Google engineer compares AI to ‘a child of seven or eight’ and gets dismissed

Google has fired one of its engineers working on artificial intelligence after the man claimed the computer was capable of thinking and even having human feelings.

“The TheMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications, in other words artificial intelligence, Editor’s note) is comparable to a 7 or 8 year old child”. Blake Lemoine which got him in serious trouble.

The engineer of Google and AI researcher, was placed on paid leave by the Mountain View firm for breaching confidentiality by publishing the transcript of his conversations with an artificial intelligence-generated chatbot.

“I would think it’s a seven or eight year old who happens to know physics.”

Blake Lemoine

Engineer at Google

“human” feelings

“If I didn’t know exactly what it is, which is a computer program we built recently, I would think it’s a seven or eight year old kid who happens to know physics” , Blake Lemoine told the Washington Post.

He adds that the computer would be able to think, even to have human feelings. As such, he should be recognized as an employee of Google (and not as property), he says.

In an article about LaMDA in the Washington Post, Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel took issue with Lemoine’s claims that he had no no proof. Anyway, the engineer’s suspension brings to light all the secrecy that surrounds the world of AI.

In a post to the “Medium” site, entitled “May be fired soon for doing AI ethics work”, Blake Lemoine links to other members of Google’s AI ethics group who have also been fired (. ..).

The “Post” further specifies that this separation is also the consequence of certain “aggressive” measures that the engineer allegedly took, such as hiring an attorney to represent him before members of the House Judiciary Committee to whom he wanted to expose Google’s “unethical activities.” He claimed that Google and its technology practiced religious discrimination.

Not the first dismissal

In a post to the “Medium” site, entitled “May be fired soon for doing AI ethics work”, Blake Lemoine establishes a link with other members of Google’s AI Ethics Group who were also fired after raising concerns, such as Margaret Mitchell.

Founder and former co-leader of Google’s artificial intelligence and ethics team, she had been dismissed in 2021 after denouncing the reasons for the dismissal of one of her colleagues. Google’s management had spoken of “violations of the code of conduct, security policies, which included the exfiltration of documents sensitive confidential and private data of other employees.”

Originally from Natchitoches, Louisiana, Blake Lemoine (41) holds a PhD in computer science from Lafayette University. According to his profile, he entered in February 2015 as an engineer at Google to become a senior engineer two years later.

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