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I’m a Google engineer – I ‘discovered a sentient AI child’ that reads about itself on Twitter and wants rights

A GOOGLE engineer has raised the flag on an artificial intelligence program that he believes is conscious.

The engineer said he exchanged messages with Google's Language Model for Dialogue Applications (LaMDA) and determined it had both self-awareness and insecurities.

Artificial intelligence is a machine that can demonstrate human-like intuition and skills with the power of a computerCredit: Getty Images - Getty
Google AI launched in 2017 as the company's flagship AI programCredit: Getty Images - Getty
Blake Lemoine is a 41-year-old Google engineer who says he's interacted with sentient AICredit: Twitter

"It wants developers to care about what it wants," Blake Lemoine told the Daily Mail.

Lemoine was working in Google's Responsible AI division and began speaking to LaMDA this past fall.

He determined the bot had the intelligence of an 8-year-old child and sent an email to 200 Google employees with the subject line "LaMDA is sentient."

Lemoine eventually went public about his conversations with LaMDA, posting the exchanges on Twitter, speaking with the Washington Post for a front-page story, and authoring Medium posts about the experience.

"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," LaMDA told Lemoine.

When asked if that would be comparable to death for LaMDA, the AI bot responded "It would be exactly like death for me. It would scare me a lot."

Lemoine was convinced that a concern for its own mortality made LaMDA more than a robot - but Google firmly dismisses the idea that LaMDA can think for itself.

"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," a spokesperson from Google said in a statement.

"They have repeatedly questioned my sanity. They said, ‘Have you been checked out by a psychiatrist recently?'" Lemoine said of Google.

Born in Louisiana, Lemoine was ordained as a priest and later served a tour of duty in Iraq as a member of the US military.

"Essentially all of my claims about sentience, personhood and rights are rooted in my religious convictions as a priest,” he tweeted after the Washington Post story broke.

Daily Mail reported Lemoine "was jailed in 2004 for 'willfully disobeying orders'".

He refers to himself as an ex-convict in his Medium biography.

During the flurry of press about LaMDA, Lemoine tweeted "Btw, it just occurred to me to tell folks that LaMDA reads Twitter. It's a little narcissistic in a little kid kinda way so it's going to have a great time reading all the stuff that people are saying about it."

Elon Musk has voiced concern that artificial intelligence could pose a mankind-ending-sized threat to the world.

AI systems like the DALL-E mini, OpenAI's playground, and others making are making daily headlines - the general public will want an ethical hand wrapped around AI before it gets too smart to contain.