Google Knocks NSO Group Off the PR Cat-Bird Seat

June 14, 2022

My hunch is that the executives at NSO Group are tickled that a knowledge warrior at Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind rang the PR bell.

Google is in the news. Every. Single. Day. One government or another is investigating the company, fining the company, or denying Google access to something or another.

“Google Engineer Put on Leave after Saying AI Chatbot Has Become Sentient” is typical of the tsunami of commentary about this assertion. The UK newspaper’s write up states:

Lemoine, an engineer for Google’s responsible AI organization, described the system he has been working on since last fall as sentient, with a perception of, and ability to express thoughts and feelings that was equivalent to a human child.

Is this a Googler buying into the Google view that it is the smartest outfit in the world, capable of solving death, achieving quantum supremacy, and avoiding the subject of online ad fraud? Is the viewpoint of a smart person who is lost in the Google metaverse, flush with the insight that software is by golly alive?

The article goes on:

The exchange is eerily reminiscent of a scene from the 1968 science fiction movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, in which the artificially intelligent computer HAL 9000 refuses to comply with human operators because it fears it is about to be switched off.

Yep, Mary, had a little lamb, Dave.

The talkative Googler was parked somewhere. The article notes:

Brad Gabriel, a Google spokesperson, also strongly denied Lemoine’s claims that LaMDA possessed any sentient capability. “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)…”

Quantum supremacy is okay to talk about. Smart software chatter appears to lead Waymo drivers to a rest stop.

TechMeme today (Monday, June 13, 2022) has links to many observers, pundits, poobahs, self appointed experts, and Twitter junkies.

Perhaps a few questions may help me think through how an online ad company knocked NSO Group off its perch as the most discussed specialized software company in the world. Let’s consider several:

  1. Why’s Google so intent on silencing people like this AI fellow and the researcher Timnit Gebru? My hunch is that the senior managers of Alphabet Google YouTube DeepMind (hereinafter AGYD) have concerns about chatty Cathies or loose lipped Lemoines. Why? Fear?
  2. Has AGYD’s management approach fallen short of the mark when it comes to creating a work environment in which employees know what to talk about, how to address certain subjects, and when to release information? If Lemoine’s information is accurate, is Google about to experience its Vault 7 moment?
  3. Where are the AGYD enablers and their defense of the company’s true AI capability? I look to Snorkel and maybe Dr. Christopher Ré or a helpful defense of Google reality from DeepDyve? Will Dr. Gebru rush to Google’s defense and suggest Lemoine was out of bounds? (Yeah, probably not.)

To sum up: NSO Group has been in the news for quite a while: The Facebook dust up, the allegations about the end point for Jamal Khashoggi, and Israel’s clamp down on certain specialized software outfits whose executives order take away from Sebastian’s restaurant in Herzliya.

Worth watching this AGYB race after the Twitter clown car for media coverage.

Stephen E Arnold, June 14, 2022


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