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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?

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