Sentient AI

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Nitasha Tiku, "The Google engineer who thinks the company’s AI has come to life", WaPo 6/11/2022:

Google engineer Blake Lemoine opened his laptop to the interface for LaMDA, Google’s artificially intelligent chatbot generator, and began to type.

“Hi LaMDA, this is Blake Lemoine … ,” he wrote into the chat screen, which looked like a desktop version of Apple’s iMessage, down to the Arctic blue text bubbles. LaMDA, short for Language Model for Dialogue Applications, is Google’s system for building chatbots based on its most advanced large language models, so called because it mimics speech by ingesting trillions of words from the internet.

“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,” said Lemoine, 41.


In a statement, Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel said: “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).”

This evokes the whole "Stochastic Parrots" controversy

And another take on cat consciousness, from a few years ago:


  1. David L said,

    June 14, 2022 @ 10:21 am

    As a cat lover of long standing, I object to these videos — the second one especially, which freaked me out as much as it did the poor kitties.

  2. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    June 14, 2022 @ 2:04 pm

    Taking the videos at face value, which means assuming that the cat in the 1st vid really does not know that it's looking at itself in the mirror, & that the cats in the 2nd video really do know they're looking at themselves & their humans in the video screen, it makes me wonder if there's a qualitative difference between looking in a mirror & looking at a video screen.

    There must be, because while they both look the same to us, at least on a surface level, optometrists use mirrors to simulate distance in eye exams, because video screens wouldn't work for that purpose.

    I'm not a scientist, of course, but I'm sure there's a scientifically-understood explanation for this.

  3. Seth said,

    June 14, 2022 @ 4:43 pm

    It's not at all clear to me that the cats in the second video know they are looking at themselves or their human. I suspect they're simply looking at blobs on a screen, and some are uncomfortable due to the way they're being held. One which is reacting particularly strongly seems to me just very unhappy that its human is holding it right then, and wants to get away.

  4. Gregory Kusnick said,

    June 14, 2022 @ 5:33 pm

    I agree with Seth. The most plausible reading of the second video is that the cats are reacting not to what's on screen, but to the inexplicable behavior of their humans, and the person who assembled the video selected the reactions that were most susceptible to anthropomorphizing.

  5. John Swindle said,

    June 15, 2022 @ 8:21 am

    Is the cat in the first video play-fighting? If so, I suppose that proves that it knows the image in the glass is supposed to be a cat. Is there more to it than that?

  6. John Swindle said,

    June 15, 2022 @ 7:43 pm

    On second thought the cat in the first video does nicely illustrate the AI researcher.

  7. Michèle Sharik Pituley said,

    June 16, 2022 @ 11:50 am

    @Seth & Gregory: I did say taking them at “face value” & “assuming” that they what they purport to be. I still wonder if mirrors show depth of field and video screens don’t, though they look essentially the same to us (maybe just me?).

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