China has never had a real chip industry. Making AI chips could change that.

Mark Li, an analyst at Bernstein who tracks the chip industry in Asia, estimates that China’s most advanced chipmakers are still at least five years behind..Since Moore’s Law describes a doubling of chip performance every two years or so, that’s a sizable gap..China does have numerous low-end fabs making the relatively simple chips used in smart cards, SIM cards, and even basic phones, but not the kinds of factories needed to produce advanced processors..Why does China still struggle to make advanced chips when it has become so good at so much else?.Basically, because it’s incredibly hard..The latest chips have billions of transistors, each with features only a few nanometers in size, crafted at the scale of individual atoms..They are so complex that it isn’t possible to take one apart and copy its design, as Chinese entrepreneurs have done with many foreign products..And even if it were possible, it wouldn’t provide the expertise required to design and fabricate the next generation..“Manufacturing involves hundreds, even thousands, of technical challenges,” says Yungang Bao, director of the Center for Advanced Computer Systems at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and an expert in microprocessor design..“It will take a long time to catch up.” Network effects Artificial intelligence may change the game..Deep learning is an AI technique that has proved its power in recent years to do useful things like spotting disease in medical images, teaching self-driving cars to stay on the road, and parsing spoken commands..It works in a fundamentally different way from most software.. More details

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