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Mark Cuban: 'AI is going to change everything’

JP Mangalindan
Chief Tech Correspondent

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban contends artificial intelligence, or AI, will transform our way of life.

In a recent interview with Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer, Cuban said the impact of AI across different industries and cultures will surpass the wide-ranging effects of some previous technologies, including personal computers, mobile, even the internet.

“There's nothing that AI won't impact,” Cuban explained. “So having been around awhile, I saw the impact of PCs. Then I saw the impact [of] the local area networks. Then I saw the impact of wide area networks. Then I saw the impact of the internet. Then I saw the impact of mobile. Then I saw the impact of wireless. Now I'm seeing the impact of artificial intelligence. And it dwarfs any of those things.”

The 60-year-old billionaire investor’s comments on AI were part of an episode of Influencers with Andy Serwer, Yahoo Finance’s weekly interview series with some of the biggest names in business, politics, entertainment, sports, and academia.

Cuban’s long track record in tech

Cuban possesses a unique perspective on the tech industry that spans more than 35 years. He got his start in tech with his first company, a computer consulting service called MicroSolutions, in 1983, which he sold to CompuServe for $6 million in 1990. Since then, Cuban has invested in over 120 tech startups, according to Crunchbase, and hundreds of budding ventures as the host of the TV show “Shark Tank.” He also purchased the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks for $285 million in 2000, as well as co-founded the media and entertainment company 2929 Entertainment, which includes the film distributor Magnolia Pictures.

Cuban, who takes online coding classes for machine learning and programming languages such as Python, says it’s crucial for him to understand newer and rapidly evolving technologies like AI. AI is currently deployed in virtually every aspect of technology, serving as the foundation for voice controlled assistants such as Amazon’s (AMZN) Alexa, Apple’s (AAPL) Siri and Samsung’s Bixby. Meanwhile, Facebook (FB) uses AI to translate posts into different languages in real time, and Airbnb deploys the technology to make its search results more personalized for users.

“Unless I understood the technology, how was I going to explain it?” Cuban said. “How was I going to understand it? Unless I understand it now, how am I going to invest in it? … And I mean, if you truly believe AI is going to change everything, how are you going to understand what people are doing to change everything unless you at least have a foundational understanding of it?”

Knowing his limitations

While having a foundational understanding of these technologies is paramount, Cuban also acknowledges he knows his limitations. In other words, just because he has a firm grasp of how AI works, for instance, doesn’t mean he’s going to create an innovative AI feature or product himself.

“Now, I'm not going to build a million-layer neural network and try to change the world,” Cuban added. “I'm not going to write a research paper and say, here's why the lottery ticket approach works and you can build smaller neural networks with less data and be more resource efficient. But I can read that stuff and understand that when somebody says, ‘OK, we're building this project, and we need this sized data set or that sized data set, or we need this amount of resources, I can ask questions and understand the answers.”

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