Thank Goodness SAIL Disses LAME-DUH. Sorry, LaMDA

August 12, 2022

Google hired a wizard. The wizard then suggested, believed, hallucinated that the software was sentient. Yeah. Big news for UFO spotters, venture capitalists, and itinerant shamans. The truth is now official, and it comes from a veritable hot bed of smart software: Stanford University. “Stanford AI Experts Call BS on Claims That Google’s LaMDA Chatbot Is Sentient” states:

“LaMDA is not sentient for the simple reason that it does not have the physiology to have sensations and feelings,” said John Etchemendy, the co-director of the Stanford Institute for Human-centered AI (HAI). “It is a software program designed to produce sentences in response to sentence prompts.” Yoav Shoham, the former director of the Stanford AI Lab, agreed that LaMDA isn’t sentient. He described The Washington Post article “pure clickbait.”

There you go. No references to Snorkel. No comments about the origin of clickbait. (Factoid: It was developed as soon as Backrub became available.) But there is this concern:

The hype may generate clicks and market products, but researchers fear it’s distracting us from more pressing issues. LLMs are causing particular alarm. While the models have become adept at generating humanlike text, excitement about their “intelligence” can mask their shortcomings. Research shows systems can have enormous carbon footprints, amplify discriminatory language, and pose real dangers.

In my opinion, some of the challenges Big Tech presents are manifestations of beliefs, insights, and learnings acquired at Stanford University. In a way, I feel sorry for the Stanford graduates who now face some interesting challenges. Oracle is RIFfing some SU alums. Facebook has told some unmotivated and less wizard-like Stanford grads to quit. Even the Stanford extension known as The Google says, “Work harder.”

I also worry a bit about Mr. Lemoine, the Google person, who said LaMDA was alive. Imagine having to explain that to an executive recruiter for a gravel company or a screener working for the UK’s National Crime Agency.

But life is so much better now that we have Stanford-infused services, isn’t it? Yep, LaME-DA. Sorry, I meant LaMDA. Darn, no wonder I was not admitted to SU.

Stephen E Arnold, August 12, 2022


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