Published November 2023 on Spotfiy

919: Chris Miller | Chip War: The Battle for Semiconductor Supremacy

1. Introduction

Explore the significance of semiconductors, their manufacturing challenges, and their impact on the global economy. Discover why these tiny machines are as crucial as oil and gas resources, and why China struggles to compete with the US and Taiwan in semiconductor production.+

2. Computing Power Unleashed

Computing Power:Discover the mind-blowing power of computing through the billions of transistors packed into your smartphone, and learn how advancements in technology have led to the shrinking of these essential components. Explore the impact of Moore's Law on the ever-increasing capabilities of our devices.+
The Future of Chips:Learn about the history and future of chip technology, including the limitations of Moore's Law and the impact of chip shortages on various industries.+

3. Transistor Origins

The Origins of Transistors:Jordan and Chris discuss the early days of transistors, starting with vacuum tubes and the challenges they posed in terms of size and debugging. They also explore the difficulty of copying and reverse engineering semiconductors, highlighting the complexities involved in recreating the manufacturing process.+
The Complexity of Chip Manufacturing:Chip manufacturing is a complex process that involves numerous ingredients and sophisticated design methodologies. Copying chips is extremely difficult due to the rapid advancements in technology, making it nearly impossible to catch up with competitors. Additionally, the mass production aspect of chips presents unique challenges that are even harder than those faced in the space program.+

4. Taiwan's Chipmaking Triumph

Taiwan's Semiconductor Success:Discover how Taiwan transformed from an agricultural society to the world's leading chipmaker through strategic government initiatives and the unique business model of Morris Chang.+
The Chip Manufacturing Powerhouse:Discover how Taiwan strategically positioned itself as the center of chip manufacturing, leaving Japan behind in the high-tech race. Learn about the conscious decision made by Taiwan's government and the personal connections between Silicon Valley and Taiwan that contributed to their success.+

5. Cold War Tech Smuggling

Cold War Tech Smuggling:Discover the Soviet Union's failed attempts at tech smuggling during the Cold War, as Chris Miller reveals their copying problem and lack of innovation. Learn how their reliance on older generation ships hindered their military capabilities.+
Technological Dependence:The discussion highlights the reliance on Western microelectronics in military equipment, the challenges of manufacturing spare parts for smuggled equipment, and the risks of using counterfeit chips.+
Chinese Espionage:Discover the evidence and rationale behind China's alleged use of espionage through telecoms companies and additional components on US servers. Explore the potential implications for data and intel gathering.+

6. Sponsors

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7. China's Chip Buying Spree

China's Chip Buying Spree:Discover the staggering amount of money China spends on importing chips, surpassing even their oil exports. Gain insights into why China relies heavily on chip imports and the impact it has on the global economy.+
The Complexity of High-End Chips:Discover the intricacies of high-end chips and their various applications, from smartphones to computer components. Learn why China faces challenges in building fabrication plants and acquiring the specialized know-how and equipment required for chipmaking.+

8. Manufacturing Miracles

Complex Manufacturing Process:Discover the intricate and fragile process behind manufacturing the world's flattest mirror, and the challenges involved in keeping the equipment stable and secure.+
China's Semiconductor Challenge:Explore the challenges China faces in its quest to catch up with the global semiconductor industry, including issues with copying technology, inefficient investment strategies, and the potential consequences of a blockade or attack on Taiwan.+

9. China's Chip Challenges

China's Chip Industry:Explore the challenges China faces in taking over Taiwan's chip industry and the implications for the global supply chain. Discover why South Korea has no incentive to help China manufacture their own chips and the role of U.S. tools and equipment in chipmaking facilities worldwide. Learn about China's progress in building high-end chips and its current limitations.+
China's High-Tech Warfare:Chris and Jordan discuss the advancements in China's chip industry and the implications for high-tech warfare. They explore the importance of cutting-edge chips in military applications and the potential challenges faced by Western dominance.+

10. Slowing China's Tech Progress

Chris Miller discusses how to slow down China's tech progress by limiting their access to tools and draining their private sector of expertise. Jordan Harbinger explores the need to improve working conditions and quality of life in the United States to compete with China's incentives.+

11. Sponsors

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12. China's Chip Industry

China's Chip Industry:Explore the complexities of China's chip industry and its impact on US-China relations, as Chris Miller discusses the power dynamics between the US government and Apple CEO Tim Cook, and the challenges of calculating the risk of supporting Taiwan.+
China's Potential Invasion:Jordan and Chris discuss the potential consequences of China invading Taiwan, including the economic damage it could cause globally and the challenges of rebuilding chip manufacturing capacity. They also explore the lessons learned from the war in Ukraine and the unpredictable nature of authoritarian regimes.+

13. Quantum Computing's Potential

Quantum Computing's Role:Explore the potential role of quantum computing in the world of semiconductors and the uncertainty surrounding its practical applications. Chris shares insights on the interrelationship between quantum and high-powered silicon processing, challenging the assumption that quantum will replace the existing paradigm.+
Investing in US Chipmaking:Learn about the increase in investment in chipmaking in the US and the challenges it faces in competing with Taiwan and Korea. Explore the effectiveness of the Chips act in incentivizing companies to invest in the US and the potential future implications.+
Moving Chip Manufacturing:Explore the challenges and potential solutions for moving chip manufacturing stateside, including the workforce, power demand, and cost differential. Discover the existing infrastructure for making semiconductors in the US and the potential for scaling up.+

14. Semiconductor Manufacturing Solutions

Solving Semiconductor Manufacturing:Explore the challenges and potential solutions to achieving Taiwan-level semiconductor manufacturing in the United States, including the need to slow China down and speed up the United States over the next decade. The conversation highlights the risks of relying heavily on Taiwan and China for chip supply and the importance of diversifying assembly locations.+
The Semiconductor Race:Explore the potential implications of China's growing semiconductor industry on the global market, as Jordan and Chris discuss the challenges faced by US and European tech firms and the possible need for protectionist measures.+

15. Outro

Discover why sand is becoming the next petroleum-like resource and hear fascinating stories about sand pirates and the black market in this episode with Vince Beiser.+