March 28, 2024

To Govern AI, We Must Govern Compute

Computing power—compute, for short—is a key driver of artificial intelligence (AI) progress. Over the past 13 years, the amount of compute used to train leading AI systems has increased by a factor of 350 million. This has enabled the major AI advances that have recently gained global attention. However, compute is important not only for the progress of AI but also for its governance. Governments have taken notice. As we argue in a recent paper, they are increasingly engaged in compute governance: using compute as a lever to pursue AI policy goals, such as limiting misuse risks, supporting domestic industries, or engaging in geopolitical competition.

The Biden administration introduced export controls on advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment and the most high-end AI-relevant chips, aimed at undercutting Chinese access to leading-edge AI applications. In October 2023, the administration’s executive order “On the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence” introduced reporting requirements on models trained using more compute (10 operations) than any that have been trained to date. Overseas, the EU’s AI Act will place additional requirements on foundation models trained using more than 10 operations, currently covering three or four existing systems (GPT-4, Gemini Ultra, Claude 3, and Inflection 2).

Just because compute can be used as a tool to govern AI doesn’t mean it should be used in all cases.

The Biden administration introduced export controls on advanced semiconductor manufacturing equipment and the most high-end AI-relevant chips, aimed at undercutting Chinese access to leading-edge AI applications. In October 2023, the administration’s executive order “On the Safe, Secure, and Trustworthy Development and Use of Artificial Intelligence” introduced reporting requirements on models trained using more compute (10 operations) than any that have been trained to date. Overseas, the EU’s AI Act will place additional requirements on foundation models trained using more than 10 operations, currently covering three or four existing systems (GPT-4, Gemini Ultra, Claude 3, and Inflection 2).

States understand the importance of compute. The U.S. and the EU are both investing $50 billion in subsidies through their Chips Acts. Companies understand its importance, too. Almost all start-ups working on advanced AI have entered into “compute partnerships” with U.S. Big Tech compute providers. This includes most recently the French company Mistral, even though it had branded itself as a French-European national champion. Microsoft is reportedly investing $50 billion into expanding its Azure data centers worldwide, one of the biggest corporate infrastructure investments ever. NVIDIA has rocketed up to having the third biggest market capitalization in the world. And to boost compute production, Sam Altman is reportedly trying to raise $7 trillion.

Read the full story and more from Lawfare.

  • Reports
    • May 28, 2024
    The Quest for Qubits

    Executive Summary The United Nations General Assembly recently declared 2025 the International Year of Quantum Science and Technology.1 Quantum information science, a field on...

    By Sam Howell

  • Reports
    • May 1, 2024
    Biotech Matters: Problems with Life Science Databases in the United States

    While humans will retain their ultimate mysteries, many aspects of their traits, diseases, and environment are becoming increasingly tractable. Much of this advance has come f...

    By Carol Kuntz

  • Commentary
    • The Diplomat
    • April 27, 2024
    A Blueprint for a Functional China-US Working Group on AI

    Late last year U.S. President Joe Biden and China’s leader Xi Jinping met in San Francisco in an attempt to restabilize the relationship after a troubled year. The meeting end...

    By Michael Depp

  • Reports
    • April 22, 2024
    Biotech Matters: Public-Private Coordination of Biotechnology

    An appreciation of biotechnology’s great opportunities is, for many commentators, intimately joined with regret about a disconnect between the U.S. government and the private ...

    By Richard Danzig

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia