On this date in 1944 one of the first computers, the IBM Mark I, became operational. See the Wiki article here. From the article:
[The Mark I] could do 3 additions or subtractions in a second. A multiplication took 6 seconds, a division took 15.3 seconds, and a logarithm or a trigonometric function took over one minute.
Now, here is the question for the class. What is the difference, in principle, between the Mark I and the IBM Summit, which, as of late 2018, became the fastest supercomputer in the world, capable of performing calculations at the rate of 148.6 petaflops (one petaflop is one thousand million million floating-point operations per second)?
The answer, of course, is “absolutely nothing.”
Both machines do nothing but calculate. The Mark I calculated slowly (by todays standards). The Summit calculates very rapidly. But there is no difference in principle between performing algorithms slowly as opposed to rapidly.
This should give pause to proponents of AI (at least proponents of AI in its “strong” conceptualization). Unless one defines “consciousness” as “executing algorithms very quickly,” (which would be absurd), there is no reason to believe that any computer will ever be conscious. Decades from now when people look back at the Summit the way we look back at the Mark I and marvel about how anyone could have thought that it was “fast,” computers will still be, in principle, doing the same thing the Mark I was doing. The argument I am making is practically identical to Searle’s Chinese Room argument with the Mark I standing in for the room.