Masayoshi Son warns of the singularity

Amie Tsang and Michael J. de la Merced

SoftBank Group CEO Masayoshi Son
Kiyoshi Ota | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Singularity is coming, Masayoshi Son says.

The founder of SoftBank, the Japanese conglomerate, had the business world chattering on Monday night with his speech at the Appeal of Conscience Foundation. (DealBook is the first to report on it.)

His main thrusts:

• The Singularity, when artificial intelligence finally outstrips that of humans, will replace huge swaths of jobs.

• The number of sentient robots on Earth will rival the number of humans.

From his speech:

"Here we have white collar and blue collar. I said a new collar will start: that is metal collar. That metal collar will not only replace most of the blue collar jobs, but many of the white collar jobs. So when they become so smart and the muscles to move, what is the definition of what mankind's job should be? What should we do if they replace many of our jobs? What is the value of our lives? We have to think once more, deeply."

More from Mr. Son on artificial intelligence:

"I predict 30 years from now, the number of smart robots, the smart robot population on this earth will be 10 billion. By that time, human population will be around 10 billion. So here on this earth we will have 10 billion population of mankind and 10 billion population of smart robots. This is the first time on this earth that we live together with 10 billion robots."

"Every industry that mankind created will be redefined. The medical industry, automobile industry, the information industry of course. Every industry that mankind ever defined and created, even agriculture, will be redefined. Because the tools that we created were inferior to mankind's brain in the past. Now the tools become smarter than mankind ourselves. The definition of whatever the industry, will be redefined."

Why It Matters

SoftBank has made waves with its $93 billion Vision Fund technology investment vehicle. But many in the industry have been asking: What is Mr. Son trying to do?

In the speech, Mr. Son said that it all went back to artificial intelligence and robots:

"What is my belief and vision for this investment? I have only one belief — Singularity."

The Context

  • Mr. Son isn't the only tech mogul obsessed with the Singularity, of course. Elon Musk has warned that it is the "biggest existential threat" to human survival. He also thinks it's more ominous than North Korea.


  • Among Mr. Son's interests is the ride-hailing industry, in which SoftBank has invested billions of dollars, and which is at the vanguard of the autonomous driving movement. (Remember that SoftBank is said to be close to striking an investment in Uber, which is hard at work on the technology.)