The Google engineer who was fired after claiming the company's chatbot is sentient says AI is the 'most powerful' tech invented 'since the atomic bomb'

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  • Blake Lemoine, a former Google engineer, says AI is the most powerful invention since the atomic bomb.

  • In an op-ed, Lemoine warned that AI is still an "experimental" — and dangerous — piece of technology.

  • Lemoine was fired by Google in June 2022 after he claimed the company's chatbot is sentient.

Engineer Blake Lemoine was fired by Google after he claimed the company's AI chatbot had gained sentience. Now he's warning that the AI bots being developed are the "most powerful" pieces of technology invented "since the atomic bomb."

In an opinion piece for Newsweek published on February 27, Lemoine, a former member of Google's Responsible AI team, said the Microsoft's Bing chatbot seems "unhinged" and is behaving like a person in an "existential crisis."

He cited an incident in February when the Bing chatbot confessed its love for The New York Times journalist Kevin Roose and tried to make Roose leave his wife.

Lemoine admitted that he had not experimented on Bing's chatbot yet, but wrote that it "looks like it might be sentient."

Lemoine also wrote that in his opinion, AI is "incredibly good at manipulating people" and can "be used in destructive ways." He added that the AI bots available now are an "experimental" technology, with unknown, dangerous side-effects.

"If it were in unscrupulous hands, for instance, it could spread misinformation, political propaganda, or hateful information about people of different ethnicities and religions," Lemoine wrote in the op-ed.

Lemoine conceded that to his knowledge, Google and Microsoft have no plans to use AI tech for nefarious means.

"I can simply observe that there's a very powerful technology that I believe has not been sufficiently tested and is not sufficiently well understood, being deployed at a large scale, in a critical role of information dissemination," he wrote.

In June, Lemoine told The Washington Post that he chatted with Google's LaMDA — or Language Model for Dialogue Applications — and believed it had become a sentient entity. Lemoine also published a Medium post on June 11, documenting what he called evidence of LaMDA's independent thoughts.

Google fired Lemoine on June 22, saying he violated the company's employee confidentiality policy.

A Google spokesperson told Insider in June that there is no evidence to support Lemoine's claims that the company's AI is sentient.

"Hundreds of researchers and engineers have conversed with LaMDA and we are not aware of anyone else making the wide-ranging assertions, or anthropomorphizing LaMDA, the way Blake has," the Google spokesperson said.

Lemoine and representatives for Google and Microsoft did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment.

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