U.S. and Chinese Firms Respond to Export Controls With Alternative Chips: Major semiconductor companies in the United States and China are adapting to the new U.S. export controls that placed strict performance limits on the chips that can be sold to Chinese customers — U.S.-based Nvidia has begun selling a less powerful version of one of its high-end datacenter GPUs, and Chinese firms are reportedly working to field their own chips that comply with the controls. Reuters reports that Nvidia’s A800 GPU is an “alternative product to the Nvidia A100 GPU for customers in China” that went into production earlier this year. According to Reuters, the new Nvidia chips are already listed for sale by some Chinese retailers. Chinese companies, meanwhile, appear further behind in rolling out their own compliant chips. As we covered recently, TSMC suspended production for Shanghai-based Biren Technology over concerns that its high-end GPUs exceeded the performance limits set by the new controls. Now the Financial Times reports that both Biren and Chinese tech giant Alibaba are working to find a compliant design without starting from scratch, which could lead to expensive delays.
Tech Layoffs Could Signal a Downturn — What Do They Mean for AI?: A wave of layoffs at a number of major tech companies has some observers concerned about the future of the industry, but signals are mixed when it comes to AI. Headlined by job cuts at Twitter and Meta — which laid off 50 and 13 percent of their respective workforces — the cuts also impacted staff at Amazon, Microsoft, Snap and a number of other firms. Some of the job losses hit teams working on AI and machine learning — Twitter laid off its entire ML Ethics, Transparency and Accountability team and Meta let go its 50-person ML-focused “Probability” team. But other AI projects appear to be safe for now. Meta’s AI lab seemingly escaped the chopping block, and major AI programs at the likes of Alphabet and Microsoft similarly appear to have remained intact. For those interested in the future of AI investment and research, there are even some glimmers of hope in the recent news — in a letter to employees, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company would be funneling resources into “high priority growth areas,” including AI. In the face of worsening forecasts and sinking stocks, more layoffs wouldn’t come as a surprise. But so long as executives remain optimistic about the importance of AI — according to a Deloitte survey released last month, 94 percent of business leaders agreed that “AI is critical to success over the next five years” — it would be surprising to see the dramatic cuts characteristic of an “AI winter.”
Despite U.S. Push, New Multilateral Export Controls Remain Uncertain: U.S. officials are working hard to get allies to join them in imposing strict new export controls on China’s semiconductor industry, but so far, an agreement remains elusive. As CSET Senior Fellow Kevin Wolf noted after the United States announced its sweeping package of restrictions last month, the controls stand a much better chance of working if the United States can convince other major semiconductor manufacturing equipment (SME) producers — especially the Netherlands and Japan — to put up a united front. In public comments late last month, Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Alan Estevez struck an optimistic note, saying he expected a deal soon. But as the Financial Times reports, that optimism is less pronounced in the Hague, where officials have been frustrated by the aggressive U.S. approach. Bloomberg echoed those rumors and reported a similar level of annoyance in Tokyo. Estevez and National Security Council Senior Director for Technology and National Security (and former CSET Senior Fellow) Tarun Chhabra are traveling to the Netherlands this month for further discussions, and Politico reports that semiconductor controls will also be on the docket when U.S. and EU officials gather next month for the third U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council meeting. Neither is expected to yield a concrete agreement, however, and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has reportedly warned U.S. SME manufacturers that it could be up to nine months before any such agreement is reached.
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