June 17, 2024

Japan needs a boost in computing power to stay in the AI ​​race, a government adviser says

TOKYO, July 19 (Reuters) – Japan needs to rapidly expand computing power as it hopes to become a world leader in artificial intelligence, said Hideki Murai, a special AI adviser to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.

“The government’s top priority is computing power. We feel a real crisis about that,” Murai, a Liberal Democrat lawmaker who heads the government’s AI strategy team, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. “We want to create the foundation for the AI ​​era,” he said.

Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, has been slow to invest in the field, while the United States lags behind in AI computing infrastructure. About 3,000 companies in Japan have access to a supercomputer at the government’s National Institute of Advanced Science and Industrial Technology (AIST) that offers 0.8 exaflops of computing power.

That’s less than a tenth of what Microsoft-backed OpenAI had access to when it created the popular chatbot ChatGPT, according to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

One exaflop equals 1 quintillion – or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 – calculations per second.

To begin to address that shortfall, Japan plans to increase computing power at AIST to 2.8 exaflops by the end of 2024, Murai said, and is providing subsidies to companies such as Sakura Internet (3778 .T) and SoftBank Corp (9434.T) to build supercomputers.

The Japanese government can also provide data to train AIs, but it will leave it to businesses to create the AI ​​models that the Kishida government hopes will spur innovation, said Murai, who compared the strategy to how Japan’s Major League baseball superstar Shohei Ohtani.

“Ten years ago, people would have been terrified of the idea of ​​a player like Ohtani in the Major Leagues and that’s why we’re working hard to create an environment that would allow someone like him to thrive in the AI ​​field,” he said.

As Japan considers how best to take advantage of AI, it and other members of the Group of Seven industrial democracies are also grappling with how to mitigate the potential social and economic disruption. .

“There may be differences of thinking and policy around AI between the G7 countries, but we are working together to reduce the distance between them as much as possible,” he said.

Japan is moving toward softer AI rules than the European Union, which has launched an effort to convince Asian countries to follow its requirement that tech firms disclose copyrighted material used to generate AI content, Reuters reported.

Reporting by Tim Kelly, Sam Nussey and Miho Uranaka; Editing by Sam Holmes

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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