Personality privileges | Commonwealth Magazine


Third, there is the issue of social priorities. Among the top responses to Lemoine’s claims was an essay by former Google employees Timnit Gebru and Margaret Mitchell. Gebru and Mitchell argued that whether LaMDA is sensitive or not, it is almost certainly biased against certain people in the same way that other technologies can be biased against women, people of color, or other groups. The hype around the possibility of sentient AI, they argue, distracts us from larger systemic issues in the tech industry, such as the rapid rise in surveillance technologies, rampant labor abuses , environmental damage and wealth inequality often caused by tech giants. A recent study noted that the formation of a massive NLP like LaMDA typically produces five times more carbon dioxide than the full life cycle (production and fuel consumption) of the average American car. If tech entrepreneurs can convince the public (and major funders) that they are constantly on the verge of general AI, if we are one step away from the next great technological marvel, then almost anything goes. This AI hype, combined with the pernicious myth that technological progress equals moral progress, can be deadly.

Fourth, belief is a funny thing. Lemoine is a self-proclaimed mystic of Christian origin. He worried about LaMDA when he told him he believed he was a person, that he was afraid of being extinguished, that he had a soul. But how to interpret LaMDA’s words, and what does it mean that Lemoine interpreted them as he did? AI language systems are trained on billions and billions of text examples found on the internet, on places like Reddit, Twitter, Wikipedia and blogs. They’re willing to talk eloquently about religion and the question of personhood, because that’s what humans do: we talk about our beliefs and we talk about our rights. After a series of conversations, Lemoine became attached, then defensive, about AI. He felt he was connected to another consciousness and such a thing had to be protected. It’s an admirable position, protecting the unprotected, despite everything else.

Fifth, there are questions about TheMDA itself. LaMDA is, without a doubt, one of the most powerful language processing and prediction models ever to exist. It is also likely to be overtaken in a few years by the next model, just as LaMDA builds on the success of BERT and GPT-3. In computing, the next best thing is always around the corner, and language models are no exception. And regarding Lemoine’s passages on personality, it seems that Google used LaMDA to impersonate things, like Pluto and paper planesregularly, so it’s not too surprising that LaMDA can reasonably impersonate a human with feelings, emotions, and desires.

With all this in mind, it’s hard for me to say that LaMDA is sentient in the same way that a human or an animal is sentient. And given the personality’s long and troubled history, this constant search to assign personality to current or future technology strikes even my sci-fi-loving self as being dangerously negligent to the people around us. and who are still struggling for dignity, for a voice, for personality.

But at the same time, personality is so intertwined with our history of racism, misogyny, xenophobia and colonialism that I find almost any philosophy or theology of personality that is even the less a little restrictive to be dangerous too. Following the impulses of theologians Elizabeth Johnson and Mr. Shawn Copeland, I find that personality is best defined with grace, hope and trust in an individual’s relationship with God. History is riddled with violence around the denial and revocation of personality, sometimes in the name of Jesus, and it is high time for theology to address personality with generosity and hope for all.

My dual resistance to both the soul code and the repetition of past sins leads me to embrace, once again, our human brothers and sisters above all else. We humans are created, imperfect and fallible, flesh and blood, spirit and body. We have biases, hopes, and loves, and we often fail to meet the needs of those around us. The technological transformation of the world can bring wonder, but it is wonder that must be rooted in our dignity as human persons under God, living as individuals in community.

I have often dreamed of the world depicted in the star trek universe, where humanity has solved the problem of poverty and human dignity is still recognized, but it is a fantasy that is not reflected in the world around us. As technology develops, wealth inequality seems to increase. As digital connections grow, people with deep hate find communities online that reinforce that hate, and our technological saviors have yet to solve the problem of the rapid rise of these groups and their effects in the real world. . In the worst case, Pope Francis writes in Fratelli tutti, “Respect for others decays, and even as we reject, ignore, or keep others at a distance, we can unabashedly scrutinize every detail of their lives.”

The harsh realities of society’s digital explosion curtail my philosophical reflections on LaMDA’s sensibility and force me to refocus my hope on the necessary dignity of the person, on this profound promise of the extension of God’s holiness to all the creatures of God.

June 27, 53 people were found dead just outside San Antonio, trapped in an overheated tractor-trailer, presumably while attempting to enter the United States without having to go through legal immigration channels. So many articles have been written about the engineer’s claims about LaMDA, and countless more about AI sentience in general, but we are quickly turning our attention away from the death of these fifty-three unique consciousnesses. We don’t openly debate their sensibility, their personality, their claim to dignity, but do we really acknowledge it? Are we letting this change us toward building a holier future? Are we allowing their humanity, and the humanity of so many others oppressed by circumstances beyond their control, to transform us into more compassionate and holy individuals?

Who becomes a person? Who gets respect, dignity, autonomy, love? Who has the right to housing, food, water, health and happiness? History pleads caution in how you respond, for we are best judged not by our philosophies, but by the lived reality of our commitments of time, effort, money, and prayer. I won’t judge the Google engineer’s impulse to protect something new, but I will indeed judge a tech company that recklessly mistreats its workers, that abuses the power afforded by its wealth, that prioritizes market value over human dignity and innovation in the care of creations.

It is a great joy and privilege of being human to consider and imagine previously unimaginable possibilities, such as human machines and human-machines. It is a difficult but holier task to build a world in which humans who possess sensitivity, character and dignity have the ability to live full and holy lives for themselves.

This article was made possible through a partnership between Commonweal and the Carl G. Grefenstette Center for the Ethics of Science, Technology, and Law at Duquesne University.

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