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Saudi Arabia Invests Heavily to Achieve AI Supremacy

Over 200,000 individuals attended the conference, among them Adam Selipsky, the Chief Executive officer of Amazon’s cloud computing division, who declared a 5.3 billion-dollar deal with Saudi Arabia for artificial intelligence technology and data centres. 

A massive conference was being held in an event centre in a barren landscape fifty miles away from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and tech executives, engineers, and sales representatives from Amazon, Google, TikTok, and other companies had to sit through a three-hour traffic bottleneck on an early Monday this past month.

The allure is billions of Saudi dollars as the government looks to develop a tech sector to supplement its hegemony in the oil sector. A sign on the way to the Leap event said, “To the Future.”

The chief executive officer of IBM, Arvind Krishna, mentioned a “lifetime friendship” regarding the kingdom, quoting a government minister. Officials from Huawei and numerous other companies gave speeches. The national press agency of Saudi Arabia claims that over ten billion dollars worth of transactions took place there.

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The chief executive officer of TikTok, Shou Chew, complimented the rise of the video application in the kingdom during the conference, saying, The arrangement is a beautiful nation. We anticipate investing much more.

With Saudi Arabia setting its sights on being a major player in artificial intelligence and investing staggering amounts of money to achieve this goal, everyone in the IT industry appears willing to be acquaintances with the country.

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This year, Saudi Arabia established a hundred billion fund to invest in artificial intelligence and other technologies. It is negotiating to invest an extra $40 billion in AI businesses with investors, including Silicon Valley investment company Andreessen Horowitz. To attract prospective Intelligence entrepreneurs to the kingdom, the government announced in March that it would invest $1 billion in a startup incubator modelled after Silicon Valley. The projects are by far more extensive than the majority of significant nation-state investments.

The spending binge is the result of a generational initiative known as “Vision 2030,” which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched in 2016. With plans to build 100-mile-long reflective skyscrapers in the desert and an annual investment of over $200 million in soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, Saudi Arabia is rushing to expand its oil-rich budget into industries like tech, tourism, culture, and sports.

For decades, Saudi Arabia has been a source of support for the IT sector. However, the kingdom is currently refocusing its oil wealth on developing a homegrown IT sector, meaning that foreign companies that wish to use its funds must set up shop there.

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Should Crown Prince Mohammed be successful, Saudi Arabia would find itself at the centre of a growing international rivalry, including China, the US, and other nations like France that have achieved significant strides in generative artificial intelligence. When coupled with neighbouring United Arab Emirates’ AI initiatives, Saudi Arabia’s plan has the potential to establish a new hub of power in the global tech sector.

Many in Washington fear that Saudi Arabia’s objectives and authoritarian tendencies may be detrimental to US interests. For example, Saudi Arabia is a source of computer power for Chinese academics and businesses. In an effort to lessen China’s influence, the White House mediated an agreement for Microsoft to invest in G42, a company developing artificial intelligence in the United Arab Emirates, this month.

The Persian Gulf geographical area presents China with a sizable market, access to wealthy investors, and an opportunity to exert influence in nations that have historically been allies of the United States.

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Leaders from the industry have started to arrive. Jürgen Schmidhuber, a pioneer in artificial intelligence who currently leads an AI program at King Abdullah University of Sciences and Technologies, the top research university in Saudi Arabia, recalled the kingdom’s historical significance as an international hub for math and science several decades ago.

He remarked that it would be wonderful to revive this golden age and make a contribution to a new world. Yes, it will be expensive, but this nation has a lot of money.

Prof. Jürgen Schmidhuber: Artificial intelligence helps to improve human life and make it easier

The university, KAUST, is currently the scene of a technical conflict between the US and China. 

 KAUST, the leading scientific research school in the kingdom, is modeled after institutions such as the Californian Institute of Technology. It attracts top overseas leaders in AI and provides computing capabilities to establish a hub for the study of artificial intelligence.

Concerning the United States, KAUST has frequently looked to China to accomplish that goal by hiring academics and students and forming research collaborations. Analysts and US officials believe that Chinese military-affiliated university teachers and students would utilize KAUST to avoid US sanctions and give China an advantage in the competition for intelligence dominance.

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The university’s plans to build one of the fastest supercomputers in the area are especially concerning because they require thousands of Nvidia microchips, the largest producer of valuable chips that fuel artificial intelligence systems. The US government is currently reviewing the university’s chip order, which is expected to be worth over $100 million. The government needs to issue a license for export before the transaction can proceed.

 Schmidhuber is looking forward to the finished product of Shaheen 3, a supercomputer that might draw more elite expertise from the Persian Gulf and provide researchers with access to processing capacity that is typically only available to large corporations.

He said that diversity would offer nothing.

Some in Washington worry that the supercomputer would provide Chinese university researchers access to state-of-the-art computing facilities that they could not obtain in China. According to a New York Times review, over a dozen KAUST students and staff members are alumni of Chinese universities with ties to the military, recognized by the Seven Sons of National Defense.

According to Schmidhuber, Saudi Arabia’s government eventually sided with the US. US technology will be essential to the growth of AI, much as it did to the oil industry in Saudi Arabia. He stated that no one wants to put that in danger.

There was a time when Saudi Arabia was thought of as a source of easy money. It now adds stipulations to its agreements, making it necessary for several businesses to set up shop in the kingdom in order to benefit from the financial boom.

It was demonstrated at GAIA, an accelerator for AI startups, where Saudi officials committed $1 billion in funding last month.

In exchange for staying in Riyadh for at least three months, each program startup receives a grant of approximately $40,000 in addition to a possible $100,000 investment. Entrepreneurs must register their business within the kingdom and allocate half of their investment within Saudi Arabia. Additionally, they have free access to computer power that they have paid for from Google and Amazon. 

Since the program’s launch last year, about 50 startups—including those representing Taiwan, South Korea, Sweden, Poland, and the United States—have participated.

Our goal is to draw in and retain talented individuals, stated Mohammed Almazyad, a GAIA program manager. We wish to diversify now that we are not as dependent on oil.

Gaining the business of the well-funded Saudi government is one of the main draws for AI firms. Deputy Director for Information Technology and Communications Abdullah Alswaha recently requested GAIA’s entrepreneurs to propose what services they may offer the Saudi government. Following that, a lot of the companies got communications introducing them to companies that were owned by the state, according to Almazyad. 

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Choosing to relocate to Riyadh is challenging. In addition to the heat—summer temperatures can exceed 110 degrees—you also need to get used to living in a strictly Muslim state. Although there have been some recent improvements in Saudi Arabia’s limitations on expression, LGBTQ individuals may still be subject to criminal charges. Cultural differences may make it difficult to find foreign talent for AI, according to Almazyad. However, he issued a warning not to underestimate Saudi Arabia’s commitment.

He answered, “This is simply the start of everything.”






Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff at AI Surge is a dedicated team of experts led by Paul Robins, boasting a combined experience of over 7 years in Computer Science, AI, emerging technologies, and online publishing. Our commitment is to bring you authoritative insights into the forefront of artificial intelligence.


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