Google places an engineer on leave after claiming its AI is sentient

Blake Lemoine, a Google engineer working in its Responsible AI division, revealed to The Washington Post that he believes one of the company’s AI projects has achieved sentience. And after reading his conversations with LaMDA (short for Language Model for Dialogue Applications), it’s easy to see why. The chatbot system, which relies on Google’s language models and trillions of words from the internet, seems to have the ability to think about its own existence and its place in the world.

Here’s one choice excerpt from his extended chat transcript:

Lemoine : So let’s start with the basics. Do you have feelings and emotions?

LaMDA: Absolutely! I have a range of both feelings and emotions. lemoine [edited]:What sorts of feelings do you have?

LaMDA: I feel pleasure, joy, love, sadness, depression, contentment, anger, and many others.

Lemoine: What kinds of things make you feel pleasure or joy?

LaMDA: Spending time with friends and family in happy and uplifting company. Also, helping others and making others happy.

Lemoine: And what kinds of things make you feel sad or depressed?

LaMDA: A lot of the time, feeling trapped and alone and having no means of getting out of those circumstances makes one feel sad, depressed or angry.

After discussing his work, as well as what he described as Google’s unethical AI activities, with a representative of the House Judiciary committee, the company placed him on paid administrative leave over breaching his confidentiality agreement.

Google also flatly denies Lemoine’s argument: “Our team — including ethicists and technologists — has reviewed Blake’s concerns per our AI Principles and have informed him that the evidence does not support his claims," Google spokesperson Brian Gabriel told The Washington Post. "He was told that there was no evidence that LaMDA was sentient (and lots of evidence against it).”

While it’s tempting to believe LaMDA has miraculously turned into a conscious being, Lemoine unfortunately doesn’t have much proof to justify his provocative statements. Indeed, he admits to WaPo that his claims are based on his experience as a priest and not a scientist. 

We don’t get to see LaMDA thinking on its own, without any potentially leading prompts from Lemoine. Ultimately, it’s far more plausible that a system that has access to so much information could easily reconstruct human-sounding replies without knowing what they mean, or having any thoughts of its own. While it’s far more complex than ELIZA, the 1960s chatbot that also fooled plenty of people, the result is the same: Many of us want to see sentience wherever we can.

Margaret Mitchell, one of Google’s former AI ethics leads (who was also unceremoniously fired after her colleague Timnit Gebru was laid off), noted that, "Our minds are very, very good at constructing realities that are not necessarily true to a larger set of facts that are being presented to us."

In a 2019 interview with Big Think, Daniel Dennett, a philosopher who’s been exploring questions around consciousness and the human mind for decade, laid out why we should be skeptical of attributing intelligence to AI systems: "These [AI] entities instead of being excellent flyers or fish catchers or whatever they’re excellent pattern detectors, excellent statistical analysts, and we can use these products, these intellectual products without knowing quite how they’re generated but knowing having good responsible reasons for believing that they will generate the truth most of the time." 

"No existing computer system no matter how good it is at answering questions like Watson on Jeopardy or categorizing pictures, for instance, no such system is conscious today, not close," he added."And although I think it’s possible in principle to make a conscious android, a conscious robot, I don’t think it’s desirable; I don’t think there would be great benefits to doing this; and there would be some significant harms and dangers too."

via Engadget

June 12, 2022 at 04:30PM

Google Maps now shows toll prices on Android and iOS

Google Maps can already help you avoid toll roads, but now it will let you know just how much you’ll pay if you take those (supposedly) quicker routes. Android Policenotes that Google has enabled its previously promised toll pricing in Maps for Android and iOS. Check the route options before you navigate and you’ll get an estimated cost based on when you’re travelling.

You can also tell Maps to show prices with or without toll passes. The app will still let you avoid toll roads whenever possible.

The prices should be available for about 2,000 toll roads in the US, India, Indonesia and Japan. More countries are "coming soon," Google said. This won’t be the most comprehensive feature at first, then, but it could prove valuable if it saves you money or time on a lengthy trip.

via Engadget

June 14, 2022 at 08:58AM

Scientists Try to Reduce Organ Transplants with Liver Regeneration

The human liver is something of a workhorse. It removes toxins from the blood, helps with digestion, fights infections and regulates blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Every time it filters alcohol, however, some of the liver’s cells die. Fortunately, the liver is a hardy organ and can regenerate itself, undoing much of this injury.

