The tech industry is full of AI saviours and self-appointed messiahs who have come and gone or are struggling to stay relevant. The latter is mainly done by making everyone talk about their word and action – at times, even through failed events.
In other news, OpenAI’s much-cherished Sam Altman is looking for someone to invest $5 – $7 trillion (as per sources) to “reshape the business of chips and AI”. Sam Lessin, a Silicon Valley investor and early Facebook executive, compared Altman to Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX.
From a purely tech perspective, Altman feels the world needs better AI infrastructure which OpenAI will help build through the amount asked for. But many, including Lessin, disagree.
Lessin wrote, “I don’t grudge Sam’s showmanship in and of itself—he is just extending the game Elon has played with ‘self-driving cars around the corner’ or ‘Mars by 2024’.” In 2020, Musk said that SpaceX’s first crewed Mars mission could launch as early as 2024. Two years later, he pushed that back to 2029.
Altman and his munks’ chip adventure sounds like a similar pipe dream. With a number that big, the loss of touch with reality appears to be noticeable. It makes one wonder whether it is all a rush to leave a legacy. The news, broken by WSJ, noted that these “fundraising talks are the latest example of ambitious plans from Altman that seek to change the world”.
But the answer to how OpenAI’s ambition to benefit the whole of humanity through projects leading to AGI remains unknown. AI cannot solve the problems en masse, but the amount demanded and thrown around could.
Sasha Lucionni, who works at the intersection of AI and climate, has already done a commendable job of pointing out the project’s environmental impacts. Something significant, yet rarely spoken about in terms of ChatGPT and all of generative AI.
Just How Much is $7 Trillion?
“The amounts Altman has discussed would also be outlandishly large by the standards of corporate fundraising—larger than the national debt of some major global economies and bigger than giant sovereign-wealth funds,” the Journal notes.
- For starters, it is double the current Indian economy
- You could stack one dollar bills from Earth to the Moon twice. Now you can imagine it
- Enough to buy Nvidia, TSMC, Broadcom, ASML, Samsung, AMD, Intel, Qualcomm, and every other chipmaker, designer, intellectual property holder, and equipment vendor of consequence in their entirety – and still have trillions left
- Current German and French GDPs combined
- WSJ pointed out that the amount dwarfs the size of today’s global semiconductor industry
In a nutshell, it is an enormous amount to be spent on chips!
The plan sounds herculean, given that just $527 billion worth of chips were sold globally last year. OpenAI has struggled to secure sufficient supply from Nvidia, the seller of most microprocessors fueling the ongoing AI mania. The reason Altman gave for seeking the cash is due to the scarcity of AI chips that OpenAI is facing.
At first, Altman’s request appears to be a joke, but the OpenAI chief has been meeting top members of the UAE government, including the Sheikh. Interestingly, he is also in talks with Masayoshi Son, the CEO of SoftBank. A part of the same group, which had a net loss of ¥931.1 billion, compared with a ¥3 trillion profit last year when the Japanese company cashed in on its stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.
These tech shenanigans making it to the headlines are not new. But celebrating a figure like Altman has cost the economy in the past. Who can forget the billions Sam Bankman Fried lost? Or what is the amount Musk spent on marketing self-driving cars? Oh, and the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank.
As researchers and analysts continue to decode Altman’s soap opera on their substacks, the OpenAI head has put on the cape to “secure our collective future”. The question arises: To what extent can Altman and leaders alike go to flatter themselves?
Altman’s latest ask to build future tech reminds one of Emily M. Bender’s remark: “Who are they to be speaking for all of humanity? The handful of very wealthy (even by American standards) tech bros are not in a position to understand the needs of humanity at large.”
For the time being, we wait and watch which genie will fulfil Altman’s wish of the $7 trillion magic carpet to help him fly through the Bay Area.
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