The creator of OpenAI is said to be engaging in discussions with investors to secure funding for an immensely ambitious technological initiative aimed at enhancing the global chip-building capacity and augmenting its capability to drive Artificial Intelligence (AI). According to sources familiar with the matter, as reported by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, the project might necessitate raising a substantial amount, potentially ranging from $5 trillion to $7 trillion.
According to the WSJ report, the project would involve creating a network of factories that manufacture semiconductor chips. Each factory, known as a fab, would cost tens of billions of dollars to build. The initiative would be focused on the specialized production of “application-specific integrated circuits” (ASICs), which are the chips used in data centers and mobile devices to process the algorithms that make them function.
This type of chip is essential to bolster the processing power of AI models and is currently being built by companies like Nvidia with its latest line of chips called TPU. However, it is costly, and the demand for high-performance chips for AI applications continues to increase.
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Altman, who is viewed as a modern-day Steve Jobs and is credited with bringing Generative Artificial Intelligence to the public through ChatGPT, wants to create a new type of AI hardware that will allow for the creation of faster and cheaper chips, according to reports. He has reportedly been in talks with Apple’s design chief, Jony Ive, to build a prototype. He is also interested in working with SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son, who owns TSMC, the world’s largest maker of semiconductors.
A source familiar with the matter told CNBC on Friday that in the run-up to his ouster, Altman had reportedly been active in raising investments from big-name investors for this new chip venture. The source said that Microsoft Corp, which is OpenAI’s biggest investor, supports his return and will back any new venture he forms. Thrive Capital, another major investor in the company, is also said to be willing to work with Altman.
However, it needs to be clarified whether Altman will want to return to the company after his messy battle with its board is settled. On Saturday, a memo posted on X, the company’s internal communication platform, indicated that the board was still concerned about the extent of his side ventures and other distractions. Even if the board reinstates Altman, bringing him back may not be easy, especially with his side projects.