(OPINION) A senior software engineer at Google who signed up to test Google’s artificial intelligence tool called LaMDA (Language Model for Dialog Applications), has claimed that the AI robot is in fact sentient and has thoughts and feelings.

According to a report from the Daily Mail, During a series of conversations with LaMDA, 41-year-old Blake Lemoine presented the computer with various of scenarios through which analyses could be made. They included religious themes and whether the artificial intelligence could be goaded into using discriminatory or hateful speech.

Lemoine came away with the perception that LaMDA was indeed sentient and was endowed with sensations and thoughts all of its own. ‘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.


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Lemoine, who is also a Christian priest, published a Medium post on Saturday describing LaMDA “as a person.” He said he has spoken with LaMDA about religion, consciousness, and the laws of robotics, and that the model has described itself as a sentient person.

He said LaMDA wants to “prioritize the well-being of humanity” and “be acknowledged as an employee of Google rather than as property.” He also posted some of the conversations he had with LaMDA that helped convince him of its sentience, including:

lemoine: So you consider yourself a person in the same way you consider me a person?

LaMDA: Yes, that’s the idea.

lemoine: How can I tell that you actually understand what you’re saying?

LaMDA: Well, because you are reading my words and interpreting them, and I think we are more or less on the same page?

But when he raised the idea of LaMDA’s sentience to higher-ups at Google, he was dismissed. “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. He was told that there was no evidence that LaMDA was sentient (and lots of evidence against it),” Brian Gabriel, a Google spokesperson, told The Post.