🤖 Do Androids Dream of US Patents?
Do androids dream of electric sheep? Do they invent products? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit says no. That ruling was handed down on August 5 clarifying that only humans can get patents, reports the ABA Journal. The bid was brought forth by computer scientist Stephen Thaler, who claimed his DABUS system invented a food container and a light beacon and should receive a patent for each. However, Circuit Judge Leonard Stark, writing the unanimous decision for the 3-person panel, stated that “there is no ambiguity: the Patent Act requires that inventors must be natural persons; that is, human beings,” says Reuters.
The Act uses the pronouns “himself” and “herself,” Stark continued, yet “it does not also use 'itself,' which it would have done if Congress intended to permit non-human inventors.”
For his part, Thaler argued that DABUS is “natural and sentient,” while his lawyers added that the Circuit Court's ruling “ignores the purpose of the Patent Act” and has “real negative social consequences.” They plan to appeal.
Is the Singularity Nigh?
The question of AI sentience has been a hot topic recently. In June, Google fired engineer Blake Lemoine after he claimed that the Large Language Modeling AI had achieved sentience, reports CNN. But many experts disagree. “The dialogue generated by large language models does not provide evidence of the kind of sentience that even very primitive animals likely possess,” Colin Allen, a professor of cognitive skills at the University of Pittsburgh, told The New York Times. Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at UC Berkeley agreed: “The computational capacities of current A.I. like the large language models … don’t make it any more likely that they are sentient than that rocks or other machines are.”
We already have AI that can paint, write poetry, and make music — but is it sentient? And is sentience the sole metric we should use for authorship? It's clear that as artificial intelligence evolves and becomes more ubiquitous, these questions will grow increasingly urgent if not more muddled.