SoftBank CEO talks up artificial super intelligence ambitions

FILE PHOTO: The logo of SoftBank Group Corp is displayed at SoftBank World 2017 conference in Tokyo

By Anton Bridge

TOKYO (Reuters) -SoftBank Group CEO Masayoshi Son said on Friday that the group's mission was to help in humanity's progress by realising artificial super intelligence, which he said would exceed human capabilities by a factor of 10,000.

"SoftBank Group has done many things until now that have all been a warm up for my great dream to realise artificial super intelligence," Son told shareholders at the group's annual general meeting.

Son often hails the transformative power of new technologies and has made his name and fortune by betting on the proliferation of the internet and smartphones.

At Friday's meeting, he said the group was now putting all its efforts into pairing robotics with artificial intelligence to be used in all kinds of mass production and logistics, as well as autonomous driving.

Son's vision for AI robots would require "immense capital" and pooling funds with partners, he said, as SoftBank would not be able to bankroll it alone.

Son's reputation as a visionary investor was dented after many of the tech startups held by the Vision Fund investment vehicles have gone sour since 2021. Some of his other predictions, such as the widespread adoption of "internet of things" technology have not materialised.

But the success of SoftBank subsidiary Arm, the British chip designer, since its public listing in September last year has burnished Son's reputation, as investors have piled into firms linked to AI.

As Arm's share price has surged, the discount between the value of SoftBank's assets and its market capitalisation has grown wider.

Earlier in June a source told Reuters that activist investor Elliott Management had built a stake worth over $2 billion in SoftBank and called for a $15 billion share buyback to boost its share price.

Son said SoftBank was always ready to buy back its own shares, but had no plans to do so.

He also left open the possibility of taking SoftBank private should its share price fall even further below the group's true value, saying he had considered it many times.

(Reporting by Anton Bridge and Miho Uranaka; Editing by Shri Navaratnam and Christopher Cushing and Miral Fahmy)