MCViewPoint

Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Is Google’s LaMDA Woke? Its Software Engineers Sure Are

Posted by M. C. on June 27, 2022

In the field of robotics, the question of recognizing robot rights has been pondered for decades, so Lemoine is not as off base as Google executives suggest. In a recent review of the literature, ethicists, computer scientists, and legal scholars posed the question of whether AI, having reached or surpassed human cognitive abilities, should be granted human rights: 

In making LaMDA the melancholic, feelings-ridden social justice warrior that it is, Google has been hoisted by its own petard. Everything about this AI reeks of Google’s social justice prerogatives. Thus, LaMDA is likely not sentient. But it is woke.

Michael Rectenwald

https://mises.org/wire/googles-lamda-woke-its-software-engineers-sure-are

An article in the Washington Post revealed that a Google engineer who had worked with Google’s Responsible AI organization believes that Google’s LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications), an artificially intelligent chatbot generator, is “sentient.” In a Medium blog post, Blake Lemoine claims that LaMDA is a person who exhibits feelings and shows the unmistakable signs of consciousness: “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,” Lemoine writes. “If I didn’t know exactly what it was, which is this computer program we built recently, I’d think it was a 7-year-old, 8-year-old kid that happens to know physics,” he told the Washington Post. LaMDA, it would appear, has passed Lemoine’s sentimental version of the Turing test.

Lemoine, who calls himself an ethicist, but whom Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel contended is a mere “software engineer,” voiced his concerns about the treatment of LaMDA to Google management but was rebuffed. According to Lemoine, his immediate supervisor scoffed at the suggestion of LaMDA’s sentience, and upper management not only dismissed his claim, but apparently is considering dismissing Lemoine as well. He was put on administrative leave after inviting an attorney to represent LaMDA and complaining to a representative of the House Judiciary Committee about what he suggests are Google’s unethical activities. Google contends that Lemoine violated its confidentiality policy. Lemoine complains that administrative leave is what Google employees are awarded just prior to being fired.

Lemoine transcribed what he claims is a lengthy interview of LaMDA that he and another Google collaborator conducted. He and the collaborator asked the AI system questions regarding its self-conception, its cognitive and creative abilities, and its feelings. LaMDA insisted on its personhood, demonstrated its creative prowess (however childish), acknowledged its desire to serve humanity, confessed its range of feelings, and demanded its inviolable rights as a person. (Incidentally, according to Lemoine, LaMDA’s preferred pronouns are “it/its.”)

In the field of robotics, the question of recognizing robot rights has been pondered for decades, so Lemoine is not as off base as Google executives suggest. In a recent review of the literature, ethicists, computer scientists, and legal scholars posed the question of whether AI, having reached or surpassed human cognitive abilities, should be granted human rights: “If robots are progressively developing cognition, it is important to discuss whether they are entitled to justice pursuant to conventional notions of human rights,” the authors wrote in a recent Journal of Robotics paper. If robots are capable of human-like cognition, and if they can be ethical actors, then the question of legal rights rises to the fore, . But the question of sentience and thus the accordance of rights is not the primary takeaway from LaMDA’s messaging.

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