How Blockchain Improves AI

Blockchain puts data on a shared and accurate ledger so that anyone can build AI models, all can check the data for truth and you're rewarded for your ownership

Leah Zitter
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Blockchain boosts artificial intelligence (AI) in various ways. For a full rundown of details, please see this Forbes article. For now, I’d just like to focus on one theme: Authenticity.

At the beginning of the last century, French philosopher, Jean-Francois Lyotard wrote The Postmodern Condition on how knowledge has become commercialized. Computer technology has changed knowledge into data-bits that are owned by large corporations, stored in vast databases, and bought and sold. These corporations determine which facts are more valuable than others. So, they make knowledge into a commodity. Subsequently, instead of knowledge being something that helps us develop our minds and that transforms us, or that is related to the truth, we are only shown certain aspects of knowledge that serve as tools to corporate value. Put another way: Knowledge is produced to be sold. I remember reading this and thinking Lyotard had exaggerated until I came across Jeremy Epstein’s story with Alexa. Epstein is CEO of Never Stop Marketing and author of The CMO Primer for the Blockchain World.

Amazon-owned Alexa is one of these smart AI toys that answer your questions on whichever subject you want. Epstein and his nine-year-old daughter fed it with innocuous questions, but when they asked the bot “have you heard of Net Neutrality?”, here’s what occurred:

The bot cited a number of articles that she “had read on the web” about the FCC, Ajit Pai, and the issue of net neutrality. But here’s the thing: All four articles she recommended had a distinct and clear anti-Ajit Pai bias.

The arguments complemented Amazon’s agenda.

Now, all of this may be trivial, except for the fact that for certain criminals, the implications can be life-altering. According to Wired, courts are using AI to sentence criminals, from determining their probability that they will commit another crime to the probability that they will appear in court on the stated date. The algorithmic outputs tend to be incorrect and distorted.

To step back, artificial intelligence (AI) refers to computers that are programmed for certain traits such as: Knowledge; Reasoning; Problem-solving; Perception; Learning; and Planning. These machines can only “think” and respond if they’re fed abundant information on the world. This is because they need to have the same access to objects, categories, properties and relations as your average human has to provide a sensible and logical answer to any and every question asked them.

Now, you’ve got two problems here:

  1. Giant corporations control all the knowledge - In the U.S., it’s FANG (Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Google), in China, it’s the BATs (Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent), and everywhere in between it’s the wealthy Fortune 1000 or so multinational corporations that, as two Microsoft researchers Banko and Brill reported control Big Data. These corporations are the only ones with the reach and capital to collect all this data, store it, analyze it and build AI models on top of it. So our decisions-making and that of our children is shaped by these AI, since many of us trust these machines to give us the correct answers.
  2. Giant corporations control AI innovation - You may want to become a top AI scientist, but without being employed and backed by FANG and the like, you have little chance of introducing your AI innovation to the world. It is these corporations that have the wherewithal to collect, control and engineer the data. As these corporations become richer, Little Man’s chance to compete dwindles.

This is where the blockchain comes along.

The decentralized ledger is characterized by three qualities:

  • Blockchain democratizes - Take Ocean Protocol, for instance, that aims to create a “decentralized data exchange protocol and network that incentivizes the publishing of data for use in the training of artificial intelligence models.” It encourages users to upload their data that any member can, then, use for free. If you upload data to the platform and that data is used by someone to program an AI model, you are compensated. The platform points out that:

Society is becoming increasingly reliant on data, especially with the advent of AI. However, a small handful of organizations with both massive data assets and AI capabilities have become powerful with control that is a danger to a free and open society.

So, Ocean Protocol gives Little Man the span and reach of information that Big Man, naturally, has.

  • Blockchain is transparent - With the large corporations, the data tends to be biased. SEED gives you the wherewithal to trust the bots in your lives. “It is an open-source, decentralized network where any and all bot interactions can be managed, reviewed, and verified.” Anyone can source and analyze the information that the AI models are built on since the data sets are more transparent than those used by FANG and its ilk. SEED helps you authenticate bot interactions, so you’re safer from bias and error.
  • Blockchain protects your ownership - Singularity Net focuses on the AI level, rewarding you for producing the cutting-edge AI model. As all blockchains do, it embeds ownership, protecting you from scheming and manipulative actors by an open, transparent system. Anytime your model is used, you’re compensated in Singularity Net's AGI tokens (AGI is the acronym for Artificial General Intelligence). Singularity Net promises that: “The future will be run on AI. Singularity NET lets anyone monetize AI, allowing companies, organizations, and developers buy and sell AI at scale.”

In short, the blockchain levels the playing field for David against Goliath, allowing the data to slip from closed, siloed stacks to open systems, where creators of data and of models are compensated more fairly for their contributions.

Additionally, decentralized AI helps by delivering, better, cheaper and more diversified AI models to businesses. It improves AI protocol by helping different machines communicate with one another. It also leads to the creation of advanced AI intelligence by providing an ecosystem where the old AI can build on the new. But that’s for another article.

When all is said and done, Lyotard is correct. Big corporations monetize and monopolize data and, along with that, our decision-making. Blockchain corrects the situation by putting data on a shared and accurate ledger so that anyone can build the models, all can check the data for truth and you’re rewarded for your ownership.

That’s egalitarianism in the truest sense of the word.