In 2005, I posted about a new PowerPC processor we were starting to use in some of our robots. At processing capability of around 200 billion floating point operations per second (200 GigaFLOPS), it was big news at the time as it put the potential intelligence of our robots into the range of "mouse" instead of lizard as shown by the blue dot in the graph below.
I was thinking about this graph recently with the announcement of NVidia's new Xavier system on a chip computer. With processing capability of 30,000,000,000,000 (30 trillion) operations per second at a price of $1,299, this can be represented by the magenta square labeled "You Are Here" on the above graph. We will have this new processor incorporated into a new product prototype this October, so just like the PowerPC of yesteryear, this is something that's real and used by actual developers as opposed to some theoretical gadget.
It shows the potential intelligence of this device to be somewhere between monkey and human. What does that mean? First, while it's not known how much of the brain works, the functionality of parts of the brain are known really well, for example, the first part of the visual cortex. It's then straightforward to estimate how many computations are required for that functionality. The weight of that portion of the brain is known and it is assumed (this is the leap of faith) that the rest of the brain's processing happens with approximately the same efficiency. Divide the weight of the organism's brain by the weight of that part of the visual cortex, multiply by the number of operations required for that part of the visual cortex, and voila!, the total number of operations per second required for the entire brain of a given organism can be estimated.
A reasonable reaction is, "yeah, sure, whatever, but without the appropriate software, how will this computer be intelligent at all, much less at a monkey or human level?" And that was my first reaction as well, but I've since concluded it was misguided. Just like nobody has to know how a human brain works for it to work just fine, nobody has to know how a neural net within a computer works in order for it to work just fine, and, in fact, that's exactly what's happening, and at a very rapid rate. A number of research groups are trying different structures and computation approaches and are steadily improving the functionality and accuracy of the neural nets without really understanding how they work! It's basically a trial-and-error evolutionary approach.
With this new Xavier processor, using already known neural nets, it will be able to recognize objects in an image with a high degree of accuracy and tell you which pixel belongs to which object 100 times per second. Is that intelligence? Well, when a person does it, we think that's a form of intelligence and since nobody can tell you how the neural net works, I don't think we can say whether or not it's intelligent. If it is intelligent, it's certainly an alien intelligence, but looking at it operate, it looks to me as if it's intelligent.
For me personally, if something seems intelligent, then it is intelligent.