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Saudi Arabia giving an arm and a leg for Nvidia chips

by on16 August 2023

AI arms race in the desert sands

Saudi Arabia is buying up thousands of the high-performance Nvidia chips crucial for building artificial intelligence software to join in the global AI arms race.

Saudi Arabia has bought at least 3,000 of Nvidia's H100 chips -- a $40,000 processor described by Nvidia chief Jensen Huang as "the world's first computer [chip] designed for generative AI" -- via the public research institution King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (Kaust).

The Saudi university, which, according to people close to Kaust, also owns at least 200 A100s, is building a supercomputer, Shaheen III, that will become operational this year. The machine will run 700 Grace Hoppers, Nvidia’s so-called superchips, designed for cutting-edge artificial intelligence applications. 

Kaust will use these chips to build its own large language model — software that can generate humanlike text, images and code — similar to OpenAI’s GPT-4, which powers the popular chatbot ChatGPT, according to multiple sources close to the state-owned university.

The Saudi LLM is being developed by the Provable Responsible AI and Data Analytics lab at Kaust, which is primarily staffed by Chinese researchers.  The Chinese are there because  they have been prevented from studying and working in the US after graduating from Chinese universities on the US entity list.

 The Gulf powerhouse wants to become leaders in AI as part of a cunning plan to turbocharge its economy without having to move from a medieval society socially. 

Some observers are a little concerned about this cunning plan because of a fear that the oil-rich states' autocratic leaders might use the technology to make their subjects lives a misery. 


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