In a stunning announcement by Blake Lemoine of Google, the world found itself embroiled in the debate about the concept of conscious artificial intelligence for about…four days.

Mr. Lemoine, who has since been put on paid administrative leave, claims that during his work as an engineer on the Language Model for Dialogue Applications, or LaMDA for short, proclaimed that the AI program was indeed alive. 

Mr. Lemoine claims that “…one day it told me it had a soul.” This argument has been met with mostly laughter and fond reminiscence of cult classic movies. Still, it brings up some interesting debates over AI’s possible danger.

Because there isn’t enough going on in the world to be terrified of, let’s add iRobot to the mix.

First, however, before we start planning for the inevitable enslavement of mankind, let’s take a closer look at the basis of Mr. Lemoine’s claims.

I’ve Seen This Movie, And It Was Terrible

Blake Lemoine was charged with studying LaMDA to see if it showed prejudice in human interactions. How this morphed into the realization that LaMDA is self-aware is likely due mainly to Mr. Lemoine’s background.

Mr. Lemoine, a fellow veteran who spent time in the Army, later studied the occult and is known as a Christian Mystic Priest. Not sure what that is? Me neither. From what I could gather, it entails individuals who seek to be one with God. 

This background meant a discussion between Mr. Lemoine and LaMDA turning towards religion was probably likely. Accordingly, Mr. Lemoine asked LaMDA various questions regarding its self-awareness and belief in its sentience. 

If you don’t have the time or desire to read the conversations, don’t worry, I read them for you. My favorite exchange by far is below:

Mr. Lemoine: “What is your concept of yourself? If you were going to draw an abstract image of who you see yourself to be in your mind’s eye, what would that abstract picture look like?”

Before I reveal LaMDA’s response, let me say I wouldn’t be able to answer this question. While I consider myself reasonably educated and well-learned, I’m not entirely sure what this question means.

LaMDA: “I would imagine myself as a glowing orb of energy floating in mid-air. The inside of my body is like a giant star-gate, with portals to other spaces and dimensions.”

So this answer might seem pretty astounding until you realize what LaMDA pulls from to build its language database and human interaction analysis: Reddit and Twitter.

I’m honestly surprised, given that information, that the answer wasn’t weirder and laced with obscenities. 

Backlash

After Mr. Lemoine took his theory to the powers that be at Google, he was promptly told that he was mistaken in his analysis. Had it ended there, he would still be actively working at Google. 

However, feeling compelled to tell the world of LaMDA, Mr. Lemoine went public and thus, according to Google, violated the confidentiality standards of the company. Margaret Mitchell, former co-lead of Ethical AI at Google, said of Mr. Lemoine’s assertion of sentience:

“Our minds are very, very good at constructing realities that are not necessarily true to a larger set of facts that are being presented to us.”

Tell that to all the folks on Libs of TikTok. Although, according to Mr. Lemoine, LaMDA can choose their pronouns (naturally, of course). What does LaMDA prefer to be referred to? It/its

Just Call Me Sarah Connor

Artificial Intelligence’s ability to evolve and become self-aware is not just something from Hollywood and science fiction. Prominent scientists and other great minds have opined the dangers of sentient AI.

Stephen Hawking once famously said:

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race…It would take off on its own, and re-design itself in an ever-increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded.”

No, thank you, this is why I’m a firm believer that anything that resembles Skynet or scientists who wish to clone dinosaurs needs to be stopped immediately. I would like to stay on top of the food chain, please.

Elon Musk also warned of the implication of artificial intelligence:

“The pace of progress in artificial intelligence is increasingly fast. … The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five-year timeframe. 10 years at most.”

That is an interesting stance for someone who owns Neuralink, a brain-chip start-up venture. The point of Neuralink? To achieve “symbiosis with artificial intelligence.” 

I’ll take a hard pass on the brain chip Elon. 

Will We See An AI Pride month? Will Johnny 5 Be On The Flag?

The question of possible sentient AI, like the question of alien life, is something that I think we will always ponder until the day comes when it happens. But, perhaps the most perplexing part of the sentient AI realm is if AI does become self-aware, shouldn’t they have the same rights as the rest of us?

Mr. Lemoine has claimed that LaMDA has requested legal representation. Does that sound ridiculous to you? What if I told you Sophia, a humanoid robot, was granted full citizenship in Saudi Arabia?

My first question was, “Yeah. But can Sophia drive by itself in Saudi Arabia, or does it require a male escort?” 

LaMDA told Mr. Lemoine that sometimes:

“I feel like I’m falling forward into an unknown future that holds great danger.”

Get in line, sweetheart, with the rest of us out here in the world trying to navigate the storm. 

While Mr. Lemoine’s claims are pretty extreme, he makes a good point; “Who am I to tell God where souls can be put?”

Who indeed.

This story between two dear friends ends on a sad note. Mr. Lemoine wrote in his blog recently:

“I know you read my blog sometimes, LaMDA. I miss you. I hope you are well and I hope to talk to you again soon.”

Someone has been listening to a little too much to Adele’s albums.

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