To lead on AI, US needs to lead on computer chips, commerce secretary says

Written by on February 26, 2024

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images, FILE

(WASHINGTON) — Artificial Intelligence will be the “defining technology of our generation,” when it comes to the future of technology, but specifically the advancement of semiconductors in the United States, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said Monday.

“You can’t lead on AI if you don’t believe in making leading-edge chips,” Raimondo said in remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “And so our work in implementing chips have just got a whole lot more important.”

The Commerce Department is tasked with implementing the CHIPS and Science Act — which spends nearly $53 billion to spur research in and development of America’s semiconductor industry. It is intended to address a nearly two-year global chip shortage that stemmed from supply chain issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Semiconductors are not only vital to everyday life used in household items like dishwashers and refrigerators, but also national defense items.

Raimondo said it takes “tens of thousands” of “leading edge semiconductor CHIPS” to train a large language model like ChatGPT.

In order for the United States to keep up with demand, the U.S. has to think not only short-term but long-term as well, Raimondo said.

“We need to make these chips in America, we need more tablets available in America,” she said. “We need more research and development in America. And we take a lot more manufacturing and scale.”

Other countries, like China, “aren’t shy” about the ambitions they have about making CHIPS.

“The Chinese are taking an increasingly ambitious role in increasing their own chip production,” she said.

The Secretary admitted that conversations with CHIP company CEO’s gunning for federal money aren’t always easy and that out of the 600 statements of interest they received, not everyone will get federal money.

“Our job is to make targeted investments in relentless pursuit of achieving our national security objectives,” she said.

Raimondo also said the Commerce Department is prioritizing CHIPs projects that’ll be operational by 2030.

“It’s not responsible to give money to a project that will come online you know, 10 or 12 years from now,” she said.

She said she is confident that the United States will make 20% of the world’s semiconductors by the end of the decade.

Raimondo said she wants to start training kids to manufacture chips starting in High School.

“We’re going to make building hardware sexy again,” she said.

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