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Jensen Huang: How ‘Taylor Swift of Tech’ NVIDIA CEO Jensen Huang became the most important person in AI | World News

There are different levels of smoothness.
There’s Joey Tribbiani asking: How you doin’?
There’s Don Draper saying: If you don’t like what they are saying, change the conversation.
There’s DB Cooper sipping on a bourbon and parachuting off with $200,000 in ransom money and never being found again.
There’s Neal Caffrey’s roughish smile before he tells you that he stole a bunch-load of Nazi treasures.
There’s James Bond asking the bartender to shake properly. There’s Galileo muttering under his breath that “it moves”.
But perhaps, at the very top of the list right now, is Jensen Huang jiving with an Instagrammer in Taiwan with a drink in hand, instantly recognisable even without his trademark leather jacket.

The post evoked multiple reactions on X (formerly known as Twitter), but one that caught the eye was by Apoorva Govind wrote in the language of Shakespeare: “NGL, I always thought he had zaddy energy. Back in 2012, when I interned at Nvidia, he’d invite the interns over to his place and throw a whole-ass frat party. He’s quite fun!”
After multiple reactions to the post, some of which tried to insinuate that Huang perhaps had some salubrious adventures, she wrote: “Someone please send Jensen my apology. Seems like the cancellationists are coming out of the woodwork. At least won’t be on my watch. I have absolutely nothing but awesome things to say about him.”

AI and Jensen Huang

Since the release of the first iteration of ChatGPT in late 2022, the world and its uncle haven’t stopped talking about the potential of AI. Sometime last year, when it emerged that Chat GPT had been trained on an NVIDIA supercomputer, its value increased by 200 billion dollars. A few days ago, NVIDIA went past Microsoft to be named the most valuable publicly traded US company. Currently, it sits third, with $3.113T behind Microsoft ($3.342T) and Apple ($3.181T).

Power: A Social Analysis

, Bertrand Russel argued that the world was divided into three groups: leaders, followers, and heretics. The followers follow the leader because they believe they imbibe the quality of the leader by doing so. However, the new era of social media seems to have upended that old social hierarchy, and more often than not, heretics are the leaders who elucidate the most loyalty from followers. In the old days, they were called cult leaders or sages. These days, they are usually tech bros.
The messianic cult of Steve Jobs has often seen numerous tech bros elevated to god-like levels. Even when Jobs was at his peak, popularity-wise, many worshipped at the altar of Bill Gates, who they believed was a true tech visionary with no need for theatrics.
In more recent years, we’ve been enthralled by Mark Zuckerberg (more so thanks to Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of him in The Social Network) and Elon Musk, who has cemented his position (at least among his fans and himself) as the OG champion of free speech thanks to his purchase of Twitter that he has now rebranded to X. The latest entrant to the list of Titan-like tech bros is Jensen Huang.

JENSANITY: The Rise of An Icon

Till a couple of years ago, very little was written in the mainstream about Jensen Huang, a tattooed CEO who wants to live on as a robot so he can lead Nvidia for years. Today, the 60-year-old is a global pin-up on par with BTS.

The aforementioned was in Taiwan recently, where an avid female fan insisted, that he sign her breasts. His use of Taiwanese is celebrated as a sign of rebellion against China. They scream when he shows off his NVIDIA tattoo, chugs a beer, or throws a baseball. Mark Zuckerberg called him the Taylor Swift of tech, and there’s certainly a financial parallel given how Taylor Swift is being credited for boosting the economies of countries where she turns up.
In some ways, it’s reminiscent of billionaire playboy Tony Stark in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, who had screaming fans mob him everywhere. Jensen’s story, however, couldn’t be starker than Stark’s, who was born into luxury in the fictional MCU, and the adversity of a cave in Afghanistan turned him into Iron Man.

