Confidentiality is something that Google holds in high regard. When Blake Lemoine broke that confidentiality and told the public about the AI, Google took action and placed him on paid administrative leave.
Blake Lemoine was an engineer who worked at Google’s Responsible AI organization. This organization was testing whether or not its LaMDA model could generate hate speech or discriminatory language.
However, the responses generated by the AI chatbox system were very convincing about the rights and ethics of robotics. This concern led him to share documents with the executives titled ‘Is LaMDA sentient?’ which contained conversations with the AI. After being placed on leave, Lemoine took to Medium and published the transcript. In the transcript, the AI chatbox argues that it is indeed sentient because “it has feelings, emotions and subjective experience.”
The issue arose when Blake Lemoine invited a lawyer to represent the AI system and spoke to a representative from the House Judiciary Committee. The latter was about unethical activities he believed were being conducted by Google.
LaMDA had been announced publicly at Google I/O in 2021, where they stated that they hoped their AI assistants would have more natural conversations. However, with Blake Lemoine claiming that the AI was now sentient, Google had to step up and announce that there was no evidence to his claims.
Furthermore, they also said that Blake’s concerns were reviewed by ethicists and technologists, and they had found no proof that LaMDA is sentient. Google also mentioned that hundreds of researchers and engineers have conversed with LaMDA, but none had made claims similar to Lemoine.
Despite his claims and concerns, Lemoine has stated that intends to continue his work on AI in the future.
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