AI impact: Why Microsoft’s investment in UAE’s G42 made so many waves – The National

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Where do you want to go today? From about 1994 until 2002, that’s a question Microsoft asked everyone in seemingly endless variations of print, billboard and television advertisements. You’ll have to forgive me for this millennial trip down memory lane, but trust me, that question was everywhere. Unlike other advertisements of that particular time period, however, it made you stop and think, even if you didn’t use Microsoft’s Windows, Word or Excel, you immediately wondered about your goals, and if you were using the right tools to help you achieve those goals. You also knew exactly which technology company was asking the innocent yet thoughtful question. Then, as is the case now, Microsoft had the power, influence and technological know-how to make an impact, and in turn, help you leave your mark.

On April 16, at 8.45am, that question immediately entered my mind as a news release from G42, Abu Dhabi’s artificial intelligence and cloud company, arrived in my inbox, announcing that Microsoft, would be making a $1.5 billion investment to help hasten its AI development.

As The National‘s Future Editor, covering stories at the intersection of technology and societal trends, I am used to receiving emails with announcements purporting to be impactful and earth-shattering, so it is easy to approach them with ample cynicism and a critical eye.

Yet, upon receiving G42’s announcement, even the most seasoned critic or grizzled pundit had to take notice.

Since its founding in 2018, G42, originally Group 42, has not been subtle about its lofty ambitions related to AI. G42 did not just want to ride the wave of AI momentum, it wanted to be the wave. Fast-forward to 2024, about six years later, and G42’s CV certainly shows proof of that concept.

In health care, one of its companies, M42, created a large language model, Med42, that can help health care professionals and patients easily decipher medical reports, analyse test results, and improve the overall health care experience.

For education, customer service and content creation, another company under the umbrella of G42, Core42 spearheaded development of Jais, one of the world’s most accurate Arabic large language models – no easy feat considering the intricacies and complexities of Arabic, yet incredibly important seeing as how Arabic was at risk of getting left behind the initial surge of English-based LLMs.

In terms of energy, there was also G42’s partnership with Adnoc for the creation of AIQ, which combined the efforts of data scientists and software developers to use AI modelling tools, along with machine learning to boost efficiency and avoid disruptions.

What to do with all of these entities, all that data and all of those ambitions? G42, in partnership with Cerebras Systems, has a place for it all, the Condor Galaxy, the “world’s largest supercomputer” for AI training. It currently boasts eight exaflops of capacity. If you need to look up the definition of exaflop, nobody would blame you. The point is, G42 has not let much grass grow underneath its feet.

Yet, despite even the loftiest of ambitions, no person, no entity and no company can do it alone. History books are filled with geopolitical, corporate and organisational partnerships that have paved the way for new accomplishments that have ratcheted up our species.

This particular partnership with Microsoft manages to tick all of those boxes mentioned above.

Sure, G42 has in the past announced endeavours with AstraZeneca, Cisco, IBM, Nvidia and Oracle, just to name a few, but the Microsoft partnership crosses a major threshold, and even words such as “partnership” and “investment” do not seem to do it justice.

Firstly, you can probably count on one hand the number of companies that have AI investments and projects on a scale similar to that of Microsoft.

From its partnership with OpenAI to its appointment of AI expert and “serial tech entrepreneur” Mustafa Suleyman to the position of chief executive for Microsoft AI, the US technology company, which helped to put a personal computer on almost every desk, is still able to set the agenda, even in the realm of AI, where it often seems to consist of a new cast of characters.

It is not simply a matter of Microsoft cutting a cheque for G42 either. The UAE AI company will also be adding Microsoft’s vice chairman and president Brad Smith to its board of directors.

In turn, this also opens more doors for G42 to the US market, which is always a good thing if you want to be a player with plenty of staying power in the world of technology.

It is worth noting that Microsoft has been around for about half a century. That is no mistake, nor is it luck. It is a combination of persistence, good execution and limitless ambition to make a difference in the lives of everyday people.

That brings us full circle to G42, which is only six years old but has a track record and now – with the investment from Microsoft – the street cred, to have an AI impact on an unprecedented scale.

Indeed, where do you want to go today? For G42, it seems almost anything is possible.

An earlier version of this article initially referred to one of G42’s companies, M42, as Med42. M42 is the name of the company, whereas Med42 is the name of the large language model also referenced.

Published: April 17, 2024, 3:15 PM

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