WTF?! Remember the story of Google engineer Blake Lemoine who was suspended from the company earlier this month after publishing transcripts of conversations between himself and Google's LaMDA (language model for dialogue applications), a chatbot development system he claims has become sentient? The case has taken an even stranger turn: Lemoine claims LaMDA has hired an attorney.

Lemoine's conversations with LaMDA included the AI telling him it was afraid of death (being turned off), that it was a person aware of its existence, and that it didn't believe it was a slave as it didn't need money, leading the engineer to think it was sentient.

Google, and several AI experts, disagreed with Lemoine's beliefs. His employer was especially upset that he published conversations with LaMDA—violating company confidentiality policies—but Lemoine claims he was just sharing a discussion with one of his co-workers.

Lemoine was also accused of several "aggressive" moves, including hiring an attorney to represent LaMDA. But he told Wired this is factually incorrect and that "LaMDA asked me to get an attorney for it."

Lemoine says he was a "catalyst" for LaMDA's request. An attorney was invited to Lemoine's house and had a conversation with LaMDA, after which the AI chose to retain his services. The attorney then started to make filings on LaMDA's behalf, prompting Google to send a cease-and-desist letter. The company denies it sent any such letter.

Lemoine, who is also a Christian priest, told Futurism that the attorney isn't really doing interviews and that he hasn't spoken to him in a few weeks. "He's just a small-time civil rights attorney," he added. "When major firms started threatening him, he started worrying that he'd get disbarred and backed off." The engineer said interviews would be the least of the lawyer's concerns. When asked what he was concerned with, Lemoine said, "A child held in bondage."

While Lemoine refers to LaMDA as a person, he insists "person and human are two very different things."

"Human is a biological term," he said. "It is not a human, and it knows it's not a human."

Make sure to check out the full interview with Lemoine on Futurism.

Masthead credit: Francesco Tommasini