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Google fires engineer who claimed its AI chatbot is sentient

Google, Mountain View, California

Google has fired an engineer who claimed the company's artificial intelligence chatbot was a self-aware person.

Blake Lemoine raised his concerns about the way tests are being carried out on the AI chatbot LaMDA.

He was a senior engineer in Google’s Responsible A.I. organization who was placed on paid leave in June after his allegations.


A Google spokesman, Chris Pappas, said Lemoine “chose to persistently violate clear employment and data security policies that include the need to safeguard product information.”

The company has denied its chatbot language model is sentient, and states Lemoine's claims violated the data security policies.


In a text message on Friday, Mr. Lemoine revealed his termination and stated that he was meeting with lawyers to discuss his options.

Mr. Lemoine sparked controversy last month when he claimed that Google's Language Model for Dialogue Applications, or LaMDA, was sentient.

The claim evoked images of movies like The Terminator, where machines have become sentient and destroyed the world.

It also led to a heated debate over whether a machines can have a soul.

Inevitably, the claims also led to conspiracy theories about whether it was part of a Google cover-up.

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It was the latest in a string of internal controversies over the ethics and function of Google's artificial intelligence, an area of technology on which the firm has placed its future.

The firm and many other A.I. experts have challenged Mr. Lemoine's claim that LaMDA is sentient.

Experts say the chatbots are software that replicates a text-based interaction with another human and that they are not advanced enough to have consciousness.

Pappas said: “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.”

Lemoine also stated in June that he gave over papers to a US senator, whom he did not name, stating that they presented evidence that Google and its technology participated in religious discrimination.

Source: The New York Times

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