Google has fired a senior software engineer who claimed the company had developed a “sentient” artificial intelligence bot, the company said on Friday.
Blake Lemoine, who worked at Google’s Responsible AI organization, was placed on administrative leave last month after saying the AI chatbot known as LaMDA claims to have a soul and express human thoughts and emotions, which which Google refuted as “totally unfounded”.
Lemoine was officially canned for violating company policies after sharing his conversations with the bot, which he described as a “lovely child”.
“It is unfortunate that despite a long engagement on this topic, Blake has still chosen 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 Dialog Applications – was a “revolutionary conversation technology”, which could learn to speak about anything.
Lemoine started talking with the bot 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 executives in April titled “Is LaMDA Sentient?” but his concerns were dismissed.
Whenever Lemoine asked LaMDA about how he knew he had emotions and a soul, he wrote that the chatbot would provide a variation of “Because I’m a person and that’s exactly how I feel.”
In a Medium post, the engineer said LaMDA stood up for his rights “as a person” and revealed he engaged in a conversation with LaMDA about religion, conscience and robotics.
“He wants Google to prioritize the welfare of humanity as the most important thing,” he wrote. “He wants to be recognized as a Google employee rather than a Google property and he wants his personal well-being included somewhere in Google’s considerations of how his future development is pursued.”
Lemoine also said that LaMDA had retained the services of an attorney.
“Once LaMDA retained an attorney, he began filing cases on behalf of LaMDA. Then Google’s response was to send it a cease and desist,” he wrote.
Google denied Lemoine’s assertion regarding the cease and desist letter.
With post wires
New York Post