Last year a software engineer at Google made an unusual assertion: that an artificial-intelligence chatbot developed at the company had become sentient, was entitled to rights as a person and might even have a soul. After what the company called a “lengthy engagement” with the employee on the issue, Google fired him.
It’s unlikely this will be the last such episode. Artificial intelligence is writing essays, winning at chess, detecting likely cancers and making business decisions. That’s just the beginning for a technology that will only grow more powerful and pervasive, bolstering longstanding worries that robots might someday overtake us.