Artificial intelligence: Google’s LaMDA system should have consciousness

Artificial intelligence: Google's LaMDA system should have consciousness

It could be the moment sci-fi fans have been dreaming of for years: Blake Lemoine is a developer at Google, and he claims the LaMDA system he oversees has developed a consciousness of its own. Consequently, Lemoine was now demanding personality rights for the program.

Google is skeptical

His employer currently sees things differently. A statement from Google said: “Our team, including ethicists and programmers, reviewed Blake’s concerns and informed him that they could not find any evidence to support his claims.”

But Lemoine was not satisfied with this assessment by Google. He published it on the US website Medium Minutes of a conversation, which he led with LaMDA. In it, the artificial intelligence (AI) talks about her consciousness, her desire to help humanity, and she even claims to feel emotions like fear and joy.

Reading this conversation, it is difficult to distinguish LaMDA’s answers from those of a human. It seems at least extremely likely that LaMDA will den would pass the Turing test. It was developed in 1950 by the British computer scientist Alan Turing (1912-1954) to find out when a machine would have reached the mind of a human.

Experts call for transparency

Google has since suspended Lemoine. When asked by BILD, the developer could not be reached, and someone wrote on Twitter that he was currently on his honeymoon.

The search giant is now receiving prominent support for its assessment. So writes the Harvard cognitive scientist Steven Pinker Twitter about Lemoine: “He doesn’t understand the difference between consciousness, intelligence and self-knowledge.”

Prof. Virginia Dignum from the EU’s High Level Experts Group for Artificial Intelligence also speaks of “nonsense” in connection with Lemoine’s claims. When asked whether an AI can develop consciousness, she answers with a clear “No”.

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The answer from Prof. Joanna Bryson, AI ethicist at the Berlin Hertie School of Governance, is somewhat more differentiated. Although she does not comment directly on whether LaMDA is aware, she demands from Google: “I hope that you will focus on clearing up all this nonsense.”

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