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Japan is laying the groundwork to become home to some of the world’s top companies in artificial intelligence, the country’s Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura told a group of University of Tokyo students Tuesday.
That includes supporting promising startups and big enterprises, as well as pushing forward discussions on universal basic income as AI makes more jobs obsolete, he said at a symposium.
“People will have more time”
when robots, drones, self-driving vehicles and other devices do more as AI evolves, he said.
Japan would also need the capacity to drive development in AI-training processors, Nishimura said. That category is led by graphics chipmaker Nvidia Corp., which became the world’s most valuable chip company thanks to its early bet on AI. “I hope to create a company in Japan that surpasses Nvidia,” he said.
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has stepped up support of the domestic semiconductor sector, betting that shifting geopolitical priorities will help Japan regain some of its long-lost leadership in chips. The country’s preparing billions of dollars in subsidies as part of a push to triple domestic production of chips by 2030, while a government-backed fund is also working to shore up the country’s chip materials supply chain.
The birthplace of Astro Boy has held public discussions on AI’s impact on society for longer than most. And while Japan is drafting guidelines for the use of generative AI this year, those regulations don’t have to slow down AI’s progress, Kishida said. “It’s not an all-or-nothing choice,” he said during the symposium.
SoftBank Group Corp.’s billionaire founder Masayoshi Son, who also attended, was especially enthusiastic. Son last month said the Vision Fund, the world’s largest pool of tech capital, is hunting new investments after racking up billions of dollars of losses on its bets on AI.
“We need to discuss what it means to be human, when we no longer are the most intelligent animated being on the planet,” he said. “This is the time for Japan to pour all its efforts into AI.”