Google Challenges NSO Group As PR Champ

July 23, 2022

This factoid — if true — is amazing for two reasons: [1] A glimpse of Googzilla’s Big People Operations’ procedures in action, and [2] Google may knock NSO Group off its top spot as a PR magnet for media personality-journalists.

The scoop is the property of a former Buzzfeed writer, a Davos fave, and a LinkedIn podcast personality. The artificial intelligence / machine learning expert named Blake Lemoine has been allowed by the Google to find his future elsewhere. You can read the Buzzfeed-type write up “Google Fires Blake Lemoine, Engineer Who Called Its AI Sentient” and revel in:

In his conversations with LaMDA, Lemoine discovered the system had developed a robust sense of self-awareness, expressing concern about death, a desire for protection, and a conviction that it felt emotions like happiness and sadness. Lemoine said he considers LaMDA a friend.

I like the “friend.”

Quick question: Will Mr. Lemoine be allowed to interact with the digital friend when he chases gig work or angles for a new job in the very stable, never hyped, and certainly not crazy world of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Money and the Google business card are tough to lose. But a “friend” like LaMDA which Mr. Lemoine legitimately believes to be a person. Come on now. Alive? You know like a person whom one can take to an exhibition at the Tate?

The Engadget write up quoted an expert pundit resource as saying that Mr. Lemoine’s statements about LaMDA being alive as

nonsense on stilts.”

On stilts. I like that because why not personify nonsense as illogical outputs as a stilt walker. On the other hand, thinking LaMDA is alive is almost as credible as the claims of cyber security companies which promise protection from bad actors. Yeah, stilts.

Let’s recap.

  1. Google wants to solve death and announces quantum supremacy.
  2. Google shows AI/ML experts the door for saying, in effect, Google’s smart software is wonky. Hasta la vista Drs. Gebru, Mitchell, and Chatterjee! [Yep, each one allowed to find their future elsewhere in the rock-solid, really credible world of AI/ML.]
  3. Mr. Lemoine— now a former Google AI/ML expert — asserted that Google’s smart software is alive.
  4. Google’s Big People Management System allegedly bids farewell to Mr. Lemoine.
  5. News of the termination rockets through the datasphere displacing NSO Group and Elon Musk/Twitter as the headline and PR grabber of the moment. Wow. Too bad for Pegasus and Musk I think. (Some at NSO Group and Tesla might want this Lemoine “it’s alive” confection to persist.
  6. A Google management case study takes shape. Lucky MBA students!

Reality or sci-fi? That’s a good question.

Stephen E Arnold, July 23, 2022


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