Google engineer making ‘sentient AI’ claim sparks joke among film fans

Google engineer controversially claimed AI bot wishes ‘to be acknowledged as an employee of Google rather than as property’

Louis Chilton
Monday 13 June 2022 15:24 BST
Ex_Machina - Trailer

A Google employee who made the sensational suggestion that an AI system has become “sentient” has prompted a wave of reactions online.

Software engineer Blake Lemoine, who is currently suspended by Google bosses, said that he reached the conclusion after a series of conversations with LaMDA, the company’s AI chatbot generator.

In interviews and on social media, Lemoine has discussed his interactions with the AI, stating that it had spoken about “personhood” and “rights”, and that it wants “to be acknowledged as an employee of Google rather than as property”.

Google executives were presented with his findings, but they dismissed his claims.

“Our team – including ethicists and technologists – has reviewed Blake’s concerns per our AI Principles and have informed him that the evidence does not support his claims,” Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel told the Washington Post.

“He was told that there was no evidence that LaMDA was sentient (and lots of evidence against it).”

Lemoine is on paid administrative leave after the company claimed he violated its confidentiality policy.

After news of Lemoine’s claims spread, social media users began comparing the story to the 2014 sci-fi film Ex Machina.

Alicia Vikander in ‘Ex Machina'

The movie stars Oscar Isaac as a tech billionaire who develops a revoltionary AI android (Alicia Vikander). After young programmer Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is invited to assess whether or not the AI is sentient, he finds himself charmed and manipulated by Vikander’s seemingly sentient machine.

Countless people mentioned the film on Twitter in response to the Google news.

“I started picturing Ex Machina the minute I read this story,” one person wrote.

“This is giving Ex Machina vibes,” joked someone else.

“Basically the plot of Ex Machina,” another person wrote, while someone else quipped: “Ex Machina intensifies.”

Besides the rebuttal from Google, other critics have also expressed strong doubts over the “sentience” claim, arguing that it is a mistake to believe current AI is anything more than an expert at pattern recognition.

Ex Machina is available to stream now on Prime Video.

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