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Nvidia CEO: The World Competition is Creation of Knowledge, Not Wealth

I managed to sneak in a question towards the end of the press conference at the GPU Conference last week, and I have to admit that I wasn’t prepared for what Nvidia CEO, Jen-Hsun Huang had to say in response.

insideHPC: This question is for Andy Keane. Andy, in your recent opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, you stated that America’s competitiveness is at risk. What prompted you to write that and what kind of reaction have you gotten?

Andy Keane: Interesting reactions…

What prompted me to write is that we see all kinds of companies, or countries and institutions that have taken an attitude, and a philosophy that they are very aggressively going to completely exploit new technology. So you have two ways of thinking about it. One is an opportunity and one is a threat. One makes you fall back and one makes you lean forward.

So, we have some great institutions, some great universities and some supercomputing centers that have leaned forward into adopting a new technology. We’ve seen some great results and some success in this business that has been around since 2007. We went from zero installed base to the second largest supercomputer in the world in three years. But it wasn’t in the US. We’re going to have a full series of petaflop computers. Soon there will be more petaflop class computers outside the US than there are inside the US. And so for me that was a worrisome trend because here you have a clear technology advantage that provides a lot of benefit. Mainstream researchers are using this for great advantage and we see them accelerating that adoption.

And so, I wanted to make sure people are aware that outside the US there is this very strong adoption today that will lead to results, good results in the product side.

Jen-Hsun Huang: Can I ask a question?

I really don’t care who cures cancer. I really don’t care who cures Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t matter what country does it. Just please do it.

I don’t really care which country discovers for the first time the ability to predict weather outside of the 12 weeks or a 12 day window. I don’t care which country discovers a new way to create cars so that we can reduce our carbon footprint. I really don’t care. Just do it.

That is not really the crux of the issue. Here is the crux of the issue; it is the case that near supercomputing centers and centers where there are extraordinary amounts of high performance computing capabilities, there are clusters of smart thinkers, scientists and researchers. What if all the supercomputers were to leave one country? And what, in the case of Andy’s article, what if that country was the USA?

My question is: Why would those students come to the United States to do the research?

They will sit wherever that Supercomputer is to do the research. And they might stay because there are wonderful places everywhere. You don’t have to live in Silicon Valley. You don’t have to live in Boston. There are wonderful places all over the world. Before you know it, piece by piece by piece, competitiveness and intellectual property in this country slowly dissipates.

Also the last point is, actually I don’t really care where the smartest people are.

For a thousand dollars you can fly anywhere on the planet. I live off of my back pack and we have offices all over the world. We have them in China. We have them in India. We have them in Japan. We have them in Russia. We actually don’t care where those great people exist, just so long as the exist.

Here’s one thing we do know: competition. Competition among companies brings out the best in us. Competition among countries and in this particular case the competition for the fundamental, intellectual the creation of knowledge is something to reckon with. Holy Cow.

If you want to have one competition let’s have that. Instead of competing to create wealth, let’s have a competition of knowledge. The competition is the creation of knowledge, let’s have that.

If we start it, fine. Who cares who starts the fight? But somebody please start a fight. Somebody start a race. Somebody start a competition. I think in the end we all benefit.

Editor’s note: Then the room went quiet. It was such an amazing moment that I turned to my friend and just said, “Wow.”  I don’t know about you, but this reporter thinks it’s time for this country to put up our dukes.

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