LAS VEGAS — Maverick investor Mark Cuban sees the development of AI technology as a national priority that is on a par with the urgency to invest in the space program in the 1950s and ’60s.

Speaking at Variety’s annual Entertainment Summit at CES, Cuban offered his views on the imperative of AI for the U.S. economy, the merits of TikTok and the prospects that Big Tech will face a new regulatory environment in the not-to-distant future as calls increase in politics and culture to rein in the actions and market power of industry behemoths.

Cuban was most enthusiastic about the potential for AI to transform myriad aspects of the way people live, work and play. In the wide-ranging Q&A with Variety co-editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein, Cuban stated flatly that most American businesses have no choice but to integrate AI technology into their strategic plans. He said he’s been taking classes to better understand the growing world of artificial intelligence and machine learning.

“If you don’t know AI, you’re the equivalent of somebody in 1999 saying ‘I’m sure this Internet thing will be OK but I don’t give a shit,’ ” Cuban said during the session at the Aria Las Vegas Resort, held as part of the CES conference that runs through Thursday. “If you want to be relevant in business, you have to or you will be a dinosaur very quickly. .. There’s going to be AI haves and have-nots. If you’re a have not, you might as well rip out all the computers in your office and throw away your phones. That’s how impactful it’s going to be.”

 

Listen to the full conversation with Cuban here:

Cuban noted that he has learned how to program his digital assistant Alexa to tease his children. “I’ll ask ‘Who is Jacob Cuban?’ And she’ll say ‘Jacob Cuban is also known as the fart master.’ “

The TikTok platform that has come on strong in the U.S. in the last year has also been a source of family bonding for the Cubans. As a father of three, he appreciates the mostly family-friendly focus of the platform known for its 15-second videos. He was shocked to see that a video of him dancing with his children got 1.6 million views in 20 hours.

“Families doing stupid dances that we like to do — it brings us together and it’s a completely different platform” than other big social media sites.

Pressed by Wallenstein about the prospect for heavier regulation coming to the tech world, Cuban said that some tighter governmental controls are probably inevitable. “Facebook has stepped in it so many times that somebody’s going to do something,” he said. “It’s inevitable that Facebook needs to be regulated and we’ll see what happens to Twitter.”

The devil of regulation, of course, is in the details. Cuban said he hopes there will be an intelligent and reasoned approach to regulation, “or the law of unintended consequences could bite us.”

But on the question of whether Facebook, Google and others are so dominant in their markets that they need to be broken up — as has become a rallying cry on the campaign trail — Cuban said the answer is an unequivocal no.

“That would be stupid,” he said. One important reason why he believes that is because the behemoths are “doing the research that’s keeping our country competitive with other countries in terms of AI.”

If Facebook, Google and Amazon were broken up, they would not have the same resources to invest in cutting-edge research.

“This is the new space mission,” Cuban said of AI. “We really, really, really, really, really need to invest in it. If we don’t, it could be cataclysmic.”

(Pictured: Andrew Wallenstein and Mark Cuban)