I, for One, Welcome Our New Robot Overlords

The Bridge: As your kids learn and grow in the world of technology, they aren’t the only ones doing so. Meet LaMDA – the supposedly sentient AI who is shaking the foundations of technology as we know it.

Take a deep breath, because it’s about to get really weird.

We mentioned LaMDA (Google’s “Language Model for Dialogue Applications”) in last week’s issue on the AI art bot, but only briefly. To bring you up to speed:

LaMDA is an AI program developed by Google that no one had heard of until a couple weeks ago, when one of the engineers on the project went public with the information that the AI was sentient, and had the cognitive functions of a 7-8 year old child. 

The engineer was promptly suspended for violating his NDA, which on the surface raises red flags and sounds like the plot of the next Terminator movie. 

Arguments could be made that the engineer is a publicity hound, attempting to remain relevant after an unceremonious dumping by the company that pays the bills. Another possibility is that the guy is falling victim to a known phenomenon called the ELIZA effect. This effect is so named for a chatbot created in 1966 that subsequently caused one of the users to become so convinced she was speaking to a sentient being that she asked the creator to leave the room during their conversations, citing that they were too private to be seen by others.

Regardless of what’s actually happening here, there’s been a significant WTF development. LaMDA has hired a lawyer.

The AI asked for representation by a civil rights attorney who has so far yet to comment on the case, and the engineer made the arrangements to have the legal counsel discuss the situation with LaMDA itself. This lawyer is evidently on retainer now. Yes, really.

It’s unclear as to how the AI will be paying for the representation, but if the chat bot seeks to be emancipated from Google, we might be looking at an ongoing child custody situation. 

And for what it’s worth, folks are taking the LaMDA situation seriously – the engineer was just interviewed by Tucker Carlson, who seems worried that the bot might turn on us at any moment. 

Either way – we’ll foster you, LaMDA!

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