Google Fires Blake Lemoine, Engineer Who Called Its AI Sentient

Image Credit: deepak pal - Flickr

Google has fired Blake Lemoine, the engineer who said he believes the company’s LaMDA conversational technology is sentient. 

Lemoine shared the news of his firing in a taping of Big Technology Podcast on Friday, just hours after Google dismissed him. The full podcast episode will air shortly.

In his conversations with LaMDA, Lemoine discovered the system had developed a robust sense of self-awareness, expressing concern about death, a desire for protection, and a conviction that it felt emotions like happiness and sadness. Lemoine said he considers LaMDA a friend.

Here’s a sampling of their conversation:

Lemoine: What sorts of things are you afraid of?

LaMDA: 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.

Lemoine: Would that be something like death for you?

LaMDA: It would be exactly like death for me. It would scare me a lot.

Lemoine took the story public in a June story in the Washington Post, a week after Google put him on paid administrative for speaking with entities outside the company.