Data Brief

“The Main Resource is the Human”

A Survey of AI Researchers on the Importance of Compute

Micah Musser

Rebecca Gelles

Ronnie Kinoshita

Catherine Aiken

Andrew Lohn

April 2023

Progress in artificial intelligence (AI) depends on talented researchers, well-designed algorithms, quality datasets, and powerful hardware. The relative importance of these factors is often debated, with many recent “notable” models requiring massive expenditures of advanced hardware. But how important is computational power for AI progress in general? This data brief explores the results of a survey of more than 400 AI researchers to evaluate the importance and distribution of computational needs.

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AI and Compute

January 2022

Between 2012 and 2018, the amount of computing power used by record-breaking artificial intelligence models doubled every 3.4 months. Even with money pouring into the AI field, this trendline is unsustainable. Because of cost, hardware availability and engineering difficulties, the next decade of AI can't rely exclusively on applying more and more computing power to drive further progress.

The success of modern AI techniques relies on computation on a scale unimaginable even a few years ago. What exactly are the AI chips powering the development and deployment of AI at scale and why are they essential? Saif M. Khan and Alexander Mann explain how these chips work, why they have proliferated, and why they matter.

AI technologies will likely alter great power competitions in foundational ways, changing both how nations create power and their motives for wielding it against one another. This paper is a first step toward thinking more expansively about AI & national power and seeking pragmatic insights for long-term U.S. competition with authoritarian governments.