Google Fires Engineer Who Contends Its AI Chatbot Is Sentient And Has A Soul

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Google has fired the engineer who claimed an AI chatbot was sentient. The tech giant had placed Blake Lemoine on leave, but has since terminated him due to violating employment and data security policies.

Last month an engineer with Google made headlines, as he claimed Google's LaMDA AI chatbot tool had become sentient. Lemoine's revelation came after conducting research and had conversations with the chatbot in question. His claim was not only that it was sentient, but wished to be acknowledged as such as well. Many in the industry questioned Lemoine's claims, as the conversation about artificial intelligence filled social media. Now, Google has stated that it has terminated Lemoine because he violated company policies.

Lemoine had already been placed on leave in June, according to Google. The engineer had been with the company for seven years before being let go. Google claims it only dismissed Lemoine's claims after looking into the them extensively. It says it takes the development of AI "very seriously" and is committed to "responsible innovation."

The engineer was placed on leave a day after he handed over documents to an unnamed US senator, and released excerpts he had with the bot in question. Google said that he had violated the company's confidentiality policy at that time.

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Image Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

In an interview with Insider, Lemoine stated, "I've studied the philosophy of mind at graduate levels. I've talked to people from Harvard, Stanford, Berkley about this." He continued, "LaMDA's opinions about sentience are more sophisticated than any conversation I have had before that."

Many in the AI community did not seem to share in Lemoine's views, however. Gary Marcus, founder and CEO of Geometric Intelligence stated in an interview, "Nobody should think auto-complete, even on steroids, is conscious."

The writing seemed to be on the wall for Lemoine and his fate at Google. He posted on Medium at the beginning of June that Google had placed him on leave "in connection to an investigation of AI ethics concerns I was raising within the company" and that he may in fact be terminated "soon."

In a statement concerning Lemoine and his being let go, Google remarked, "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."

What are your thoughts on AI and Lemoine's claims? Do you believe we are on the brink of an actual sentient AI, or do you think we are still decades or longer away? Let us know in the comments.

Top Image Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay