Friday, March 03, 2023

What’s past is prologue - The Tempest

Well, thanks to Ronnie, the manufacturing prowess of America went to China in order to gin profits for stockholders, a grasshopper fiddling in the summer routine that's now coming back to haunt us as everything has a cost. This time, it's computing as the ability for the US to stay ahead of the Chinese in terms of computing is nearly gone due, in large part, to the fact we no longer fab state-of-the-art chips as we used to back in the day. Losing one's mojo is not good, especially in the most crucial industry in the entire world.

American usage of advanced computing to solve commercial and government issues has a long and august history that ranges from weather and climate simulations to drug discovery and protein folding simulations.  Since computing’s early days, Americans have been at the forefront, outpacing foreign rivals and providing a competitive advantage for U.S. businesses. But American computing leadership is not a birthright; it must constantly be re-earned and, at this moment, it is in jeopardy. In nearly every major aspect of computing, from hardware manufacturing to algorithm design to advanced computing systems, American leadership is waning or already gone.  Instead, other countries, particularly China, are ascendant.  At this point, only large, sustained, and coordinated investments can prevent America’s loss of leadership.

Concurrently, our survey shows that China has closed the computing capabilities gap with America. Of our American respondents, 42% believe that their computational capabilities have been outpaced by their Chinese competitors, about the same level as their Japanese competitors (44%) and considerably higher than those in Europe (31%) (Figure 2). However, this near-parity hides a more alarming outlook for the future: 79% of American respondents believe that their Chinese competitors are improving capabilities faster.

But the real danger is in losing the brainpower needed to stay ahead, something most disquieting as the Chinese have caught up. The question to ask is, do we have the vision and drive to compete as we move further into the 21st century?

The chart says it all ...

Interesting facts, Moore's Law has changed everything in terms of compute power. The cost of staying current increases in lockstep as chips become evermore powerful as seen by Georgetown Public Policy Review's chart.

Figure 1 shows the exponential increase in transistor count in leading CPU products over two decades. For most of this period, China designed no noteworthy chips while U. S. companies designed most of them. But in the last six years, China (shown in red) has not only begun designing such chips but, with the HiSilicon Kirin 9000, it has also converged to the international trend line. China’s design prowess was achieved through a partnering strategy with leading global chip designers that began in the 2000s. This has been so successful that China now has 14 companies amongst the world’s top 50 fabless designers (McClean, 2021), whereas it had only one a decade ago.

Past as prolog indeed.

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