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Tyler Cowen

If AI Ever Becomes Sentient, It Will Let Us Know

What we humans say or think isn’t necessarily the last word on artificial intelligence. 

How will we know?

How will we know?

Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images North America

Blake Lemoine, a senior software engineer in Google’s Responsible AI organization, recently made claims that one of the company’s products was a sentient being with consciousness and a soul. Field experts have not backed him up, and Google has placed him on paid leave.

Lemoine’s claims are about the artificial-intelligence chatbot called laMDA. But I am most interested in the general question: If an AI were sentient in some relevant sense, how would we know? What standard should we apply? It is easy to mock Lemoine, but will our own future guesses be much better?