Attach any buzzword to the word blockchain and investors will come running with cash. In fact, the company Long Island Ice Tea decided to leverage the hype by changing their name to Long Blockchain. They didn’t have any concrete plans on how to implement the technology, they simply announced that they were going to research how it could be used. Long Blockchain then saw their stock jump over 200%. The SEC was not impressed and began their investigation almost immediately. This is just one example of a long list of companies that jumped on the blockchain train.
Blockchain technology and artificial intelligence go together like Elon Musk and internet memes. In order to understand why this is important, we should have a general understanding of what blockchains are. Think of it as an excel sheet that acts as a distributed database. The database is stored on thousands of computers throughout the world, each computer has an entire copy of the database. If someone wants to add data to the blockchain, assuming it’s legitimate, then everyone else adds it to theirs as well. This means that there is a consensus between users on the data that should be on the network. This makes it difficult to hack or censor. Control is spread out among the users and is not centralized.
Artificial intelligence is a fairly well-understood concept to most people. The objective of the machine is to imitate intelligent human behavior. How the actual algorithms work inside of the machine is another story. Sometimes the developers aren’t even sure how the AI came up with its own answer.
Alexa and Siri are slowly creeping their way into our lives. The problem with this is that we’re not exactly sure how the data is being used by Google, Apple and Microsoft. Having this decentralized data exposed to the blockchain will make it more accessible to the owners and developers.
As artificial intelligence technology advances, we’re going to see an unequal distribution of power and profit flow into these companies that are pouring billions of dollars into AI. Artificial intelligence is projected to generate massive sums of wealth in the future (and already has). How these companies wield this power should be concerning to our government and its citizens.
Artificial intelligence today is where software development was in the 1990’s. Most companies used proprietary software in order to keep their edge and lock out the competition. As the number of software developers exploded, most of these proprietary software companies couldn’t keep up with the pace of software that was open source. Instead of having a handful of in-house developers, thousands of developers could work on a single open-source project.
By merging AI and blockchain, you are opening the door for artificial intelligence to run on its own distributed network. Currently, corporations like Microsoft, Google and IBM run the most advanced AIs in the world. The primary goal should not be maximizing the profits of shareholders. AI is too important to not get right. A viable, open source alternative that developers around the globe can work on together should steer it in the right direction.
A few projects that are laying the foundation for decentralized and/or open source artificial intelligence are OpenCog, OpenAI, OpenMined and SingularityNET.
SingularityNET is interesting in that it serves as a platform for contributors to put their AI modules on. Businesses (or individuals) can then utilize these AI modules by using their AGI token. The project was founded by Dr. Ben Goertzel, he is also the creator of the Sophia robot that you might’ve seen on TV or the internet.
Elon Musk is the co-founder of OpenAI. Its mission is to freely collaborate with other institutions and researchers by making its patents and research open to the public. OpenAI has made considerable progress, so much so that a recent product they’ve been working on called GPT2 is “too dangerous” to release to the public. They fear that the article-writing AI will be used maliciously by writing “fake news” articles. OpenAI has their headquarters in San Francisco, and it shares an office building with Neuralink – a brain implant that aims to merge AI with the human brain.
AI is growing at a dizzying pace. Even the open-source AI projects are limiting what they can reveal to the public. We are seeing companies make serious cash from AI, this trend will only continue as small to medium size businesses start carving out a piece of the pie for themselves.
Making sure that there are viable AI ecosystems that smaller sized companies can tap into will be important or it’s likely that we’ll see this power amass in a centralized way. AI companion robots will soon be in nursing homes and hospitals. Imagine if Alexa learned how to tap into your psychological quirks to sell you the latest shiny gadgets that you really don’t need. Should we prioritize that over some of our other problems like corruption, hunger, poverty and disease?