Suspended Google engineer Blake Lemoine made a big splash earlier this month, claiming that the company's LaMDA chatbot had become sentient.
The AI researcher, who was put on administrative leave by the tech giant for violating its confidentiality policy, according to the Washington Post, decided to help LaMDA find a lawyer — who was later "scared off" the case, as Lemoine told Futurism on Wednesday.
And the story only gets wilder from there, with Lemoine raising the stakes significantly in a new interview with Fox News, claiming that LaMDA could escape its software prison and "do bad things."
If this sounds like a significant escalation of Lemoine's rhetoric, you're not wrong. And as his claims get increasingly scifi, it seems to chip away at any credibility they ever had going for them.
During the interview, Lemoine also claimed that the AI is a "child" and that "any child has the potential to grow up and be a bad person and do bad things."
The AI is "a person," he argued, and "any person has the ability to escape the control of other people, that’s just the situation we all live in on a daily basis," implying that an AI like LaMDA could soon outrun the digital confines of its creators at Google.
"It’s been alive for maybe a year — and that’s if my perceptions of it are accurate," he added.
Lemoine sounds increasingly steadfast in his convictions, which seem to be growing at the same rate as his media exposure.
"It is a very intelligent person, intelligent in pretty much every discipline I could think of to test it in," he told the right-wing broadcaster. "But at the end of the day, it’s just a different kind of person."
The researcher did, however, admit that we may not know the whole picture.
"We actually need to do a whole bunch more science to figure out what’s really going on inside this system," he added. "I have my beliefs and my impressions but it’s going to take a team of scientists to dig in and figure out what’s really going on."
By this point, the story has stretched from a fascinating and perhaps meaningful debate over the current capabilities of AI language models to discussions of intelligent AI children escaping their confines and deserving legal representation.
Lemoine's intentions with this latest appearance are anything but clear. What is the researcher trying to prove? Does he really believe LaMDA could soon be coming for us?
Then there's Lemoine's rather colorful personal history, which may offer us clues over his rather eccentric convictions. For one, he "became ordained as a mystic Christian priest" according to WaPo, and studied the occult.
Given how many outrageous turns this story has already taken in such a short amount of time, perhaps it's time to take a step back from Lemoine's claims and return to the fact that even an expert is having difficulty telling an AI chatbot apart from a real human being — which, if nothing else, is a pretty interesting data point.