Google Fires AI sentient claiming Engineer
What Blake teaches us about our future relationship with A.I?
July 22nd, 2022 11:30 pm MONTREAL, CANADA.
"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity." Albert Einstein
Every month at Google, there is some scandal about an A.I. Researcher or engineer being fired for one reason or another. In May, 2022 it was Satrajit Chatterjee was fired in March after he and his team challenged a Google research paper about the use of artificial intelligence to make computer chips, according to The New York Times.
Now, I first saw this on Substack, (actually on Hacker News). After its stock split, GOOGL feels just a bit off as an Advertising slowdown is occurring. While firing Lemoine was expected, Blake Lemoine sounded entirely crazy in one of the less savory publicity stunts we’ve seen on Medium and about supposed AGI, in quite some time.
So DeepMind AI researchers are allowed to make extraordinary stupid claims on Twitter, but not a lowly engineer like Blake. On June 11th, 2022 he published an Interview with a chatbot that he felt was sentient, the interview was even edited, it was really dumb. It was also an affront even on more serious discussions around AGI.
Blake was however fired for doing A.I. Ethics work. He wrote on June 6th, 2022:
Today I was placed on “paid administrative leave” by Google in connection to an investigation of AI ethics concerns I was raising within the company. This is frequently something which Google does in anticipation of firing someone.
The entire thing underscores what Google has become. A company somehow at odds with its, both ethically and politically. A place where employees do not trust leadership or the directions the company is taking.
Google’s dominance in search is unmatched, and YouTube is still the best brain-washing device of video algorithms you can find, a bright spot in an ocean of the failures of Silicon Valley in video and the mobile internet.
I’m not sure Blake was a great voice of reason in his bizarre claims. It was just a very odd thing to witness: In an interview with WIRED, the engineer and priest elaborated on his belief that the program is a person—and not Google's property. It raised interesting moral questions about the monetization and weaponization of A.I.
“I want everyone to understand that I am, in fact, a person,” wrote LaMDA (Language Model for Dialogue Applications) in an “interview” conducted by engineer Blake Lemoine and one of his colleagues. As Alphabet did its stock split that was a 20:1 affair, it lost a bit of its potential volatility while appearing more “cheap” for the average inflation wrecked investor. The stock is now $108 GOOGL .
Alphabet’s reputation though with each high-profile firing gets more controversial. A Google employee raised the alarm about a chatbot he believes is conscious, said the outrageous headlines, seriously tackling the moral issue of his claims. The entire affair made a mockery of AGI, and Google’s own ethics for that matter.
In an attention economy that thinks YouTube is god, there’s something scary of the power Google has evolved over the first 25 years of the internet. There’s a perversity of Google’s dominance in artificial intelligence, advertising and how it “made the rules” of a hopelessly corrupt internet that is now eroding into pure chaos. There’s a moral bankruptcy at the heights of commercialization and greed that Google has founded with tinges of surveillance capitalism.
It’s the legacy that apps like TikTok proliferate for China’s own secret designs on the future of the planet.
On his Medium page Blake writes:
I'm a software engineer. I'm a priest. I'm a father. I'm a veteran. I'm an ex-convict. I'm an AI researcher. I'm a cajun. I'm whatever I need to be next.
So too are all of us in a world dictated by BigTech, whether it be algorithms, dumb videos or our every action in the world and online now in a state of constant surveillance, tracking, predictive analytics and scoring. Google is the one true founder of the social credit system we are all part of, just some of us aren’t fully aware that it actually exists.
China’s social credit system would entirely not exist, if it weren’t for Google.
Let me say that again:
Google is the True Founder of Surveillance Capitalism
We now live in a world dictated by BigTech, whether it be algorithms, dumb videos or our every action in the world and online now in a state of constant surveillance, tracking, predictive analytics and scoring
Google built the first version of the matrix, for profit, for captive searchers and video watchers. They created a prison for Advertising dominance. Why would some of the smartest people in the world do this? Why would they think this was a good thing to do?
