Can Technology Be Kept in a Box?

January 11, 2024

green-dino_thumb_thumb_thumbThis essay is the work of a dumb dinobaby. No smart software required.

If true, this is a relationship worth keeping an eye on. Tom’s Hardware reports, “China Could Have Access to the Largest AI Chips Ever Made, Supercomputer with 54 Million Cores—US Government Investigates Cerebras’ UAE-Based Partner.” That United Arab Emirates partner is a holding company called G42, and it has apparently been collecting the powerful supercomputers to underpin its AI ambitions. According to reporting from the New York Times, that collection now includes the record-breaking processors from California-based Cerebras. Writer Anton Shilov gives us the technical details:

“Cerebras’ WSE-2 processors are the largest chips ever brought to market, with 2.6 trillion transistors and 850,000 AI-optimized cores all packed on a single wafer-sized 7nm processor, and they come in CS-2 systems. G42 is building several Condor Galaxy supercomputers for A.I. based on the Cerebras CS-2 systems. The CG-1 supercomputer in Santa Clara, California, promises to offer four FP16 Exaflops of performance for large language models featuring up to 600 billion parameters and offers expansion capability to support up to 100 trillion parameter models.”

That is impressive. One wonders how fast that system sucks down water. But what will the firms do with all this power? That is what the CIA is concerned about. We learn:

“G42 and Cerebras plan to launch six four-Exaflop Condor Galaxy supercomputers worldwide; these machines are why the CIA is suspicious. Under the leadership of chief executive Peng Xiao, G42’s expansion has been marked by notable agreements — including a partnership with AstraZeneca and a $100 million collaboration with Cerebras to develop the ‘world’s largest supercomputer.’ But classified reports from the CIA paint a different picture: they suggest G42’s involvement with Chinese companies — specifically Huawei — raises national security concerns.”

For example, G42 may become a clearinghouse for sensitive American technologies and genetic data, we are warned. Also, with these machines located outside the US, they could easily be used to train LLMs for the Chinese. The US has threatened sanctions against G42 if it continues to associate with Chinese entities. But as Shilov points out, we already know the UAE has been cozying up to China and Russia and distancing itself from the US. Sanctions may have a limited impact. Tech initiatives like G42’s are seen as an important part of diversifying the country’s economy beyond oil.

Cynthia Murrell, January 11, 2024


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