Saudi Arabia and UAE race for Nvidia chips in order to fuel AI ambitions

Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have bought thousands of high-performance Nvidia processors crucial for developing artificial intelligence software. They are joining a global AI arms races that are squeezing Silicon Valley’s hot commodity.

As they work to boost their economies, the Gulf superpowers have made it clear that their aim is to become leaders in Artificial Intelligence. The push for AI has raised questions about the potential misuse of technology by autocratic leaders in oil-rich countries.

Saudi Arabia, according to sources familiar with the matter, has purchased at least 3,000 of Nvidia H100 chips – a $40k processor described as the “world’s first computer (chip) designed for generative artificial intelligence” by Nvidia Chief Jensen Huang – via the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

The UAE also has access to thousands Nvidia chip, and has developed its own large language open-source model, Falcon, at Masdar City’s Technology Innovation Institute.

“The UAE made a decision to. . . Abu Dhabi wants to be independent of China and the United States.

The person said that “importantly, they are equipped with the resources and capital to make it happen, as well as the talent to do so.”

State-owned companies in the Gulf are buying large quantities of Nvidia chip as world-leading tech companies race to acquire the scarce chips needed for AI development.

reported last week that Chinese tech giants such as Tencent, Alibaba and Alibaba were looking to purchase Nvidia’s high performance chips.

Google and OpenAI, a Microsoft-backed company, are among the US companies that own the most advanced LLMs. These companies are also Nvidia’s primary customers for the H100 and A100 chip.

Multiple sources, including those close to Nvidia, and its manufacturer Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), claim that the chipmaker, which is a subsidiary of Nvidia, will ship approximately 550,000 H100 chips worldwide in 2023. These chips are primarily destined for US-based tech companies. Nvidia declined comment.

Two people who are close to the AI labs at the university say that by 2023, Saudi Arabia will receive 3,000 specialist chips worth $120 million.

OpenAI’s advanced GPT-3 model was trained on 1,024 chips (the predecessor to Nvidia’s latest chips) in less than a month, according to estimates.

According to sources close to Kaust’s office, the Saudi university also owns 200 A100s. Shaheen III will be operational in this year. The supercomputer will be powered by 700 Grace Hoppers – Nvidia’s infamous superchips – designed for cutting edge artificial intelligence applications.

Multiple sources close to the university claim that Kaust plans to use these chips in order to create its own large-language model, which will be similar to OpenAI GPT-4 and the popular ChatGPT chatbot.

The Saudi LLM program is being developed at the Provable Responsible AI and Data Analytics Lab, which is staffed primarily by Chinese researchers.

According to two Kaust source, many Chinese nationals who have AI expertise chose to work at Kaust as they were prevented from working and studying in the US if they graduated from Chinese universities listed on the US entity listing.

Kaust didn’t respond to comments immediately.

The UAE has also launched a “Generative AI Guide” to reinforce its global leadership in the technology and artificial-intelligence sectors, as well as to “limit the negative uses of technology”.

The Falcon model of the UAE, which can be downloaded for free online, was tested on 384 A100 chips over a two-month period earlier in this year.

I was very impressed with the model considering the resources that were used. It was one of the best open-source models for a time,” said a leading AI researcher and LLM specialist.

According to an investor from the UAE, it also impressed Marc Andreessen who attempted to contact the team. A spokesperson for Andreessen refused to comment.

According to a representative of the UAE Industrial Development Bureau, the UAE government purchased a new batch Nvidia chips in order to prepare more LLM applications and cloud services.

Western AI leaders, including human rights experts, have expressed concern that software developed by the two countries could lack the safety and ethical features that large tech firms are trying to incorporate into the technology.

Iverna McGowan, Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology Europe Office in Brussels, said that human rights defenders and reporters are frequently targeted by government crackdowns.

“Combine this with the knowledge that AI can be used for illegal surveillance or to have discriminatory effects. “It’s a terrifying thought,” she continued.

Saudi Arabia and the UAE are both benefiting from the petrodollar windfalls that have come their way after the surge in energy prices last year. Both countries also manage some of the largest and most active sovereign funds around the world.

According to two European AI firms, representatives of Gulf-state-affiliated funds approached AI start ups in the West in an attempt to gain access to code and LLM expertise, in exchange for computing resource.

One of the executives stated, “We’ve been offered huge financing and access to data in order to tap directly into our talent.”

OpenAI’s chief executive Sam Altman praised Abu Dhabi for its vision in recognising AI importance during a June visit to the area. In a Q&A session held in the city’s Financial District, Altman said that the Gulf region can “play a key role in this global discussion” about the emerging technology.

He said that AI was discussed in Abu Dhabi before it became cool. “Now that everyone has jumped on the AI bandwagon we are thrilled, but we also have a special appreciation for those who spoke out about it when people thought AI would never happen.”