By Farah G. Decano
GOOGLE recently ordered one of its engineers to go on a paid leave. Blake Lemoine was suspended after he published an article claiming that the Large Language Model (LLM) or chatbot he was developing became sentient. In other words, he claimed that his invention has consciousness and feelings.
The search engine company believed that Lemoine had been suffering from some kind of an abnormal attachment to his work. That too much attention, cogitation and enthusiasm on his pet project led him to abandon alternative rational possibilities. Lemoine did not want to consider that his interactive contraption was merely responding logically to human queries based on its programmed design. He could not accept that his work is non-sentient.
That Lemoine’s chatbot indicated fear of being switched off was not sufficient evidence to prove consciousness. Other engineers declared that this was merely an intelligent and logical response. At best, some experts say, his LLM was competent.
Lemoine’s experience is not unique. This incident can happen to people who get obsessed with certain projects, wards or objects of affection that the latter become greater than what they really are. People can be so foolish. They get blinded by their tunnel vision, or get deceived by their own fiction or chosen narrative.
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I remember Pygmalion in Lemoine. This famed character shunned the world and devoted his time to sculpting his ideal woman. He lost sensibilities when he allowed himself to fall in love with his own creation – a figure of a beautiful woman carved out from a cold marble.
I suspect that these Greek mythologies are allegories of political realities in the olden times. I wonder who the real Pygmalion was. Was he a misogynistic introvert who had wild ideas about perfection, or was he a narcissistic prick whose happiness depended on the fulfillment of his own longing to the detriment of those around him?
What about Galatea? She was nothing but a cold precious stone until Pygmalion gave her shape, character, beauty and then life. Oh well, technically, it was Aphrodite who gave her life after she was moved by Pygmalion’s prayers and desperation.
Although Galatea was perfection incarnated, I have no wish to be like her. Women who identify with her character have no self-worth. They become dependent on others for their existence. They only mirror the thoughts of those who desire them. Their so-called flawlessness becomes possible only after they allow themselves to suffer each chisel blow from lonely and miserable men who accept no other standards of beauty but their own.
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Back to Lemoine. He must have wished that the gods of Silicon Valley breathe life into his assertion – that his chatbot has life. However, unlike the mythological Aphrodite, Google is not easily persuaded by drama or desperation. It relies heavily on cold facts.
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In the recent Philippine elections, we witnessed how some voters evolved into fanatics. They elevated their chosen candidates to the level of gods who are infallible. No amount of reason could shake their perception of their idols despite glaring evidences to the contrary. They have become callous to reason. To them, their candidates are impeccable heroes.
Google seems to believe that forcing Lemoine to take a break from his pet invention will bring him back to his senses. Sounds easy. Similarly, I wonder how we could shake some Filipinos out of their modern-day idolatry. How do we detoxify a nation steeped in blind adulation and return its consciousness to the realities of our country?
Indeed, exciting times are up ahead.
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