SoftBank's Masayoshi Son Lays Out Vision With Jobsian Style

  • Son sees computers exceeding human intelligence in 30 years
  • Son addressed annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona

Softbank Said to Be in Satellite Merger Talks

SoftBank Group Corp.’s Masayoshi Son, sporting a black turtleneck similar in style to the late Steve Jobs, laid out his vision for the future of technology and called for partners to help make it happen at the smartphone industry’s biggest annual gathering.

Son reiterated his belief that computers will exceed humans in intelligence in three decades, and that within this period he expects one computer chip to have the equivalent of a 10,000 IQ. “I really believe this,” he said at a keynote speech at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona on Monday. The growth in computer ability was “why I acquired ARM,” he said.

Masayoshi Son on Feb. 27.

Photographer: Pau Barrena/Bloomberg

This is more than idle talk for Japan’s second-richest man. SoftBank’s recent deals include the $32 billion acquisition of ARM Holdings Plc, the chip designer that Son believes will play a key role in the development of artificial intelligence, and a $1.2 billion group-led investment in satellite startup OneWeb Ltd. The Japanese telecoms and Internet company is also in the process of creating a $100 billion Vision Fund with Saudi Arabia and other backers that would make Son one of the world’s biggest technology investors.

ARM, already a dominant supplier of semiconductors for mobile phones, will ship 1 trillion chips for devices including cars, TVs and even shoes in the next 20 years, Son said. He said the U.K. tech firm would be increasing its focus on chip security, after revealing video footage of ARM engineers hacking a 4x4 car, and that one ARM engineer managed to hack 1.2 million security cameras during his lunchtime.

SoftBank’s investment in OneWeb will help the Florida-based startup launch 2,000 satellites to offer high-speed global connectivity, he said.

SoftBank is aiming to close the first round of investment in its technology Vision Fund by the end of this month, people familiar with the matter have said. The initial investments will likely include $45 billion from Saudi Arabia and $25 billion from SoftBank, as well as $1 billion each from Apple Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and Oracle Corp. Chairman Larry Ellison, they said. The initial round is likely to exceed $80 billion and the timing of the closing may still change, said one of the people.

“We believe the singularity is inevitable and all businesses will be redefined as computers overtake humans in intelligence,” Son said at an earnings briefing in November.

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