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Biden could limit China’s access to ‘most advanced’ AI – Reuters

Previous attempts to throttle Beijing’s technological development have largely failed

The White House is considering banning the export of advanced AI models – the software underpinning systems like ChatGPT – to China, Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing government sources.

Such a ban would be enforced by the US Department of Commerce, the sources said. In determining which AI models to ban, they said that the department would likely calculate how much computing power is required to train a model, and restrict the export of the most power-hungry, and therefore advanced, versions.

A framework was laid out in President Joe Biden’s executive order on AI last year, which requires tech companies to share “safety test results and other critical information” with the Commerce Department, once development of a model reaches a certain threshold. 

No commercially-available AI models – including OpenAI’s GPT-4, Google Deepmind’s Gemini, or Anthropic’s Claude – have reached this threshold yet, research institute EpochAI told Reuters. Google Deepmind’s Gemini Ultra is “seen as being close,” the institute added.

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The US already restricts the sale of some high-end computer technologies to China. In 2020, former US President Donald Trump banned the export of equipment used to make advanced semiconductors to Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp (SMIC), China’s top chip manufacturer. Biden expanded the ban in 2022 to include all state-owned chip factories in China, and to cut Chinese firms off from certain chips made anywhere in the world using American tools.

At the time, the Commerce Department claimed that “These items and capabilities are used by [China] to produce advanced military systems including weapons of mass destruction…and commit human rights abuses.”

The US is currently in talks with Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan to formalize the so-called ‘Chip 4 Alliance,’ which Beijing sees as an attempt by Washington to “dominate the global semiconductor production and supply chain.”

Despite the crackdown, SMIC succeeded in producing Bitcoin-mining semiconductors using 7-nanometer (nm) technology in 2021, a feat that only Taiwan’s TSMC and South Korea’s Samsung could match at the time. According to AI experts who spoke to Reuters, AI export controls could be similarly ineffective, as China is thought to be only two years behind the US in developing its own AI software.

 

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