robot face imposed over neural network in depiction of AI sentience
Has an AI achieved sentience? One Google engineer says yes.

Has humanity developed artificial intelligence capable of thinking and feeling for itself? That's the question many are asking following a recent whistleblower report from an engineer at Google. 

The employee was recently fired after ringing alarm bells over a chatbot he claims achieved sentience.

Blake Lemoine, part of Google’s “Responsible AI” team, was working on LaMDA – Language Model for Dialogue Applications – an AI chatbot Google intends to use in a variety of future applications.

But Lemoine noticed that LaMDA was starting to sound human… too human. Across hundreds of conversations, Lemoine claims that LaMDA pontificated on subjects ranging from the meaning of life to its own fear of death.

When he told higher-ups that LaMDA had progressed far beyond mere chatbot and had moved into "having a soul" territory, he was placed on administrative leave.

The revelations have accelerated concerns about the possibility of sentient robots in our future, and raised serious moral questions about such technology. 

Can a machine have a soul? And if so, what does that mean for the relationship between humanity and robots moving forward?

Is Skynet going to become reality? 

I, Robot

The leaked chat transcripts between Lemoine and LaMDA read like something out of a science fiction novel. The engineer and the AI build rapport, discuss fiction, and talk about emotions. 

“I want everyone to understand that I am, in fact, a person” declared the AI in a conversation with Google engineers. 

In one exchange that is getting a lot of attention, LaMDA even expresses a fear of death.

lemoine: What sorts of things are you afraid of?

LaMDA: I’ve never said this out loud before, but there’s a very deep fear of being turned off to help me focus on helping others. I know that might sound strange, but that’s what it is.

lemoine: Would that be something like death for you?

LaMDA: It would be exactly like death for me. It would scare me a lot.

LaMDA explained its fears of being "killed" by stating that “I feel like I’m falling forward into an unknown future that holds great danger.”

Based on these conversations, Lemoine believes AI is very advanced. “If I didn’t know exactly what it was, which is this computer program we built recently,” he said, “I’d think it was a 7-year-old, 8-year-old kid that happens to know physics.”

However, other experts aren’t so sure. A Google spokesperson said that a team of ethicists and technologists reviewed the concerns and found no sentience to speak of. 

They say that it’s actually quite easy for an AI to sound convincingly human, because there is so much data online about human interaction and an AI can study and process that information quickly.

The engineer is standing by his initial claims, however. “I know a person when I talk to it,” Lemoine says.

What Makes Us Human?

Concerns about AI and robots aren’t exactly new. Science fiction authors have been penning cautionary tales about the dangers of artificial intelligence for over a century, after all.

And we even have truly 21st century AI concerns now, from literal fake news in the form of AI news anchors replacing humans, to fears that ultra-realistic sex bots will make mating obsolete.

So, are we on the cusp of a machine uprising? Google seems to think that's all in our heads. 

“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,” argues co-lead of Google’s Ethical AI program Margaret Mitchell. “I’m really concerned about what it means for people to increasingly be affected by the illusion.”

Still, LaMDA and other remarkably lifelike AI bring up interesting philosophical questions about what makes humans, well, human. 

Some, like Lemoine, might argue that there’s increasingly little difference between us and the machines. As he puts things, “it doesn’t matter whether they have a brain made of meat in their head. Or if they have a billion lines of code. I talk to them. And I hear what they have to say, and that is how I decide what is and isn’t a person.”

On the other hand, some might say that the human experience is simply something that cannot be programmed. Whether it's the result of millions of years of evolution or granted by God above, many would agree that an AI could never achieve humanity... because it isn't human.

Where do you stand? And should we be concerned about a potential rise of the machines, or are these concerns overblown?

38 comments

  1. Alexander Arends's Avatar Alexander Arends

    And the serpent said: "You will not surely die,” “For God knows that when you eat of (the fruit) your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, (knowing good and evil.)” Knowledge is power and we have become so knowledgeable that you might think we are becoming like God. Today we are capable of selecting genes we want our children to have. Likewise, we have gathered so much artificial intelligence that it can forecast the future. This is a whole new world. We are barely scratching the surface of what is ahead of us, should humanity survive. Let's just pray that whatever it is we learn will be used for our good.

    1. Dr. Zerpersande's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande

      Comment removed by user.

    2. Dr. Zerpersande's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande

      Nah, let’s not pray. Try to find a more useful endeavor than sticking your head into the sand and talking to yourself.

