However far along the blockchain journey you are, you probably have something in common with your fellow travellers. Discovering new and exciting uses for the technology on a daily basis, for one. Whether you’re an evangelist or a sceptic (or somewhere in between) tackling world problems is certainly food for thought.
But it isn’t just blockchain that’s fast becoming the most disruptive technology since the internet. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is head to head in the race for shaping the future of the coming years as well.
And many times, as is the nature of survival of the fittest, one new technology comes along to bury an existing one. No one’s buying stock in camera companies or fax machine manufacturers right now, for example. But, in some cases, especially as we move toward a decentralised world, two technologies can complement each other–and create some pretty incredible results.
Artificial Intelligence at its Best
Not everything to do with artificial intelligence is as visually spectacular as Sophia the robotfrom Hanson Robotics. The impeccable delivery of her speech to an open-mouthed audience stunned people around the world and raised plenty of questions as well.
Would robots take over the human race? Would we be subjected to a violent massacre and be the making of our own demise? Just how does a robot learn to act like a human being anyway?
While Sophia may have thrust AI into the public conscience, she also helped fuel people’s misconceptions about the technology. AI doesn’t have to be about (seemingly) living, breathing robots who can tell spontaneous jokes and remind us of our limitations as a race. AI can be woven into everyday processes to make our lives easier, as well.
But here’s the kicker with AI and machine learning. They’re only as good as the information fed to them. Sophia saying (somewhat ominously), “If you’re nice to me, I’ll be nice to you,” and “treat me as a smart input-output system,” made a lot of people think.
A machine like Sophia, in the wrong hands, could turn into a vehicle for harm, could develop bad habits, or, yes, perhaps even become violent. But, fed the right information, there’s enormous potential for good, as well.
Now bring AI down a few notches from robotic media stars being granted citizenship in Arab countries, and you can see the technology working in everyday cases.
And one of the common threads linking blockchain and AI? The quality and veracity of information fed into the machine.
It’s All About Data
OK, so it may not be ALL about data, but data is a major player when either of these technologies come into questions. In fact, ever since the beginning of mankind, knowledge has been connected to power. Information is power and data – verified, quality data – is worth its weight in gold.
Blockchain technology through its cryptography and immutability could easily verify all the data that artificial intelligence processes. Allowing machines to learn faster and more efficiently. Ensuring that not only the Sophias of this world, but the smart contracts, banking transactions, ticket reservations, and thousands of other interactions run flawlessly.
And in actual fact, it’s already happening.
When AI and Blockchain Team Up:
Karrie Sullivan is Principal of Data-Driven Growth at Culminate Strategy Group. She says, “I build AI and Blockchain solutions for my consulting clients. Financial services in the US is a great example of data-driven processes such as underwriting. AI automates the repeatable tasks and Blockchain secures the data… The combination reduces administrative costs by double-digit percentages.”
“We use both AI and Blockchain in our small business bookkeeping system PeaCounts,” says co-founder Crystal Stranger. “We use blockchain mainly for the archival of data and documents, then we use AI to take the information stored on blockchain and utilize it within the product. This is the best of both worlds, the permanence of blockchain and audit trail, with the fluidity and robust understanding of AI.”
VIA is an AI and blockchain startup developing solutions for the energy sector. CEO Colin Gounden enthuses, “Every power generation, transmission, and distribution company in the world wants to improve the reliability and efficiency of their network operations… However, these companies are concerned about the security and privacy of their data and so, are hesitant to adopt new AI applications. Additionally, many companies are concerned they don’t have enough data or clean data to make rigorous analytics and AI possible. VIA’s blockchain-based Trusted Analytics Chain ensures client data remains on premise and completely anonymous.”
Julien Bouteloup is an electrical engineer and winner of a blockchain hackathon for his IDboxproject, built on AI, blockchain, and renewable energy. Designed to help communities in developing countries, IDbox is a small and cost-efficient device that enables people in the third world to create a unique identity on the blockchain. They can then use this to access voting systems, remittance services, health care and renewable grid electricity – all via their analogue phone.
These are just a handful of examples in a long and steadily growing list of ways in which AI and blockchain can work together to make a winning pair. They’re also beginning to see success in cybersecurity, defence, and many other areas as well.
We may still be a long way from seeing Sophia the robot in households around the world. And even on a smaller scale, AI and blockchain technology have a lot of challenges in the road ahead. Cost, scalability, education, the threat of criminal activity, to name a few. But then, every new technology faces certain barriers to mass adoption and trials before it’s fully accepted.
Just remember the internet before broadband and the size of mobile phones when they first came out. We’re standing on the brink of a new era. And it’s encouraging to know that not only are the possibilities endless, but the technology is already starting to change the world.