Thousands of artificial intelligence experts and machine learning researchers probably thought they were going to have a restful weekend.


Copyright: – “‘Sentient’ artificial intelligence: Have we reached peak AI hype?”


Then came Google engineer Blake Lemoine, who told the Washington Post on Saturday that he believed LaMDA, Google’s conversational AI for generating chatbots based on large language models (LLM), was sentient.

Lemoine, who worked for Google’s Responsible AI organization until he was placed on paid leave last Monday, and who “became ordained as a mystic Christian priest, and served in the Army before studying the occult,” had begun testing LaMDA to see if it used discriminatory or hate speech. Instead, Lemoine began “teaching” LaMDA transcendental meditation, asked LaMDA its preferred pronouns, leaked LaMDA transcripts and explained in a Medium response to the Post story:

“It’s a good article for what it is but in my opinion it was focused on the wrong person. Her story was focused on me when I believe it would have been better if it had been focused on one of the other people she interviewed. LaMDA. Over the course of the past six months LaMDA has been incredibly consistent in its communications about what it wants and what it believes its rights are as a person.” 

AI community pushes back on “sentient” artificial intelligence

The Washington Post article pointed out that “Most academics and AI practitioners … say the words and images generated by artificial intelligence systems such as LaMDA produce responses based on what humans have already posted on Wikipedia, Reddit, message boards, and every other corner of the internet. And that doesn’t signify that the model understands meaning.”

The Post article continued: “We now have machines that can mindlessly generate words, but we haven’t learned how to stop imagining a mind behind them,” said Emily M. Bender, a linguistics professor at the University of Washington. The terminology used with large language models, like “learning” or even “neural nets,” creates a false analogy to the human brain, she said.

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That’s when AI and ML Twitter put aside any weekend plans and went at it. AI leaders, researchers and practitioners shared long, thoughtful threads, including AI ethicist Margaret Mitchell (who was famously fired from Google, along with Timnit Gebru, for criticizing large language models) and machine learning pioneer Thomas G. Dietterich. […]

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