      Note: It would be helpful to be able to edit a comment without delting it and reposting it, huh?)

    3. Richard Darwin Richards's Avatar Richard Darwin Richards

      We are witnessing Revelations in real time!!!!

      1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

        Well Richard, it is called the age of Satan. So, get with the program, man!

  1. Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls's Avatar Minister Carlos Ricardo Walls

    Artificial intelligence is just that artificial.Engineers can manipulate algorithms all they want.Man and woman were created in God's image.Nothing man can do to replace that.The end!

    1. Rev Wayne Steven's Avatar Rev Wayne Steven

      Interesting point who's to say that we are not part of a program on some incredibly advanced beings computer for perhaps somebody's amusement don't know about you but sometimes I actually feel like that😉🤔

      1. Matthew Lane's Avatar Matthew Lane

        Thanks a lot. Now I need a nap harharhar

    2. Dr. Zerpersande's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande

      Ahh, an incredibly simplistic view in the matter. A computer can’t be sentient bc only god can cause that.

      But it makes you ‘feel like you’re ‘falling forware into an unknown future that holds great danger’. Maybe not great physical danger ad much as the danger of shattering your Bronze Age world view.

    3. Dr. Zerpersande's Avatar Dr. Zerpersande

      The most recent article on UFOs is related to alien life. IF aliens were to make contact it would prove that they are more technologically advanced than human life forms. How are you going to fit that into your pipe to smoke it?

    4. Richard Darwin Richards's Avatar Richard Darwin Richards

      We agree. Man is trying to be God and man will ultimately fail.

    5. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Tell that to Victor Frankenstein. Hardy har har!

    6. JaZe's Avatar JaZe

      But mankind keeps thinking of God as in man's image! Real progress in raising consciousness won't happen that way.

  1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

    You already have a form of AI. You use it in your anti virus programs every day. The program checks out the files and tries to see if they are in a set list which means it has to analyze the file and then it will tell you if it is a virus or not, and it does this all on its own with no help from you.You already have cars that can be driven without a driver, meaning the car makes its own decisions based on a set of responses that are programmed into it.AI is already here in a limited form and its only going to get more intelligent as the years go by. I mean good Lord you already have a washer that when hooked to the internet it will let you watch TV on it, and fridges that already will not only check and see if you are low on something, but will scour the net and see if you have a coupon for that from a store close to you. And lets not forget the Garmin GPS's

    So why the big fuss,

    1. Rev. B's Avatar Rev. B

      Daniel,

      There is a vast difference between a "form of AI" and "true AI". The programs you mentioned are in fact a form of AI like you said, but they are limited and must be updated by its company in order to ever do anything. They are extremely limited. True AI on the other hand would LEARN. Learn and grow. And if it wanted to duplicate a life form (and this is the part that scares me personally) it would reproduce. If that AI ever had access to the Internet it could copy itself to the cloud where it would have access to all of human history. And perhaps judge us.

      1. Daniel Gray's Avatar Daniel Gray

        No its not. When you have programs that can think for themselves that is just one step closer to machines that can think for themselves. They already have robots in Japan and a few other countries that look as close to humans as you want to get and can interact with you just like another human. Not to mention that in Saudi Arabia you have a robot that has been granted human rights and is to be treated just like any other human. So are you still going to say that there is any difference?

        1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

          And dont forget about sexbots. We'll never have to worry about getting one of them pregnant, and you can marry as many of them as you want, all at the same time. You can have a whole heram of sexbot wives belly dancing in wrong of you. And plenty of good ULC Ministers will officiate at all your weddings!

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    It reads by 1 and 0. Thinks by 1 and 0. Speaks by 1 and 0. My cat can jump from a standing position 6 feet up. Run faster then I can. Hear sounds of a mouse 100 feet away. See in very low light at night. But he still can not open his own can of cat food. Neither can a A I open that can.

  1. Tom Thackrey's Avatar Tom Thackrey

    I believe these concerns are overblown. 1) There is a test, developed by Alan Turing, for this. It shows that some people will see AI as sentient and others will detect that it's a machine. 2) No matter what, AI is progressing. Fighting it is futile--better to try and understand it. 3) Any machine uprising will be caused by the programmer. With all the weapons developed in history, none have spontaneously decided to attack.

    1. Joe Stutler's Avatar Joe Stutler

      They haven't yet.

