SoftBank CEO Says Robots Make Peace, Not ‘Terminator’ War

Jun 20, 2014

SoftBank CEO Says Robots Make Peace, Not ‘Terminator’ War



Masayoshi Son, chairman and chief executive officer of SoftBank Corp.9984.TO -0.09%, waves and shakes hands with the robot Pepper during a news conference June 5.

Shortly after Tesla Motors TSLA +0.79% and SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk spoke of the need to be wary of “Terminator”-like outcomes from artificial intelligence, another tech visionary stressed the power of robots to spread love, joy, and peace.

Softbank  Chief executive Masayoshi Son invited the Japanese firm’s emotion-sensing robot Pepper onstage during the annual general shareholders’ meeting Friday. The two competed on tongue-twisters, with Pepper rattling off a tongue-twister 100 million times faster than Mr. Son — and getting some laughs for it.

“This is a robot that can love,”  Son said.

He then played a video touting ability of technology to eliminate war. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a robot or a cellphone or a PC,”  Son said. “I want to change the way people and computers relate with one another.”

It is a cliche that Japan has more of an affinity for robots than western countries. And like most cliches, it is probably wrong. Yes, Japan has its share of evil robots in movies and manga (Mechagodzilla, anyone?), just as there are plenty of lovable, quirky robots from Hollywood. But the contrast between Mr. Musk’s view on artificial intelligence and Son’s is striking.

Pepper is becoming a familiar presence by  Son’s side at news conferences, and is now employed at SoftBank stores in Tokyo’s Omotesando and Ginza shopping districts. The warm-hearted robot has gained access to Mr. Son and his operations that this reporter can only envy. Is Son so naive about the future of human-robot relations? Or is Musk too cautious?

Other than robots,  Son focused much of his presentation on SoftBank’s potential for growth in the U.S., where it bought wireless carrier Sprint S -0.59%  last year. He reiterated SoftBank’s aim to bring price competition to the market and to make U.S. networks faster and cheaper.

Asked by a shareholder about Sprint’s pursuit of smaller rival T-Mobile US Inc.TMUS +0.48% to gain scale against far bigger competitors, and how such an acquisition would affect the balance sheet,  Son said: “If we clearly have the power to pay back debt, then there are times when we can prioritize growth.”

Tadashi Yanai, chief executive at Fast Retailing 9983.TO -0.19% and an outside director at SoftBank, also hinted at further developments in the U.S.

“You get profit because you take risks. To become number one in the world, the U.S. market is essential. Sprint is the first stage. There will be stage number two, and number three.”


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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