After transforming the field of generative artificial intelligence, Sam Altman is tackling another project of perhaps even crazier scale: the global semiconductor market. A article from the American economic daily The Wall Street Journal revealed this Thursday that the boss of OpenAI, perhaps the most fashionable personality in Silicon Valley and tech, wants to raise several trillion dollars to reorganize the global industry of these advanced electronic chips.
For this, his interlocutors are not the least. Still according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Sam Altman reportedly spoke with potential investors such as the government of the United Arab Emirates, but also some of the most influential players in the sector, such as the CEO of the Japanese group SoftBank, Masayoshi Son, and representatives of the giant Taiwanese Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC).
The total cost of this project could thus reach 7,000 billion dollars: a colossal sum. By comparison, the combined market value of the two largest companies on the planet, Apple and Microsoft, would “only” reach $6 trillion. And coming back to the semiconductor sector, global chip sales reached $527 billion in 2023 and are expected to reach $1,000 billion per year by 2030, explains the WSJ.
Essential for generative artificial intelligence
Sam Altman’s project in semiconductors aims to revolutionize a sector whose current production is clearly insufficient to meet growing market demands. The Covid-19 crisis had particularly highlighted shortages in the automotive sector, almost paralyzing production.
But the boss of OpenAI also and above all aims to resolve the shortage of this cutting-edge equipment in the field of generative artificial intelligence. Semiconductors are indeed essential to operate large language models like ChatGPT, which OpenAI owns.
Sam Altman reportedly raised in his meetings the idea of building several dozen chip manufacturing factories in the coming years. To finance this, he would like to solicit investors from the Middle East, and therefore the United Arab Emirates, and partner with giants of the sector such as the Taiwanese TSMC, in order to build and operate these factories, of which OpenAI would then be a privileged client. .
The necessary agreement from Washington
However, the Wall Street Journal reminds us well: the project is still in its early stages, still vague, and could very well not come to fruition. Because Sam Altman will directly face another major challenge. The semiconductor market is in fact at the heart of a crucial geopolitical battle between the United States and China. Washington notably expanded restrictions on the export of these strategic chips to Beijing in 2023 in the name of “national security”. Many countries, including France, have also unveiled plans to support chip production on their territory, but the amounts mentioned appear meager compared to the colossal sums that Sam Altman would discuss with his potential investors.
The boss of OpenAI, based in San Francisco, is the first to be aware of this: it is impossible to launch a program of such scale without the consent of the United States. Still according to the WSJ, Sam Altman would have met the American Secretary of State for Commerce, Gina Raimondo, to discuss this gigantic project. A company spokesperson also said that OpenAI would “continue to keep the US government informed, given the importance of this topic in national priorities.” Already a rock star of artificial intelligence, it seems that Sam Altman, 38, will take on even greater stature in the years to come.