Happiness Empowered by AI

How (Artificial) Intelligence
Will Lead to Our Happiness (#2)

Artificial intelligence is transforming every business, every aspect of our lives in much the same way the internet has over the past 25 years. And like the internet, AI is important not only on its own but also for how it enables so many other technologies. The centrality of AI to so many other technologies is why SoftBank Group Corp. (SBG) has made AI the core of its investment philosophy, including its strategy around the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has cast light on some of the needs that AI can help address. The pandemic has also sped up digitization and adoption of new technologies. For example, researchers around the world used AI to analyze data, significantly shortening design cycles for vaccine development. AI is being used in other areas of medicine, too, such as to find new treatments and speed up diagnoses for cancer. It can also improve the administrative side of healthcare by automating tasks, providing chatbots to help patients stay on track with medications or regimens, or getting information to doctors faster. It’s changes like these that SBG is working to accelerate.

The pandemic impacted education, as well, allowing teachers and students to discover that technology can be a useful complement to classrooms and may also one day soon offer a solution to overcoming disparities in access to education. In finance, the pandemic accelerated a shift toward online services, with AI-based chatbots and roboadvisors helping people navigate financial choices from the convenience and safety of their own homes. Even buying property has moved online, with visits arranged via virtual or augmented reality.

By investing in these kinds of AI-driven technologies across industries as diverse as education, wellness (including healthcare and fitness), finance, mobility and logistics, SBG’s focus is on driving transformations that improve lives and benefit us all, bringing greater happiness to our everyday lives.

“We’re entering the next chapter of transformation, driven by the AI revolution that is poised to redefine all industries,” said Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son in a recent open letter. “We believe the next twenty years will bring greater innovation and disruption than the past 300 years. The way we live will be transformed—from how we travel to how we work, from how we detect diseases to how we cure them, from how we construct our cities to how we grow our food.”

As numerous as AI applications are, people have only just begun to tap into AI’s potential. SBG, through its investment in AI, is working toward a tomorrow that’s safer, more sustainable, more fulfilling. Its investment strategy is simple. It invests in companies that utilize technology to disrupt the way we work, the way we live and the way we play. The company loves entrepreneurs who are obsessed: obsessed with solving a problem, obsessed with finding talent, obsessed with making their mark and proving to the world what they can do. Obsession is the only thing that can get you up every morning, even when things aren’t going the way you want.

SBG also loves entrepreneurs who are specific. Everyone knows that big markets are important, and competitive advantages are important. But the best entrepreneurs are very clear and specific about what they are doing, even though it may sound less grand than some “big idea”. They know their business, they know their customers, they know their product intimately.

The company also shares a passion with entrepreneurs who are building for the long-term. It doesn’t focus on the next quarter; it focuses on the next century. It aligns most naturally with entrepreneurs who think in terms of the future value they are building, not just what revenue number they are hitting this month. The best founders are constantly investing in the future—that’s what makes them so different from most professional, public-market CEOs, who are solving for the next quarter.

“AI is the greatest advance made by humankind.”

—Masayoshi Son

With its focus on driving real solutions to tomorrow’s problems, SBG calculates return on investment not solely in terms of financial returns but also by the positive impact it makes in peoples’ lives around the world. And the big bets it’s making in AI are helping to make that more feasible than ever.

“I recall announcing our Next 30-Year Vision at our General Meeting of Shareholders in June 2010 on the occasion of our 30th anniversary,” Mr. Son says. “At that time, I forecast that a brain computer would become a reality, allowing us to coexist with intelligent robots within the next thirty years from 2010. I also claimed that the spread of IoT would inevitably connect every facet of life to the internet, and that the cloud, which integrates all data, would evolve into humankind’s greatest asset. Ten years later, with the rapid rise of AI, smart robots and the cloud, I feel the future that we envisioned is steadily approaching.”

SoftBank Group Corp. has declared its mission to build a happier future for all, and it can’t come soon enough. That’s why the company is so focused on advancing AI technology—to help individuals and enable them to thrive. The company’s driving passion is to write humanity’s next chapter—a more joyful tomorrow—through technology.

Written by The Wall Street Journal Custom Studios, 2021

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