Jensen Huang: The Origin Story

Well, like all tales, it starts with adversity seeped with so many apocryphal anecdotes that at times, it’s almost impossible to discern reality from fiction. Of course, anyone who studies neural networks – artificial or real – will tell you that reality is only electrical signals interpreted by a system.
Jensen was born in Taiwan but sent to the US as a nine-year-old by his parents to live with his uncle in Tacoma, Washington, who enrolled him in an institution called Oneida that his uncle thought was an elite boarding school but turned out to be a religious reform academy.

Huang’s roommate there was 17, whom he taught to read while he taught the nine-year-old how to do push-ups and bench presses. Too young to go to school in the academy, he went to a nearby public school. There he rubbed shoulders with the children of tobacco farmers who showcased America’s love for migrants as enshrined on the Statue of Liberty by labelling him a “chink”.
With no counsellors or therapy, Huang says he just got on with it, excelling in high school, becoming a nationally ranked table-tennis player, and graduating when he was 16. He then attended Oregon State University, where he fell in love with his lab partner and future wife, Lori Mills. Even then, Huang knew he had one superpower: his ability to do homework. For six months, Huang would pester Lori to do homework with him and told the New Yorker: “I tried to impress her—not with my looks, of course, but with my strong capability to complete homework.”
It’s an ability Huang possesses to this day, with his colleagues claiming, like the fictional Stark, he can master any topic just in a weekend.

The birth of NVIDIA

Huang’s first job was at a Denny’s – an American diner chain – where he worked so hard, he was promoted from dishwasher to busboy. He credits working in a restaurant at peak hour for helping him deal with any adversity with calmness. Interestingly, Nvidia was born in a Denny’s as well.
Huang made his proverbial bones in companies like AMD and LSI logic, studied during nights and weekends, and earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering. At AMD, he worked on the design of microprocessors, something that would stand him in good stead in years to come.
NVIDIA was founded in 1993 by Huang, Chris Malachowsky, and Curtis Priem. The two worked at Sun Microsystems and IBM and wanted to design chips that would make everyone “green with envy” ergo the name Nvidia, which stands for the Latin word ‘iNvidia”.
Unlike companies that build CPUs, they focussed on creating a new segment of hardware called GPUs. A GPU, or Graphics Processing Unit, is a specialized electronic circuit designed to accelerate the processing of images and videos. GPUs are particularly effective at handling complex mathematical calculations that are required for rendering graphics.
Its first product, the NVI– designed for Sega’s Dreamcast video game console – failed, though it did manage to get them a $5 million investment from Sega that kept them afloat. Its second product RIVA-1 (later part of the GeForce series) was a big hit, most memorably used in the Quake II video game series.

Pic Source: PlayStation Blog

From Video Games to AI

The switch from video games to AI didn’t happen by choice but by chance. In 2000, a graduate student named Ian Buck (who would later work for NVIDIA) used GeForce chips to run a low-budget supercomputer. He currently heads CUDA (Computer Unified Device Architecture), a parallel computing platform and API model that is now used for various tasks like scientific computing, deep learning, image processing, cryptography, and finance. In the pantheon of greatest inventions from an evolutionary perspective that forwards the race, it can be put on the same pedestal as the wheel, printing press, electricity, light bulb, penicillin, telephone, and the internet. In 2006, it was only used by a niche group like scientists and gamers. Unlike, say, the iPhone, the general masses had no use for a low-budget supercomputer.
Things, however, changed when a group (Alex Krizhevsky, Ilya Sutkever, and Geoffrey Hinton), trained CUDA’s neural network to recognise images, with an architecture called Alexnet. Soon, it emerged that neural networks could be trained to do much more than simply recognise images, they could do practically everything and push the boundaries of what was known as the traditional Turing Test. The world first came to know about its potential when OpenAI used the framework to make a “generative pre-trained transformer” or GPT, which was released to the public in 2022.
Suddenly every conversation was about AI. For example, in a standard newsroom


