- SoftBank's Masayoshi Son delivers the keynote at an AI panel.
- He heads the massive Vision Fund.
- SoftBank has hinted at more hefty tech investments to come.
SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son said Wednesday that his company's acquisition of ARM Holdings is just the beginning of an explosion in demand for semiconductors as robots surpass humans in intelligence by the end of the century.
SoftBank bought the chip designer last year for $32 billion. He said his company projects that the chip market will grow to ship 1 trillion chips, and that ARM will design 90 to 99 percent of them.
That's not the only bet that Son has made on chips — he also invested $4 billion in Nvidia. It's all just part and parcel of singularity — a point in the near future where some scientists believe that robots will become smarter than humans. Son said he expects that in the next 80 years or so, machines will reach IQs of 10,000 (U.S. Mensa accepts IQ scores around 130.)
"That is happening in this century, for sure," Son said. "I would say there is no more debate, no more doubt. Will it be in 30 years? Twenty-five years? Thirty-five years? It's just margin of error, in my view."
The Japanese billionaire spoke from the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he discussed his $100 billion Vision Fund, which focuses on artificial intelligence, including robots and autonomous vehicles.
The fund, which is backed in large part by Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, has made 15 investments in the past five months, with a return so far of 22 percent, or $3 billion, Son said. At least one major investor has cautioned that the huge flow of cash from SoftBank to tech start-ups is pushing up valuations.
But having survived the dot-com crash, Son said that most people overreacted to the "peak" of internet companies at that time — that it was a problem of expectations, not of the trajectory of the technology. Indeed, Son said that 2017's record highs for many tech stocks is only the beginning of their valuations.
"My track record the last 18 years is 44 percent, compound every year," Son said. "People call me high risk, high return. High return, definitely yes. But I don't know if it's high risk. If you think deep enough, if you work hard enough, if you smartly select ... I think it's not only high return but could be good."
Son said he plans to rise similarly sized funds with greater frequency. He said while big companies like Apple and Microsoft will continue to innovate and "fight" each other, he's also looking for disruptive new comers.
"The usage of internet — the usage of artificial intelligence, computing power — continues to grow," Son said. "This is not the peak."
By 2050, Son said, he expects robots to be smarter investors than humans. But he also thinks robots have nothing to gain from attacking humans and will prefer harmony.
"The 'gold rush,' it's just a money thing. It's not important, it's just a process. What is more important is human happiness. How do we help ourselves, humans, become happier?" Son said. "I'm a super optimist. …. There's always a solution."
— CNBC's Sally Shin contributed to this report.