Human imagination and the strive to turn science fiction into science fact goes back to ancient times, but has only truly begun to manifest itself in the last 50 years. Though mostly unseen by average users, artificial intelligence (AI) is already deeply embedded in the basic processes people have become accustomed to.
Blockchain technology has come to the forefront in much the same way AI had, through a long development process full of trials, tribulations, ignorance and triumphs over skeptics and critics alike.
The application potential for blockchain is no less extensive than it is for AI — and today, these technologies are more complementary than competitive in their natures. Both AI and blockchain work on the principle of analyzing vast amounts of data and solving the issues of specific industries. Just as AI found its applications in the fintech sector as a data aggregator and automated solution determiner, so began blockchain in its permeation into areas of application where its properties can be of most use.
Into the unknown
Society is now entering what is known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. But unlike the first three, which were based on the application of machinery for streamlining of the means of mass production through digital information accessibility, the new wave of technological progress promises to be a revolution of automation, rather than an involvement of masses of people needed for maintaining industrial processes.
AI and blockchain may become the leaders of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, as they can allow artificial constructs and programs to perform a vast number of tasks that had previously required human labor and entailed high risks of error. According to a study carried out by researchers from PwC in 2018, 30 percent of jobs may become automated by the 2030s, with 44 percent of workers with a low level of education being at particular risk. At the same time, as the report showed that automation could help the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP) reach $15 trillion by 2030.
The background underpinning the modern world is big data, the factor uniting blockchain and AI in their applications.
The modern world produces a staggering amount of information that needs to be processed. Since the information being produced is of an endless variety of topics, there is physically no human workforce capable of analyzing such vast amounts of data. The AI can analyze large amounts of data and blockchain can serve as the immutable foundation for securely storing the records for use by various industries, since the Fourth Industrial Revolution is more of a breakthrough in data analysis.
Complementing each other
By being able to continuously analyze data under a strict protocol required for achieving desired results, AI leads the way by allowing data to be properly stratified and shared. This essential attribute automates a mundane process and brings to the forefront one of the main qualities of AI in the form of efficiency.
Blockchain, on the other hand, is the vital component that lends its characteristics to make sure the data is handled in an environment that is safe from external interference, as well as tampering of data ownership and sequence. This is what may complement AI and solve the problem of trust many people face. Take, for example, the recent scandal engulfing Facebook, when personal data from over 50 million social network users were harvested by Cambridge Analytica via an algorithm that targeted voters during the U.S. election.
Paul Lee, co-founder and CEO of Mind AI, an AI-powered platform, believes that blockchain plays an essential role in the process of making data management decentralized:
“We don’t see AI and blockchain as two separate, incompatible technologies, but rather as two technologies that can complement each other very nicely. The world of AI is an arms race, with large internet giants leading the progress with their seemingly unlimited resources, specifically data. These corporations collect data from their users in a centralized database. The data is owned and utilized by these companies for their own self-interests, while the users who provided the data are left empty handed. This also creates an uneven playing field in the advancement of AI technology, since data is the primary fuel that powers most modern AI systems. This can be detrimental to humanity, as AI technology is extremely powerful.”
And although the use of AI to collect personal information has become the most common way to use this technology, blockchain can help change the reputation of AI by storing the AI mechanisms that process data on a distributed registry. At the same time, using private and public keys, users themselves determine who should be given access to their personal data. And for those who want to further protect personal information from third parties, AI-powered blockchains may provide decentralized identification.
US, UAE and Malta lead revolution
One way or another, everything depends on the approval of regulators and authorities in matters of adoption of any kind of technology. No matter how innovative a technology is, it first needs to prove its worth to average people to become profitable. And that is why governments are considering the capabilities offered by AI — an already proven and effective technology — and its merger with blockchain, which still requires considerable research.
The U.S. government is already leading the charge after issuing an American AI Initiative order that will facilitate investments into AI and related technologies research. On Feb. 11, the Trump administration announced that the president signed an executive order that calls upon federal government agencies to allocate the necessary resources and workers to adapt to the era of AI. The initiative has documented Trump’s long-term plans to enter the AI-powered future. Back in May 2018, the White House held a meeting devoted to AI, with over 30 large companies from a number of industries — including Ford, Boeing, Amazon and Microsoft — in which the officials promised not to prevent the technology’s development by creating AI regulations.
The United Arab Emirates is trailing close behind as the National Program for AI and Blockchain Capacity Building was launched on Nov. 28, 2018 to provide university courses and scholarships in AI and blockchain technology under the purview of the Ministry of Education. The innovation has complemented the UAE’s Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, which is aimed at turning the country into a leading power in the adoption of AI by 2031.
Malta is seeking to take on a leading role in this brave new world of technological races as it strives to become a “Blockchain Island” and a “top AI nation.” As reported by Cointelegraph on Nov. 1, the Maltese government announced the launch of the initiative called “Malta.ai,” creating friendly conditions for the companies developing AI solutions.
