Abu Dhabi wants to be an AI leader. The alliance with the US is just the beginning.

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The world's first minister dedicated to developing an artificial intelligence (AI) strategy is already embroiled in a global power struggle for tech. Supremacy

In April, Microsoft ( MSFT ) announced a $1.5 billion investment in G42, an AI group based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital Abu Dhabi and chaired by an influential member of the ruling royal family. did

The deal, which analysts say was motivated by the Biden administration's desire to limit Beijing's influence in the region as the U.S. battles to maintain its lead over China in the AI ​​race. Hence, pulling the firm firmly into the US orbit.

“I think the UAE and the US really see eye to eye in terms of how these technologies are advanced,” said the UAE AI minister. Umar Ulama, who was appointed in 2017. told CNN in a recent video interview. “I think we're going to see more alignment there.”

G42, a holding firm, consists of seven companies operating in data centers, energy, healthcare, surveillance and biotechnology. Its controlling shareholder is Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who also serves as the UAE's national security adviser.

The UAE is one of the world's largest producers of fossil fuels, and Abu Dhabi sees its AI push as crucial to diversifying away from oil. AI could contribute $96 billion to UAE economy by 2030, equivalent to about 14 percent of its gross domestic product, according to a report by PwC Middle East.

“We want to make sure we're at the frontier of technology, and that's why we work with partners around the frontier,” Olama said, “and follow the rules that are set by market leaders.”

Ulama, whose ministerial remit includes digital economy and remote work applications, wants to make the UAE a world leader in artificial intelligence by 2031.

08:57 – Source: CNN

The UAE plans to become an AI superpower.

The UAE has drawn up a national strategy to get there. Its objectives include deploying AI in priority sectors such as energy and logistics, developing an ecosystem and attracting talent. The country is putting public officials through AI training, and Dubai aims to teach effective rapid engineering to one million citizens, instructing AI models to produce high-quality products.

As of September, the Gulf nation had 120,000 people working on AI or related industries, up from 30,000 two years ago, Ulama said.

Sometimes, the country It has had to prioritize its relations with the US over Washington's rivals.

A US congressional committee in January called for the Commerce Department to investigate the G42's links to Chinese military companies and intelligence services (the G42 denies any such links), and for Microsoft's investment. The G42 was required to cut ties with Chinese hardware suppliers. Reportedly in favor of American companies, including Huawei.

“The U.S. doesn't shy away from saying, 'On this technology in particular you need to pick sides,'” Olama said.

The UAE has historically maintained a balance with its foreign policy. It cooperates with the US on a number of issues, including defence, and in recent years the US has sold tens of billions of dollars worth of military equipment to the Gulf country.

The Biden administration, which sees maintaining a lead in AI as critical to its future economic success and national security, has implemented a number of measures, including export controls on AI and semiconductor technologies, to slow China's growth in the industry. are

Christopher Pike/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Etihad Towers is surrounded by residential and commercial properties on October 3, 2023 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

According to Reuters, Washington has also restricted sales of the latest US chips to ensure China does not use Middle Eastern countries as a back door to access cutting-edge AI technology.

Nvidia, the world's third-largest after Microsoft and Apple, said in an August 2023 regulatory filing that the US government had notified the chipmaker that some of its The product will face additional licensing requirements for “certain customers and other regions, including some countries in the Middle East.”

Some US politicians have expressed concerns that they do not have enough details about the deal between the G42 and Microsoft and that US technology could be vulnerable to Chinese espionage in the UAE. The country also has ties with Beijing and China is an important trading partner.

Ulama insists that the UAE is a reliable partner. “I really don't think there is any risk, especially since there is a lot of advanced American technology in the UAE,” said Ulama, adding that he was speaking in his personal capacity, an official. Not as an official.

In late 2023, Abu Dhabi's government-backed Technology Innovation Institute unveiled a large language model (LLM), the technology behind generative AI chatbots, called Falcon10B.

It outperformed Google and Meta's offerings in some metrics.

“The UAE entered the AI ​​race with Falcon,” James Lewis, who studies technology at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington, DC-based think tank, told CNN.

In October 2023, a collaboration between Abu Dhabi's Mohammed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, Silicon Valley-based Cerebras Systems and G42 subsidiary Inception developed Jess, an AI model trained in Arabic as well as English. Its creators said it could pave the way for LLMs in other languages ​​that are “underrepresented in mainstream AI.”

Unlike ChatGPT and Google's Gemini, Falcon and Jais are open source, which means their code is available for anyone to use or modify. By unlocking the technology, Abu Dhabi is positioning itself as an ally for developing countries that lack the resources to build their own AI tools.

Gifty Sahani/CNN

A collaboration between Abu Dhabi's Mohammed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, Silicon Valley-based Cerebras Systems and G42 subsidiary Inception developed Jess, an AI model trained in Arabic as well as English.

“We know that not every country can develop these systems or these tools,” Olama said. “So, we want to make sure we can make it ready for them.”

Some analysts say the UAE's vast oil wealth is key to the development of the highly expensive AI infrastructure.

“To me, it's a financial story,” Lewis said. “It gives them an edge in terms of being one of the leading tech powers in the future.”

As concerns grow about the potential dangers of AI, Olama has called for a global alliance to regulate the development and use of the technology.

The stakes are high. In March, a report released by the US State Department warned that the most advanced AI systems could, in a worst-case scenario, “pose a threat of extinction to the human species.”

Ulama have certain specifics. Concerns he expects that deepfakes will create a “fundamental truth crisis” and could lead to a “political crisis”. He also worries that AI could make it easier to build biotech weapons.

“I try not to be a fearmonger, but there are very few checkpoints to be sure,” he said.

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