Nvidia’s Boom is Not a Straightforward American Success Story

In what has been a bleak year for Silicon Valley, the sudden surge in the value of tech company Nvidia, driven by its mastery of chips used for artificial intelligence, may seem like a ray of hope. Yet if this success may reward the firm’s owners and employees, as well as the tech-oriented financial speculators, the blessings may not rebound so well to the industry’s workforce overall, or to the broader interests of the West.

Nvidia’s rise as the first trillion-dollar semiconductor firm reinforces the de-industrialisation of the tech economy. Unlike the traditional market leaders, like Intel, Nvidia does not manufacture its own chips, choosing instead to rely largely on the expertise of Taiwanese semiconductors. It has limited blue-collar employment. Intel, a big manufacturer, has 120,000 employees — more than four times as many as the more highly valued Nvidia, which epitomises the increasingly non-material character of the Valley.

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Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at joelkotkin.com and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.