AI is now used to clean up copy, rewrite swiftly, summarise, and even get important data when needed. A lot more water has flown under the bridge since then.
Nvidia’s “ray tracing” technique has made it feasible to have life-like images and videos, the kind we saw with Open AI’s SORA. The potential is limitless, though none of it would’ve been feasible without a geeky kid from Taiwan who moved to the US and whose superpower was homework.
Even when GPUs didn’t seem to have too much value, Huang persisted, taking sharp calls to pivot when needed that saw a $40,000 company founded in a Denny’s booth become a trillion-dollar company that competes with the likes of Microsoft and Apple as the world’s most valuable even though very few people beyond computer geeks know about it. Today, Nvidia’s biggest customers are Amazon, Meta, Microsoft, and Alphabet, which make up 40% of its revenue. Others like Open AI or Tesla are also big purchasers, but the risk remains that all of them are trying to build the chips in-house that only Nvidia can provide right now while rivals like AMD and Intel snap at its heels.

What makes Huang tick?

Nvidia’s success has made Huang one of the most sought-after figures in the world. Everywhere he goes, he gets a rockstar’s reception. Huang was once asked what kept him going. His answer was oddly the same as Pangloss’ reaction in Le Candide when a Turk explains that the real purpose in life is to tend to one’s garden. Huang says he came across a gardener on a “hot, humid and sticky day” in Japan who told him: “I am picking moss, I am taking care of my garden. I have cared for my garden for 25 years and I have plenty of time.”
He said that he has spent every single morning the same way since that day. He said, “I begin each morning by doing my highest priority work first. Before I even get to work, my day is already a success. I’ve already completed my most important work and can dedicate my day to helping others. When people apologize for interrupting me, I always say, ‘I have plenty of time.’ And I do.”

Jensen’s views on the future of AI

Bred on a steady diet of movies like The Matrix and The Terminator, where singularity leads to dystopia for humans until a chosen one rises to fight the machines, many of us spent many hours imagining what AI means for us. Of course, one ought to remember that the dystopian view of AI is not real about science or technology. As Andrian Kreye, editor-at-large of German Daily Newspaper, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Munich argued: “Dystopian views of AI as popularized by movies and novels are just misleading. Those debates are rarely about science and technology. They tend to be mostly humans debating the nature of themselves. Most of the endless variations of imaginary machine rule tend to project the fear of inherent evil and cruelty into machines as proxies for the age-old uncontrollable urges of self-empowerment and unlimited progress.”
Of course, there have been Luddites in every generation who have spent their days worrying about every new technology and whether it will make us redundant. Huang, who claims he doesn’t read sci-fi, has no such worries. He’s not particularly worried about the John Henry Moment.
He vehemently disagrees with the notion that AI will make humans redundant, instead claiming that AI will make us more evolved, ridding us of cumbersome tasks so we can focus on higher ones. He has argued that AI will allow everyone to become a programmer and that one will only have to ‘say something to a computer’ to get things done.
Huang agrees that rote jobs, like data entry, manual labour, or basic customer service could be automated by AI systems, and that he believes will give individuals time to focus on higher-value tasks that require creativity, critical thinking, and emotional intelligence. Like Tony Stark’s shield of robots around the world to protect it, Huang predicts a future of humanized robots that will take care of everyday tasks, arguing that they will become as ubiquitous as cars.

Last year, Huang refused to endorse a statement where industry leaders argued that the run of risk of AI was similar to nuclear war. While the Industrial Revolution led to a decline in the global population of horses, Huang dismissed the idea that it could be compared to humans by pointing out that horses “have limited career options.”
One could argue that as the prophet with the keys to the kingdom of AI, Huang is unlikely to have overtly critical views of the empire he has developed, and as a superlatively intelligent person who has overcome numerous adversities might lack the wherewithal to understand the worries of the common man. There’s a long-standing joke that states that we shouldn’t be worried about the moment that a machine can pass a Turing Test (a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligence indistinguishable from a human), but when a machine flunks the Turing Test on purpose. If that does ever happen, it will be because a once-geeky kid from Taiwan made it possible.
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