Sentient AI: Already Here, or Impossible to Say?

Artificial Intelligence is taking our society and our technology in many different directions. Advances in healthcare, ecommerce, and entertainment are manifold—and the markets for Smart devices and IoT devices (already multi-billion dollar industries) are expanding every year. 

As AI reaches more aspects of daily life, we’re likely to see more concerns, and excitement, about what it means for AI to be truly sentient. 

In fact, some have announced that sentient AI is already here. 

But what does ‘sentience’ mean, for humans or for computers? How can something programmed by humans be capable of thoughts or feelings? And what are the ramifications of developing technology that we believe to be sentient? 

Definitions and tests: 

Merriam-Webster’s first definition of ‘sentient’ is “responsive to or conscious of sense impressions,” and the second definition is “aware.” The ambiguity and abstraction around these concepts—sentience, consciousness, awareness—is one of the reasons that pinning down Sentient AI is challenging. 

Giandomenico Iannetti, a professor of neuroscience at University College London, has posed similar questions: 

What do we mean by ‘sentient’? [Is it] the ability to register information from the external world through sensory mechanisms? Or the ability to have subjective experiences? Or the ability to be aware of being conscious, to be an individual different from the rest?

Researchers looking to answer questions of life and intelligence in machines also of course employ the Turing test. Designed to discern intelligence in a computer, a Turing test requires that a human should be “unable to distinguish the machine from another human being by using the replies to questions put to both.” 

But the Turing test might be outdated, 70+ years on from its inception. In the past decades various AIs have passed the Turing test.  But Ianneti regards the test as something that “makes less and less sense.” Essentially, we’ve gotten good enough at creating machines that emulate emotion to deceive ourselves. 

Humans anthropomorphize machines all the time, but may be failing to realize that sentience is something deeper, something further—potentially related to having feelings (not just being able to copy or emulate them in interactions) which may also be related to having a body.

If a machine can convince a person of its intelligence or its ability to feel, it’s not proof that it can do either of those things. It’s merely proof of the machine’s ability to pretend…which is incredible in and of itself. 

So incredible, in fact, that it might just be real.

Earlier in 2022, a Google engineer shot to viral fame because he claimed that their AI chatbot “LaMDa” was truly intelligent, and sentient.

According to press briefings, Blake Lemoine was testing Google’s conversational AI machine to see if it produced hate speech, but during his conversations with LaMDA (short for Language Model for Dialogue Applications), he began to believe that it was fully sentient. According to the Guardian, he “published transcripts of these conversations in June and was fired on July 22 for breaching Google’s confidentiality agreement.” 

In interviews and reports after Lemoine’s dismissal, Google has repeatedly stated the claims are unfounded, saying that “LaMDA has been internally reviewed over ten times.”  

In order to approach the conversation of sentient AI with rigor and intention, it would help to establish some semantic agreements about what sentience means, for humans, animals, fungi, and machines. So, where do you stand? What would it take to convince you that a computer felt scared that it was going to be turned off some day? 

September 26, 2022
9:20 am
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Artificial Intelligence: Fears, Fun… and the Future?

A brief introduction into AI

Just those two letters, AI, can conjure up visualizations of some of the wildest technology. What do you picture when you hear them? 

Often, AI makes people think of robots—humanoid, curious, and perhaps capable of acts and thoughts. But in reality, what Artificial Intelligence means is expansive: a category of machines and technology that do everything from help recommend Netflix shows as well as drive cars and make art. 

AI is already part of our daily lives, even if we don’t know it. 

Here, we’ll delve into some contemporary uses of AI, and explain how they prompt fears, a sense of fun, and how many AI systems are already taking their place in the future of technology. 

What is AI?

Simply put, Artificial Intelligence refers to systems that are built to mimic human intelligence, especially a capacity for learning from the past in order to come to informed decisions. Yes, some robots are programmed with AI capabilities, but not all of them. Chatbots, facial recognition, self-driving cars, and disease mapping applications do however use AI—and you’ve likely encountered those in your daily life. 

Important foundational technologies make up AI, including machine learning (ML), deep learning, and natural language processing (NLP). These are all separate from, but integral to, the concept of AI. 

One core component of many AI projects is efficiency: developers use it to streamline tasks that take much more time when handled manually. Talking with thousands of customers, organizing patterns of behavior, and combating common problems in an industry are all reasons to create AI-based solutions. 


Why are people scared of AI?

The reality is that we are already living in a world full of AI, and using it in our daily lives. In fact, on the occasions that technology we now expect to be “smart” isn’t (like if the automatic customer service bot doesn’t “understand” your request) we might experience frustration. 

So it’s a natural question: why are users skeptical about AI as a concept, as well as downright afraid of a robot takeover? 