Finally, India, a powerhouse economy, is launching initiatives aimed at improving its energy sector using AI and blockchain. The government created a special committee to carry out a national AI program that aims at helping startups and venture funds to conduct research related to the technology. The country also announced a partnership with Russia to cooperate in using blockchain and AI technologies at the Strategic Economic Summit, which was held in Russia in November 2018. The two countries agreed to boost two-way investments in the high-tech sector to $30 billion by 2025.
Despite the fact that blockchain and AI seem to be incompatible at first glance — the first is based on the principle of decentralized data storage, and the second allows information to be concentrated in the hands of centralized corporations — today, companies have learned to combine them in their processes.
New networks combining AI and blockchain aim to make machine learning transparent and less biased, says Jeremy Epstein, the head of Never Stop Marketing.
Today, industry leaders are solving the nontrivial task of combining two technologies in order to preserve the privacy of user data and achieve greater automation in complex analytical processes.
DeepSee, a media platform, strives to provide the solution to the problem of fake news and become a decentralized alternative to Reddit, YouTube, Medium and Twitter. At the same time, DeepSee reportedly uses the same machine learning mechanisms used by Facebook, but transfers them to a trusted blockchain platform that guarantees transparency of privacy settings, as well as rewarding users for high-quality content in a similar way to Steemit.
In the health care sector, personal information security is of the highest importance. The AI-powered company Deep Mind, acquired by Google, is already leveraging blockchain to better protect users’ health data. In February, Neuromation also entered the health care sector, entering into a partnership with the Longenesis, a decentralized marketplace of personal data.
Longenesis, in turn, intends to provide individuals with control over their own personal data and the option to monetize it by passing certain data to corporations, research institutes and medical institutions at their discretion. Such data includes not only a medical history or a genetic profile, but also, for example, test results. “Our goal is to create a new, data-driven economy,” says Alexander Zhavoronkov, chief science officer of Longenesis Limited.
Another use of the blockchain in AI-based services is being investigated by Mind AI and SingularityNet. The companies use a decentralized registry to reward users. Mind AI, a company that has invented an AI-powered solution aiming to achieve human-level reasoning, leverages blockchain to make the entire machine thought process transparent for average people. As an open-source platform, Mind AI rewards its contributors with tokens for adding value to the platform’s ontology database. Thanks to the AI-powered reasoning engine and the ontologies input by the community, Mind AI can reason like a real human, requiring no massive quantities of data. Lee, the platform’s co-founder and CEO, believes that blockchain in AI solutions enhances the way users’ data is protected and used for the community benefits:
“We believe blockchain provides the foundation to creating [sic] AI systems that are transparent, decentralized, and beneficial for many, rather than a few.
“Without ontologies, Mind AI is like a car without fuel. We’ve split the source code of the AI engine and the ontology database to make sure the ownership of our technology is not centralized. The ontologies will be crowdsourced and stored into a distributed storage system utilizing blockchain, and the contributors of the ontologies will be the owners of the data. The community has control of the data, gets rewarded when their data is used, and has a voice in how his or her data is used.”
He also shared with Cointelegraph the challenges that may be faced when developing and managing such complex platforms:
“One of the main challenges with designing such a system is adapting to the constantly and quickly changing technologies in the blockchain space. There are a few promising technologies we’d like to utilize, but many are only at a conceptual stage. For example, we’re constantly looking for the best distributed storage system that can provide the adequate speed, security, and the amount of data we need. A centralized, local storage is going to be, overall, much faster and much more robust than a distributed storage at this point of time. Currently available blockchain platforms might not have the adequate TPS (transaction per second) [...].”
SingularityNet rewards users with tokens every time someone uses its proposed AI model, thus allowing anyone to monetize AI algorithms, and letting companies and developers buy and sell AI at scale.
In an interview with Cointelegraph, Ben Goertzel, CEO of SingularityNet and chairman of the Artificial General Intelligence Society, explained how both technologies can be used to socialize the AI industry:
“If you had a global decentralized network and you can put your AI there and anyone can access it and then use it in a way that connects it with other AI tools that are out there, that can provide a way for people to monetize what they’ve done, without having to go the currently standard route of creating a startup and selling the startup to Google or Amazon or something.”
In the run-up to changes
A revolution, as the term implies, is a complete turn of events around a focal point, thus leading to a new stage or phase. With technologies, revolutions involve a variety of changes in everyday lives. But the uniting factor of all revolutions is a strive for improvement and efficiency.
Experts predict that by 2021, the blockchain technology market will grow to $2.3 billion and investments in AI will grow to $52.2 billion. As the investments in both AI and blockchain grow, more and more global companies — including Microsoft, Dell, and Porsche — are spending money on their research and testing. Fred Ehrsam, the co-founder of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, predicted it could take some time for these systems to prove themselves and show the results in practice, but that once it happens, they will boost the industry’s democratization.