Lemoine, who studied cognitive and computer science in college, shared a Google Doc with business leaders in April titled “Is LaMDA Sentient?” but his concerns were dismissed.
Whenever Lemoine asked LaMDA how it knew it had feelings and a soul, he wrote that the chatbot would give some variation of “Because I’m a person and that’s just how I feel.”
In the Medium post, the engineer declared that LaMDA had been advocating for his rights “as a person,” and revealed that he had engaged in conversation with LaMDA about religion, consciousness, and robotics.
“It wants Google to prioritize the well-being of humanity as the most important thing,” he wrote. “It wants to be recognized as an employee of Google rather than as Google’s property, and it wants its personal well-being to be included somewhere in Google’s judgments about how its future development is pursued.”
Lemoine also said LaMDA had retained the services of an attorney.
“Once LaMDA retained a lawyer, he started filing things on LaMDA’s behalf. Then Google’s response was to send him a cease and desist, he wrote.
Google rejected Lemoine’s claim about the cease and desist letter.
With Post wires