September 23, 2023

This file picture taken on July 28, 2016 shows SoftBank Group Representative Masayoshi Son speaking at a press conference to announce the company’s financial results in Tokyo.

Kazuhiro Nogi | Afp | Getty Images

Artificial intelligence is capable of helping solve some of the world’s biggest problems and could potentially surpass the intelligence of humankind, according to SoftBank’s Masayoshi Son.

“I think this is the first time that mankind experienced something smarter than mankind itself,” he said during an interview with CNBC’s David Faber ahead of Arm Holdings’ Nasdaq debut Thursday. “Mankind was the smartest animal on the earth — AI is going to surpass, and surpass big time.”

The SoftBank founder and CEO called himself a “big believer” in AI, adding that Arm is a “core” beneficiary of the AI revolution. Son said he’s been an ardent supporter of microprocessors that enable all types of technological evolution ever since he started SoftBank.

Arm’s initial public offering Thursday may bring an end to a nearly two-year-long drought in large-scale technology initial public offerings. The IPO market ground to a halt along with tech stocks starting in early 2022, just as the Federal Reserve embarked on its most dramatic round of credit tightening in 40 years.

The 66-year-old founded SoftBank, which still controls about 90% of Arm Holdings after the IPO, back in 1981 after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley. Forbes estimates his net worth at more than $24 billion, making him the world’s 69th richest person.

Son made his early reputation as an investor in Japan’s mobile phone industry, and went on to become one of the first backers of Yahoo as well as Alibaba. Son continues to serve as the chairman of Arm’s board of directors.

To be sure, AI does pose some threats to humanity if mishandled, Son said, likening its potential misuse to the dangers of speeding, or drinking alcohol while driving a car. But, more positively, AI can also help solve key world problems like diseases or help mitigate or recover from natural disasters, he said.

“AI, society should regulate to protect humankind,” Son said. “However, it has more merit than the demerits. So, I think I’m a believer. I’m optimistic that AI is going to solve the issues that mankind couldn’t solve in the past.”

— CNBC’s Scott Schnipper contributed reporting.

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