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The Desperate Hunt for the A.I. Boom's Most Indispensable Prize

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A Nvidia graphics processing unit, or GPU, which can handle the complex calculations made by large artificial intelligence models.

The dearth of A.I. chips has been exacerbated because Nvidia, a longtime provider of the chips, has a virtual lock on the market.

Credit: Nvidia/Reuters

For the past year, Jean Paoli, chief executive of the artificial intelligence start-up Docugami, has been scrounging for what has become the hottest commodity in tech: computer chips.

In particular, Mr. Paoli needs a type of chip known as a graphics processing unit, or GPU, because it is the fastest and most efficient way to run the calculations that allow cutting-edge A.I. companies to analyze enormous amounts of data.

So he's called everyone he knows in the industry who can help. He's applied for a government grant that allows access to the chips. He's tried making Docugami's A.I. technology more efficient so it requires fewer GPUs. Two of his scientists have even repurposed old video gaming chips to help.

"I think about it as a rare earth metal at this point," Mr. Paoli said of the chips.

More than money, engineering talent, hype or even profits, tech companies this year are desperate for GPUs. The hunt for the essential component was kicked off last year when online chatbots like ChatGPT set off a wave of excitement over A.I., leading the entire tech industry to pile on and creating a shortage of the chips. In response, start-ups and their investors are now going to great lengths to get their hands on the tiny bits of silicon and the crucial "compute power" they provide.

From The New York Times
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