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Supersmart Robots Will Outnumber Humans Within 30 Years, Says SoftBank CEO

Posted by hkarner - 3. März 2017

Date: 02-03-2017
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Futuristic forecast spurs investment wave from Japanese telecom company

koSoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son

BARCELONA—Within 30 years, artificial intelligence will be smarter than the human brain.

That is according to Masayoshi Son, chief executive of SoftBank Group Corp., who says that supersmart robots will outnumber humans and more than a trillion objects will be connected to the internet within three decades.

These beliefs underpin the wave of large and surprising deals the Japanese internet and telecommunications company has pulled off in the past year, he said Monday. These include starting a $100 billion technology-investment fund with a Saudi sovereign-wealth fund, buying British microprocessor designer ARM Holdings PLC for $32 billion and acquiring U.S. asset manager Fortress Investment Group PLC for $3.3 billion.

This 30-year forecast created urgency, Mr. Son said in a speech at the telecom industry’s biggest trade show, Mobile World Congress. “That is why I’m in a hurry to aggregate cash to invest.”

In a brief interview after his speech, Mr. Son said his $100 billion project with the Saudis, dubbed the SoftBank Vision Fund, was bigger than the $65 billion in combined investments from the venture-capital world. He said the SoftBank Vision Fund would be focused. “Artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, smart robots: Those are the three main things I’m interested in,” he said.

The Internet of Things is the technology world’s term for connecting everyday objects, such as refrigerators and sneakers, to the web.

Mr. Son said he didn’t expect oil company Saudi Aramco’s planned initial public offering of stock to affect the size of Vision Fund. “They are a great partner,” he said of the Saudis. “They’re already rich. They have lots of money, even before the IPO.”

Mr. Son said this month’s unexpected acquisition of Fortress Investment would complement the Vision Fund. “SoftBank Vision Fund is more for the technology,” he said. “Fortress is for everything else—traditional private equity and so on. Money is money, you know?”

Fortress has about $70 billion in assets under management. Combined with the Vision Fund, he said, “pretty soon we will have $200 billion together. So we would help each other to identify investment opportunities and manage the portfolio companies.”

Mr. Son said he would also greatly increase the research-and-development funding for ARM, the British chip designer SoftBank bought in 2016. ARM doesn’t manufacture chips, but it designs the basic architecture for the chips in more than 95% of the world’s smartphones. Mr. Son said he believed that within 30 years, more than one trillion ARM-designed Internet of Things chips would be in use.

In his speech, Mr. Son said that while average humans had an IQ of roughly 100 and that geniuses such as Albert Einstein were believed to score about 200, superintelligent computers would have IQs of 10,000. He said computer chips possessing superintelligence would be put into robots big and small that can fly and swim. These robots would number in the billions and would be greater than the human population within 30 years, he said.

The chips would also be in everyday objects. “One of the chips in our shoes will be smarter than our brain,” he said. “We will be less than our shoes, and we will be stepping on them.”

In the brief interview after the speech, Mr. Son said he remained committed to stepping down from his job once he turned 70. He is 59 years old.

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