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US Contemplates Restrictions on Nvidia AI Chip Exports Amid Rising Tech Tensions with China

The high-performance semiconductors from Nvidia have gained significant attention due to their ability to drive artificial intelligence technology, a feature that is becoming increasingly valuable.

However, the unique capabilities of these chips have also sparked concerns among U.S. critics who fear that they could be exploited if they end up in undesirable hands. This could potentially expedite the propagation of non-democratic ideologies or facilitate the creation of autonomous weapons.

Eileen Donahoe, previously U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Council and currently executive director of Stanford University's Global Digital Policy Incubator, expressed to NBC that should authoritarian regimes outpace democracies in technology, it could put democracy and human rights in jeopardy.

With the leaders of American AI corporations cautioning the U.S. government about China's rapid progress in this groundbreaking technology, U.S. policy-makers believe it's critical to maintain the lead.

In light of this, The Wall Street Journal reported that the Commerce Department is considering implementing restrictions on the export of these semiconductors to China. Nvidia has already developed a version of its popular AI chip, the A100, for the Chinese market, adhering to the performance guidelines previously set by the Commerce Department with its A800 chip.

However, the proposed restrictions by the Biden administration could curtail even those sales unless a license is obtained.

This proposal marks a continuation of the existing tech trade tension between the U.S. and China. The Chinese government prohibited "critical information infrastructure" from purchasing products from U.S. memory chipmaker Micron in May, citing a "major security risk". The U.S. Commerce Department responded by voicing its opposition to these groundless restrictions.

Limitations on the sales of AI-powered chips to China could slow down China's ability to keep up with the speed of AI advancements led by U.S. tech giants such as Google and Microsoft's OpenAI. Even though Chinese companies might have some advanced chips in reserve or switch to slower semiconductors, the imposition of further limits on high-speed chips could hinder their competitiveness in the AI arena.

U.S. executives have cautioned their government about the risks associated with unregulated AI, which could be utilized for malicious purposes. AI models can be biased, potentially leading to discrimination in areas like law enforcement, housing and loan approvals, among others. Moreover, they can be used to create persuasive propaganda or even to build autonomous weapons.


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