SoftBank Founder Warns Japan Is Falling Behind In AI

Japan has been at the forefront of technological progress for the past century, from the first all-electric compact calculator in 1957 to the their recent success in automation (particularly in car manufacturing, which has resulted in Japan being the 3rd largest car manufacturer). However, some think that Japan has not been able to keep pace with the latest technological revolution. AI.

Billionaire and founder of SoftBank, Masayoshi Son,is the largest figure that has publicly announced the belief that Japan may soon become a “Laggard“ (firm or country that is slower in adopting AI and so does not reap the benefits compared to other firms/ countries in the same industry who have, more on this here). Son said firms in Japan need to “wake up“ and that if the direction the country is heading in is not adjusted, it can fall behind in applying AI and lose its name for innovation.

SoftBank announcing the recently second Vision fund, more on than in Indraneel’s  article

SoftBank announcing the recently second Vision fund, more on than in Indraneel’s article

However Son is not just “all talk”, SoftBank has recently dived into the deep end of AI investment with around £80bn invested in 70 startups across the globe, including giants such as Uber and Creditas. However, hinted by the previous examples, most of the investments are not happening in Japan as technological growth around AI has stagnated meaning there is nothing to invest in.

Japan has now completely become a developing country in the most important area of AI where technology revolution is happening
— Masayoshi Son, CEO and founder of SoftBank

This isn’t the first time Japan’s advantage in a certain tech sector has slowly slipped from their grasp. Japan used to be a large player in smartphones and similar devices, but the Japanese firms failed to develop the head start they had in the right direction.

Mr Son does not stand alone in warning Japan of its pending failure in the AI field, other prominent tech executives and several academics have highlighted the lack of focus in the field, with simple proposed solutions being: increasing quantity and quality of educational schemes surrounding the area as well as increased incentives for AI adoption within the country, in fact, the country’s trade ministry has predicted that by 2020 the country will see a shortage of 48,000 IT professionals.

I conclusion, although Japan has, and will, continue to dominate in a lot of specialised tech fields due to their innovation and talented labour, they are in a “extremely grim“ situation when it comes to the AI revolution which could lead to the country being left behind and losing its fame as being “at the cutting edge of global technology“.