‘To the Future’: Saudi Arabia Spends Big to Become an A.I. Superpower – The New York Times

Artificial Intelligence
The oil-rich kingdom is plowing money into glitzy events, computing power and artificial intelligence research, putting it in the middle of an escalating U.S.-China struggle for technological influence.
More than 200,000 people converged on the Leap tech conference in the desert outside Riyadh in March.Credit…Iman Al-Dabbagh for The New York Times
Supported by
Adam Satariano and
Adam Satariano reported from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Paul Mozur from Taipei, Taiwan.
On a Monday morning last month, tech executives, engineers and sales representatives from Amazon, Google, TikTok and other companies endured a three-hour traffic jam as their cars crawled toward a mammoth conference at an event space in the desert, 50 miles outside Riyadh.
The lure: billions of dollars in Saudi money as the kingdom seeks to build a tech industry to complement its oil dominance.
To bypass the congestion, frustrated eventgoers drove onto the highway shoulder, kicking up plumes of desert sand as they sped past those following traffic rules. A lucky few took advantage of a special freeway exit dedicated to “V.V.I.P.s” — very, very important people.
“To the Future,” a sign read on the approach to the event, called Leap.
More than 200,000 people converged at the conference, including Adam Selipsky, chief executive of Amazon’s cloud computing division, who announced a $5.3 billion investment in Saudi Arabia for data centers and artificial intelligence technology. Arvind Krishna, the chief executive of IBM, spoke of what a government minister called a “lifetime friendship” with the kingdom. Executives from Huawei and dozens of other firms made speeches. More than $10 billion in deals were done there, according to Saudi Arabia’s state press agency.
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