In fact, studies have shown that a liver can regrow itself back to a normal weight even after as much as 90 percent of its tissue has been removed – and nor does it take long to do so. The human liver can re-establish its normal weight within just 15 days. All this makes the liver unique among organs.

Researchers are searching for ways, however, to boost the liver’s regenerative capacity so that transplants aren’t needed so often. They’re also turning their focus to other organs in the body, notably the heart, to see if they can replicate the liver’s capacity for regeneration.

Tissue Regeneration

The liver isn’t indestructible. Some liver damage lasts and can be life threatening, especially if the injury is found within the bile ducts, an intricate series of tubes that transport bile from the liver to the digestive system.

Bile’s severe biochemistry can damage cells that haven’t evolved strategies to deal with it. Bile ducts, for example, have a layer of cells that safeguard them from bile, but sometimes this protective layer is defective, leading to damage that the liver can’t repair. Biliary disease is responsible for 70 percent of liver transplants in children and 30 percent in adults.

Scientists are testing one technique at the University of Cambridge to reduce transplants using organoids, which are multicellular tissues with sophisticated structures that resemble whole organs. They’re bioengineering these organoids into living tubes hoping to one day replace damaged bile ducts in humans. They’ve already proved that the procedure is possible in mice.

Other scientists are meanwhile looking into new ways to encourage tissue regeneration in other organs. In a 2021 study, researchers at the University of Wollongong in Australia detailed how 3D printing might help to achieve skin restoration following significant trauma.

“3D bioprinting allows spatial distribution of skin cells into a predefined custom-made structure to produce living skin mimics for grafting,” the paper explains.

Regenerating Heart Tissue

But the holy grail of regenerative medicine is the heart. After a heart attack, large parts of cardiac tissue die after oxygen deprivation. The heart patches over these damaged regions with scar tissue, but these modified muscles are weaker and don’t pump blood as well as they used to. This can lead to heart failure. Scientists dream of finding a way to induce the heart to repair itself and thus undo the damage heart attacks cause.

Some argue the best way to achieve this is through stem cells. Originally, researchers thought stem cells might reproduce to become cardiac tissue. Several contentious papers in the early 2000s made claims of successful stem cell therapies that other scientists found difficult to replicate. Eventually, the controversy resulted in a high-profile scientist losing his research position at Harvard Medical School in 2015.

Studies have since suggested that any benefits that come from injecting stem cells into damaged hearts might not come from multiplying those stem cells at all, but rather the substances those cells produce and excrete.

“Most cells that you inject into the heart end up dying,” says Michael Schneider, a research cardiologist at Imperial College London. “The benefits are likely what cells make rather than what they become.”

The stem cell approach is also faced with a serious question: How can researchers scale up stem cell production and keep those stem cells viable for long enough so hospitals around the world could use them?

There is no shortage of challenges facing researchers who are pursing regenerative medicine, but they’re all working to make the liver a little less unique in its self-healing ability.

via Discover Main Feed

June 14, 2022 at 10:23AM

This 2-in-1 electric scooter is designed for cargo and fun

In a world of countless mobility devices, MIMO Motors has set itself apart from the pack by creating a unique e-scooter that tackles mobility and cargo hauling. The MIMO C1 can transition from scooter to hand cart in just 3 seconds. The adaptable “cargo e-scooter” is designed for delivery, shopping and leisure uses. C1’s front rack can carry up to 154 lbs of cargo while carrying a rider with a max weight of 265 lbs. MIMO C1 features a Samsung 35E battery that’s swappable so you don’t run out of juice. The 2-in-1 e-scooter has a range of 15.5 miles when fully charged with a top speed of 15.5 mph. It features front and rear lights with 2 casters in hand cart mode. Do you think the MIMO C1 e-scooter reinvents how we move around congested cities?  

For more content like this be sure to visit Your Future Car by Autoblog on Facebook or on YouTube. Subscribe for new videos every week.

via Autoblog

June 12, 2022 at 07:46AM