Yoav Shoham.

Tech TLV
AI21 CEO: "There may be a decrease in funding in tech, but AI is a funding bubble"

Prof. Yoav Shoham, founder and co-CEO of AI21, who chairs the scientific committee of the National Program for Artificial Intelligence, believes Israel should be doing more to promote local AI development

"There is no country in the world that does not have a national plan for artificial intelligence. We also have one, but we are late, and in Israel we do not have one, but two national plans. The plan, which is done in collaboration with many government ministries, has good things, but it is too slow and too poor," said Prof. Yoav Shoham, founder and co-CEO of AI21 Labs at Calcalist's Tech TLV conference held in collaboration with Bank Leumi and PAPAYA.
Prof. Shoham heads the scientific committee of the National Program for Artificial Intelligence. According to him, "There were a couple of rounds of funding - the first of 500 million shekels and the second of the same amount, which was approved but not yet budgeted. I do not underestimate the funding of a billion shekels, but there is no doubt that in order to be competitive we need 10 times that size of funding - more money, more chips and to be more daring and take risks, because high risk equals high reward."
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כנס TechTLV - פרופ' יואב שוהם מייסד ומנכ"ל משותף AI21 Labs
כנס TechTLV - פרופ' יואב שוהם מייסד ומנכ"ל משותף AI21 Labs
Yoav Shoham.
(Photo: Yariv Katz)
According to Prof. Shoham, "We also need to look at where we have a relative advantage. There are those who want to make an analogy and copy the national cyber directorate. You can learn things from there, but in contrast, the IDF’s 8200 intelligence unit will not be the core around which we will build AI - and therefore the research needs to be budgeted in universities in a significant way."
Shoham also pointed out how, "on the research side, the language modules will be larger - not only speech, but also images, video and text, and other capabilities, and this will make all the models have higher capabilities and they will be bigger and more expensive, but language models are not the be-all and end-all."
Shoham presented a graph according to which the investment in the global industry in the field of AI is still about a tenth smaller than the investment in the cloud sector, and said that "there is no doubt that the numbers will increase." Regarding the speed at which the AI sector will catch on and grow, he said that "it will be somewhere in the middle between the speed at which the cloud caught on and mobile. In my estimation, it is faster and closer to the pace of mobile than the cloud."
According to him, "there is no CEO in the world, of a large or medium-sized company, who does not say, 'We need to be an AI company first.' We will definitely see an increase in the field, and in 2024 we will see the shift that companies make, you will see more companies that will launch products for customers. This year we will also see ChatGPT5 which will come out and be bigger, and we will see more systems that rely on language models and give them more autonomy and reliability. It's a hot topic in the discourse in the field and in 2024 we'll really see products of this type, and we'll also see more open source models."
Regarding the funding of the field, Shoham said that "there may be a decrease in funding in tech, but in AI I do not predict a decrease in funding, it will be a kind of funding bubble." He also said that "companies should pay attention to regulation and policies as led by the European Union and President Biden, because the more influential and powerful the technology, the more attention is paid to the potential for its misuse."
AI21, which develops AI systems for enterprise, announced last November that it completed a $208 million Series C funding at a valuation of $1.4 billion.