2019 is set to be the year people truly embrace the combination of AI and blockchain to take their businesses even further.
The idea of combining the two technologies is relatively new, likely because both concepts seem diametrically opposed at first. Traditional AI was once more centralized, with its inner workings kept hidden from all but a select few. It deals in probability and is owned and controlled by the same companies that keep its workings private.
Traditional AI is often ripe for abuse, either by the company that makes it, or from those who teach it. There are massive privacy concerns when opaque companies use face recognition for surveillance, for example.
This was of great concern to SingularityNET according to their marketing manager and data protection officer, Ibby Benali. “Artificial Intelligence is largely a domain that is dominated by a number of tech giants, and developers are contributing their algorithms, code, and research to the ecosystems owned by these tech giants,” Benali said. “The result of this are scandals such as Facebook and Cambridge Analytica which were using data and algorithm ecosystems to manipulate voters in the USA.”
Benali’s fear is that the more users become dependent on a tech giant’s ecosystem, the more they are growing the tech giant and making the users even more vulnerable.
Blockchain, by its very nature, decentralizes the information, or at least the ownership, depending on how the particular enterprise has set up their AI, making it more difficult for it to be abused by a select few for nefarious profit.
The same thing that makes decentralized cryptocurrencies so exciting is what has the power to take AI to the next level, and not only help overcome a lot of AI’s shortcomings, but help businesses reduce their costs and be more efficient. Blockchain-based artificial intelligence increases user confidence since blockchains are inherently decentralized with no single point of failure or source of control.
This increased trust is exactly why Animoca Brands’ co-founder Yat Siu utilizes AI and blockchain to make games like the highly successful Cryptokitties. “AI can provide the algorithm and learn from it to create a smarter algorithm but the data source it feeds on it cannot control,” Siu explained. “So, if the data source is bad (or corrupted) the AI becomes bad too. Perfect example is fake news – data that is filtered through the blockchain, verified and effectively trusted would help solve this.”
However, the benefits don’t stop at increased trust. For Wil Brown, founder of Neureal, the main benefit of combining AI and blockchain is the ability to harness even more power. “AI is being developed separate from blockchain and is making great strides, especially lately. But it is ultimately limited by the computing power and data available to single people or organizations,” Brown said. “If we want to take it to the next level and give everyone the cheapest access, then it’s going to require decentralized blockchain. Bitcoin shows us this can happen by it having more computing power than one thousand times all of the world’s centralized supercomputers put together.”
This team up isn’t without its challenges, though. It’s so new that the rules which help keep people and companies safe haven’t been established yet.
But all those unknowns and challenges, along with the raw potential, is what makes this so exciting. This technology has the power to change the world in ways we can barely imagine.
One of the potential benefits of blockchain AI is the democratization of AI. Suddenly smaller businesses and start-ups will be able to use AI in ways they never could have afforded before, opening up new paths to innovation. In the same way that the cloud gave rise to companies like Uber, Spotify and Airbnb. The worlds of commerce, privacy, security and finance are ready to be disrupted by blockchain AI.
Giving smaller users ownership of AI is one of the things driving SingularityNET. “If we make this a decentralized microservices architecture where each service on this ecosystem is owned by an individual AI developer, both developers and non-developers could own a piece of this ecosystem thanks to the blockchain,” Benali explained. “You ensure that the individual user is part of the conversation and that this future ecosystem can be optimized to be benevolent for the individual smaller users involved, rather than just for the biggest profit. Through democratic processes and consensus, the individual can decide where she or he wants to see the future of AI grow towards to, as they are co-owning and co-creating this ecosystem with us.”
And Benali would know, SingularityNET is one of the more exciting players in the space. The company aims to “let anyone create, share, and monetize AI services at scale”. Basically, they’re the folks trying to do everything talked about above and make it on a scale that suits any business that needs it.
Neureal takes that a step further and uses the powers of blockchain and end-to-end machine learning to predict whatever needs to be predicted. Neureal aims to “allow users to ask Neureal about the future the same way we ask Google about the present and the past”. That sounds like magical time travel, but they have confidence that their system will help humans stop bad things from happening, or at least minimize their harm, as well as help businesses find opportunities and emerging markets with enough time to capitalize on them. They take advantage of blockchain by using a distributed computing program.
Neureal is less of a single service and more of an entire platform unto itself. “Neureal is more like the internet itself than a website that people can visit. Developers will need to create apps that leverage the live data forecasts that the Neureal Network produces in order for people to be able to use it,” Brown explained. “Our foundation plans on providing at least two apps to get the ball rolling: a cryptocurrency trading bot and a hurricane prediction system.”
One of the biggest problems with trading on the stock market is trying to overcome our own human and cultural biases. Financial experts do their best, but when the UK Observer pitted three investment managers against some high school students and a cat named Orlando, the cat made more money on the market by throwing a toy mouse onto a grid of numbers. Numerai aims to change all of that by abstracting financial data and getting thousands of anonymous data scientists from around the world to build an AI to run their hedge fund. Data scientists compete in weekly tournaments, modeling obfuscated financial data. They have to stake on their predictions as a representation of their confidence using tokens. If their predictions don’t pass certain cutoffs, their stake is destroyed. If their predictions are good, they are rewarded. Numerai uses a meta-model of the best predictions to direct the strategy of their hedge fund. Based on this model, Richard Craib, who runs Numerai, has raised millions of dollars from investors.
Then there’s BurstIQ which aims to revolutionize health, by allowing people to control their own data and feel confident about the chain of custody when it comes to their most private information.
And that’s just a few examples of the start-ups and companies ready to revolutionize the way people process and use information. The most exciting thing about AI and blockchain is that this is just the beginning. This is like standing at the dawn of the internet, and Brown predicts that this will be the year we “start to see the Googles and Facebooks of decentralized AI come forth.”