Masayoshi Son, the CEO of SoftBank Group, is Japan’s second wealthiest person and a strong believer in the singularity — a sort of point of no return in which human civilization, rules, and technology become incomprehensible to previous generations. Some think the singularity is going to happen when we become immortal, others claim the singularity is the moment humanity becomes a spacefaring species. Most people, however, seem to agree that the singularity will happen right in that moment when artificial intelligence becomes sentient and Son wants to be right in the front row when this happens.
“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.
Son is not some dimwit and he sure is prepared to put his money where his mouth is. Recently, SoftBank acquired semiconductor and software firm ARM Holdings plc for a reported $32 billion. Son also contributed with a huge stake in a group investment in satellite startup OneWeb Ltd worth $1.2 billion. The plan is to have these investments converge into a chip that has an equivalent rated IQ of 10,000 — but Son’s investments aren’t enough, he reckons, which is why the Japanese billionaire is really upping the stakes.
On October 12, 2016, Son’s Softbank signed a memorandum of understanding with the Public Investment Fund of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (“PIF”) under which PIF considers becoming the lead investment partner in a huge fund aimed at developing the required tech for the singularity. Saudi Arabia said it would invest $45 billion over the next five years in the scheme with SoftBank bringing $25 billion to the table. The goal is to scale this fund to the $100 billion mark.
“With the establishment of the SoftBank Vision Fund, we will be able to step up investments in technology companies globally. Over the next decade, the SoftBank Vision Fund will be the biggest investor in the technology sector. We will further accelerate the Information Revolution by contributing to its development,” Son said in a statement.
Next Big Future reports Son is looking to close more deals by the end of the month for his Vision Fund. Besides his $25 billion and the Saudis’ $45 billion, there will also be contributions worth $1 billion each from Apple Inc., Qualcomm Inc. and Oracle Corp. Chairman Larry Ellison.
“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.
Previously, the 59-year-old entrepreneur predicted the singularity will occur by 2047, in line with predictions made by the father of the singularity movement, Ray Kurzweil. With this new found momentum and huge piggybank, it looks like Son wants to accelerate this transition as fast as possible.
Tibi is a science journalist and co-founder of ZME Science. He writes mainly about emerging tech, physics, climate, and space. In his spare time, Tibi likes to make weird music on his computer and groom felines.