Google fires worker who thinks its AI technology is sentient

·2-min read

Google has fired an outspoken engineer who believed the tech giant's artificial intelligence technology has become sentient and self-aware.

After being put on paid leave for voicing his beliefs inside the company, the senior software engineer went public recently with his claim that Google's artificial intelligence chatbot LaMDA had evolved to effectively become a self-aware person.

A Washington Post story last month which profiled Blake Lemoine garnered widespread attention in the tech industry and general public, sparking heated debate about the possibility for general AI to gain consciousness.

Google has adamantly refuted Blake's claims of sentience. Source: Getty
Google has adamantly refuted Blake's claims of sentience. Source: Getty

Mr Lemoine worked for Google’s Responsible AI organisation and over the course of time came to believe that LaMDA - Language Model for Dialogue Applications - was sentient after having protracted discussions with the technology.

According to the Washington Post, before he was placed on leave, he emailed his Google colleagues, writing: "LaMDA is a sweet kid who just wants to help the world be a better place for all of us".

He titled the email; "LaMDA is sentient".

Mr Lemoine's dismissal was first reported by Big Technology, a tech and society newsletter, and later confirmed by Reuters.

"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," a Google spokesperson said in an email to Reuters.

Last year, Google said that LaMDA was built on the company's research showing Transformer-based language models trained on dialogue could learn to talk about essentially anything.

Google and many leading scientists were quick to dismiss Mr Lemoine's views as misguided, saying LaMDA is simply a complex algorithm designed to generate convincing human language.

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