Fear of the unknown, combined with some media-led misinformation, have stoked concerns around AI. There is a general anxiety about mass unemployment (based on the sense that human labor will be replaced by automation), as well as about the idea of AI falling into ‘the wrong hands.’ 

Movies like 2001: A Space Odyssey and even Terminator have perpetuated an idea about what happens if the machines become “too smart” and become uncontrollable, forming a SuperIntelligence that humans can no longer compete with. 

On one hand, a fear of the unknown is reasonable: we don’t know what will happen in the next decades as far as AI technology goes—but on the other hand, we’ve never known. 

What about the Fun?

Fortunately, AI is also a rich field for creative projects, not just automation tools built for data management. There are a multitude of games, art and poetry projects. There are also boundary-breaking tools that allow a user to bring a photograph of a deceased relative “alive” — and some experiments like these have caused an amazing amount of joy to those using them. 

Some AI-driven tools like Roombas are anthropomorphized (we give them names and make them characters in memes), while still others are even more specifically built to play off existing desires and emotions, even becoming like their owners.

Further into a realm of what might feel like Sc-Fi, there are many exciting questions about our potential to upload our own minds to a computer, following the hubristic human reach towards immortality. 

A Future Full of AI

AI is a topic containing multitudes, and it’s also a bountiful realm of business opportunities and possible solutions for any industry: cybersecurity, healthcare, linguistics—the list goes on. 

Almost every field has access to more data than they know what to do with, and AI is a way to analyze massive data sets, train them to predict with astounding accuracy, and present solutions we’ve never dreamed of. 

Wondering what the possibilities are for your company? Get in touch with Cloutel and let us architect the future. 

8:55 am
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Augmented Reality: Ready for Launch

How AR is Primed for Use in Any Industry

It’s becoming more and more difficult to wrap our minds around just how much the world has changed in the past twenty years. Surrounded by tech of all types, inspiring and instantaneous tools feel commonplace—from laser surgery to Pokémon Go. 

Our collective drive for novelty and for efficiency—major factors in the constant invention of new technologies and new applications of existing tools—remain strong. As the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic settle, it’s become clear that many aspects of digital life are here to stay. 

But Augmented Reality (AR) is a body of technology that many industries are just beginning to explore—and it’s a rich arena.

In essence, augmented reality is an interactive combination of a real environment and virtual components, where the objects that reside in the real world can be enhanced by digital information. This might include multiple types of sensory data; currently the most commonly applied is visual information. 

The key aspect of AR is that the combination of real and virtual worlds can happen accurately and in real time. Whether the information is a visual overlay of virtual furniture in a real home,  or a masking of an office to appear as a cockpit of a plane for flight training, the experience is intended to be immersive. Augmented reality is the process of altering a user’s perception by changing aspects of reality (while, comparatively, Virtual Reality (VR) completely replaces reality with a simulation). 

AR is already being used in many industries, with manifold results:


In archeology, researchers have been able to reconstruct city walls, and walk through a dig site as if buildings were still standing. In other educational landscapes, AR is being used for digital learning, allowing students to experience augmented classrooms, and experience simulations of historical events and places. 


Perhaps the most mainstream place consumers are beginning to encounter AR in a normalized way is in their very own smartphones. Apps like Snapchat and Instagram offer customizable bitmojis you can dance with in your video, and games like Pokemon Go allow users to walk around and interact with characters in their local environment. But in the wider sphere, AR gaming devices are becoming more and more available as well. 


In the vast world of healthcare, applications for AR are practically limitless. AR glasses can be used to deliver information to surgeons without interrupting an operation; immersive memory-based experiences can be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias. Procedures can be ‘tested’ before they are actually performed, reducing the risk of mistakes. From the training labs to the operating table, AR is a welcome addition to healthcare tech. 

And perhaps the most encompassing field is commerce.

One of the many knock-on effects of the pandemic has been a marked increase in online shopping of all kinds. With AR, retail companies can provide consumers with a better, more personal experience, without leaving home. Clothing companies can provide virtual try-ons, and homewares stores can let you test out paint colors or furniture placement before you renovate your home. 

The practical ways AR is entering our daily life are numerous and varied, too. AR can be delivered in a public way, where someone is using a smartphone in a public space, or in a more private sense, where the user might be sitting at a computer, or even wearing a headset. 

Some questions remain. 

Why are so many industries primed to include AR? What are the yet-unexplored benefits?

The answer in some ways is straightforward, cross-industry: it’s all about engagement. 

In a crowded and competitive digital marketplace—whether academic or entertainment—getting a user into an immersive, exciting AR experience means you can engage them on multiple levels. Whether you’re teaching someone how to fly a jet or showing them what they look like with a new hair color, bringing them in with AR is highly effective. 

We are just beginning to scratch the surface of the myriad possibilities for AR. If you’re looking for exciting solutions for the problems in your project, get in touch. 

We can help you engineer the future. 

7:41 am
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