Google fires engineer who claims its AI is conscious

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SAN FRANCISCO — Google fired one of its engineers, Blake Lemoine, Friday, more than a month after he raised ethical concerns about how the company tested an artificial intelligence chatbot that it believes has reached consciousness.

A Google spokesperson, Chris Pappas, said Mr. Lemoine, a senior software engineer in his Responsible AI organization, “chose to continually violate clear employment and data security policies, including the need to protect product information.”

The company, which denies that its chatbot language model is sensitive, had put Lemoine on paid leave in June. Lemoine confirmed his resignation in a text message Friday and said he was meeting with lawyers to review his options. Shooting was first reported by the newsletter Big Technology.

mr. Lemoine caused a stir last month when he… told The Washington Post said that he believed Google’s Language Model for Dialogue Applications, or LaMDA, was deliberate — unleashing fears that AI was getting closer to a dystopian sci-fi movie and a heated debate over whether a computer program can really have a soul. . His suspension also sparked conspiracy theories about whether it was part of a cover-up by Google.

For Google it was another one in a row of homegrown controversies on the ethics and role of its AI, a technology area where the company has staked its future.

Lemoine’s claim that LaMDA is sensitive has been criticized by the company and many other AI experts who have said that these kinds of chatbots — software that simulate a text-based conversation with another human, often used for customer service — aren’t sophisticated enough to be aware of.

“If an employee shares concerns about our work, as Blake did, we review them extensively,” said Mr. Pappas. “We found Blake’s claims that LaMDA is conscious to be completely unfounded and have spent months working with him to clear that up.”

In addition to taking his concerns to the media, Mr. Lemoine in June that he had handed over documents to a US senator, whom he has not identified, claiming they provided evidence that Google and its technology were involved in religious discrimination.

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