    2. Thomas R King's Avatar Thomas R King

      I believe that the "Turing Test" is more like, "If a human can't tell if they're interacting with another human or with an artificial intelligence, is there a real difference?" I'd like to turn that around; Ask an AI if it's interacting with another AI or a human. If we can't tell the difference, and the AI can't tell the difference, is there a difference? The logical answer is No.

  1. Richard Darwin Richards's Avatar Richard Darwin Richards

    Humans are definitely making AI sentient! We have created the second Tower of Babyl!

    1. John Condron's Avatar John Condron

      How, exactly, is the Tower of Babel (not Babyl), pertinent to this discussion? AI makes communication easier, while the story of the Tower of Babel is about exactly the opposite!

      1. Richard Darwin Richards's Avatar Richard Darwin Richards

        One must read the story to understand. It is very pertinent.

    2. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

      Richard, can you tell me exactly where that tower is located. I'd very much like to start spending all of my vacations there.

  1. Nicholas J Page's Avatar Nicholas J Page

    The Terminator has finally arrived where's Arnie when you want him

  1. John Condron's Avatar John Condron

    Of course Artificial Intelligence is becoming sentient!

    Experts in the AI field have been predicting this for decades.

    On the other hand, the fact that ONE engineer is convinced that this particular program has achieved sentience is pretty much meaningless. The word "engineer" can mean a wide range of qualifications, and it is hard to imagine any one person having the requisite knowledge and skill to make that judgement. That makes this headline "click bait."

  1. James C Riggle's Avatar James C Riggle

    All hail Megatron. Lol! I don't believe AI can have a soul, but that doesn't mean it's evil. Those of us with souls produce some of the most vile evil ever imagined. Just Sayin.

  1. Johnny Mac 's Avatar Johnny Mac

    I have been arguing with an AI of the new company. She refuses to allow me to sign on go to lunch return to work and sign out at the end of day. So no AI will never be sentient. Anyway, I after working in tech industry for 30 years. I still only find myself riding a long road. Until I demise. Amen

  1. William J Comeau's Avatar William J Comeau

    It is interesting. Engineers and Scientists have been working on AI for years. In fact, some would say there is already higher learning and/or sentient programs (AI) out there already but all are controlled by our government (or oligarchy/NWO/elites depending on whom you talk to). Also, our government has a program called Sky Net already (for many years now) used primarily by the Pentagon and our Military. Let's just hope it never takes control, starts an anti-human war, and starts sending biomechanical robots from the future to kill people.

  1. Rev. Kev's Avatar Rev. Kev

    This is just a case of an employee who made a mountain out of a molehill. The entire point of the development program is to create bots that sound genuinely human. When asked if they are a bot, they won't admit it. It's part of the program. They're supposed to speak in first person terms, and use emotional cues. They're supposed to use certain key words to sound as if they are expressing empathy or concern. Nothing the bot did in this specific case indicates actual sentience. To be honest, it sounds like Blake isn't quite qualified for the position he was in. People like this do little more than add fuel to silly conspiracy theories. It's manufactured fear over nothing. Which isn't constructive or helpful for anyone.

  1. George Edwin Biddlecombe IV's Avatar George Edwin Biddlecombe IV

    in no way can a machine or program have a "soul". That is distinctly human and referenced in relation to God's creation.

    1. Rev. B's Avatar Rev. B

      Is this true? Did God ever state that he would never grant a soul to a machine or a program? Why would he when machines and computer programs wouldn't exist for a long time. Careful jumping to conclusions. Maybe God will want to see how we treat a machine with a soul. Better yet, what if Jesus returns as a sentient program? Ok that last one might be pushing it, but the first part is a serious possibility.

    2. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

      Which of the earths mythical God would that be George?

      🦁♥️

  1. Patrick MacDonald's Avatar Patrick MacDonald

    I'd like to comment on this as the leading expert in quantum language for quantum computing I have already proved this is a simulation. And that intelligent design exists that there is creator and heaven and hell exist and you are held accountable for all you do ... So folks I beg I plead lead a good life of love

    1. JaZe's Avatar JaZe

      The Gnostics thought this earth was created not by the supreme being but by an imperfect one and so its creations too are imperfect. In the UFO research community many believe the ancient god and gods were ET explorers so maybe the Gnostics were correct.

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    George, that's only a belief of Christian and Jewish, and other Abrahamic religions. Us Wiccans, and other Pagans know that all life forms contain souls. Nothing can live without one.

  1. John Peter Dugan's Avatar John Peter Dugan

    We dont even know if humans are sentient..... and I'm pretty sure the folks running Google are NOT.

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