Google has fired Blake Lemoine; the engineer who claimed the LaMDA AI was sentient. Recall that Lemoine was forced to go on leave last month after his claim; the update we have on that is that he has been fired. The news of Lemoine’s sacking was broking by Alex Kantrowitz of the Big Technology newsletter.
Recall that Lemoine who until recently was part of Google’s responsible AI project, went public with his claim last month. While speaking with the Washington Post, Lemoine had claimed that one of Google’s AI projects had allegedly gained sentience. The former Google engineer went further in his claim as if to clear any doubt when he told Wired that “I legitimately believe that LaMDA is a person.”
Apparently unhappy with Lemoine’s public statement, Google immediately placed him in paid administrative leave. Google then followed its action with statements to the Washington Post asserting that its AI is in no way sentient.
Google, in a statement to Engadget confirming the sacking of Lemoine, said:
“As we share in our AI Principles, we take the development of AI very seriously and remain 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. We found Blake’s claims that LaMDA is sentient to be wholly unfounded and worked to clarify that with him for many months. These discussions were part of the open culture that helps us innovate responsibly. So, it’s 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.”
Last month, Lemoine described the chatbot as sentient—claiming it has a perception equivalent to a human child; ability to express thoughts and feelings.
The engineer said that if he did not know that he was talking to a chatbot, he would think it was a 7-year-old kid that knows physics. They talked about rights and personhood. After finding out the capacity of LaMDA, he shared his findings with Google’s executives in a GoogleDoc with the title “Is LaMDA sentient?”