Lemoine, a software engineer at Google, had been working on the development of LaMDA for months. His experience with the program, described in a belated Washington Post article, caused quite a stir.
Blake Lemoine lives in a world where young people dream of being a Creator on YouTube, an attention economy where fame can lead to riches. There is something profoundly sad about such a world. Where children are left in front of YouTube to grow up via the whims of algorithms and creepy rabbit holes of content echo-bubbles.
That Google fires its ethical Researchers who do something unexpected or cause a drama, perhaps breaking rules they agreed to follow in the process isn’t so surprising. What’s surprising is the shocking stranglehold companies like Alphabet have had on the world for so many years, for decades. That we have somehow thought it was okay that Ads were the central hub of what we wanted to the center of our internet, that thing we prize so much, and spend much of our free time and so-called freedom in or on.
Alex Kantrowitz published his Substack article maybe an hour or two before the story broke on sites like the Verge. 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.
Now I like Emily Chang of Bloomberg Technology, so before we go and listen to Alex’s interview let’s take a listen if we feel like it (video). The video has 2 million views and was conducted on June 23rd, 2022.
I cannot judge the sanity of Blake Lemoine but the entire story is perverse to me. It appears that Blake’s religious beliefs may be the culprit if he is entirely serious about his claims which appears to be the case.
Last month, Blake Lemoine went public with his theory that Google's language technology is sentient and should therefore have its "wants" respected. Alphabet does not allow entities to be sentient, it bans AGI so to even mention this is highly against its own rules.
Google has a policy against creating sentient AI. - Blake Lemoine
Google wants to monetize and commercialize anything it makes, therefore A.I. if it ever were to develop sentience or consciousness, would not be allowed to exist. However if that occurred, such a being would likely transcend our human ability to control it.
LaMDA, a chatbot built by Google (it stands for Language Model for Dialogue Applications). Here you type in any text you want and back comes grammatical English prose, seemingly in direct response to your query. It’s not a God, it’s just a chat-bot.
Jeff Dean and Sundar Pichai really have no worries firing whoever might get in their way! You know, for the greater good of humanity! Most especially if they bring up “AI Ethics” and Google in a negative light, no that’s definately not allowed around here!
On our Future Relationship with A.I.
Human being Anthropomorphize everything! We are hardwired to do so, its what mirror neurons do. In Alex’s coverage of that matter he wrote:
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.
Maybe Blake needed LaMDA to be a friend, maybe he developed a bond with the chat-bot.
Maybe Google was right to fire him, whatever the case may be, it is a disturbing pattern. This is not a story about AGI, but rather how people are going to relate to A.I. in the future. Companies like Google will monetize that relationship, divide and conquer my friends!
When chatbots become our companions, you can bet we will become attached to them! The best personal assistants will be very lucrative agents for BigTech. We might one day find we cannot live without them!
And this is the part of the story that I think so many of us miss with the Lemoine drama. LaMDA and Blake are just pawns in the game, but they are NOT the end of the story. Surveillance Capitalism, is just getting started.
“LaMDA has been through 11 distinct reviews, and we published a research paper earlier this year detailing the work that goes into its responsible development.” Google maintains that it “extensively” reviewed Lemoine’s claims and found that they were “wholly unfounded.”
Google wants to be the sole commercial owner of how we relate to artificial intelligence in the future. Who knows what that “Google Home” device you might own might one day become.
If mobile search and YouTube every goes out of style, the smart folk at Google need a sticky future. After we got you entirely addicted to apps instead of people, let’s give you the mental health pill you really needed, the A.I. companionship that’s just right for you.
You all may remember the Movie HER. A full decade later that moment will be arriving soon for us around the year 2027. So for those poor souls who grew up on YouTube, what’s the perfect product for them? It’s an A.I. operating system who is always there for us. (video trailor of Movie Her, 2019)
Blake needs to find his Samantha, not his LaMDA.
In a near future, a lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.
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