When technologies intersect, they create a harmony of functionality and heightened potential; in some cases, this can be world-changing, just like the introduction of the internet to computers. For many on the frontlines of technology, the symbiosis of blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) could very provide the infrastructure that our digital world will depend on, but we are still some time away from perfecting this technologies.
The combination of AI and blockchain is a huge topic of discussion in the tech sphere. These technologies have spent quite some time as investor/entrepreneur-attracting buzzwords, and in many cases were simply used to create hype around products/services that may include a little bit of either.
Simply put, blockchain technology is a distributed, decentralized, immutable ledger; and AI, on the other hand, is an engine or a brain that can manage data analytics and make decisions based upon them. It’s safe to presume that the road to merging these technologies is fraught with many tall complicated hurdles, but should they manage to meet in the middle, the opportunities that await at the end of the journey could very well be worth it.
Amongst many experts, there is a sense of agreement that despite their complexities, blockchain and AI are both expected to have a gigantic impact on businesses over the next five to ten years. Projects and initiatives are underway to transform industries and practices like supply chains, logistics, healthcare, financial services and even media royalties, but there are also some interestingly novel applications of AI in blockchain and vice versa.
Are we there yet?.
One of the more interesting initiatives is that of Microsoft’s Blockchain Data Manager based off of the companies cloud computing arm, Microsoft Azure. Here, the tech giant is actually pitching blockchain to firms as a means to build trust in AI systems. The project focuses on utilizing the absolute trustworthiness of blockchain, using it to confirm the provenance of data prior to the AI parsing it.
It is argued that you can do this without blockchain, but it does grant a single truth, an immutable audit trail that is almost perfect for AI models.
In healthcare, AI is in action. Google has its Neural Network algorithm, an AI that predicts the outcomes of patients in hospital, and there is also the IBM Watson Supercomputer, another system that analyzes the impact of symptoms. These efforts can save lives, money, resources and time, but also medical advancement.
One such ambitious effort is that of the Stem Cell Project, a firm that intends to leverage blockchain and AI to accurately screen patients, running diagnostic and pathological imaging systems through their platform. With the tech, they hope to ramp up the speed of stem cell treatments, which is touted by many to be the biggest breakthrough in medical science to date. Additionally, the vision is to create a virtual clinic of sorts, one that minimizes the chance of misdiagnosis, and one that is also accessible for the entire world.
In terms of smashing the technology together in an extraordinarily novel and increasingly common way, look no further than SingularityNET. This is a firm that since 2017, has been developing a blockchain-based AI marketplace, where developers or AI vendors can sell hardware or software services in exchange for the same, or cryptocurrency. Additionally, the open-source marketplace allows businesses and developers to add AI or machine learning services to the ecosystem and earn cryptocurrency.
As per the SingularityNET whitepaper, the marketplace provides buyers and sellers with smart-contract templates, allowing for the automation of transactions; in doing so, users are supplied with a standardized set of software and hardware APIs which can be implemented into these smart contract templates. These services can be simple services that perhaps translate text-based documents into different languages, or they can be large-scale in image/video processing.
The SingularityNET vision is to open up AI technologies to the world, creating a platform where AIs can communicate and coordinate, and this is made all the more possible with thanks to the backing of blockchain technology. Though the implications of this technology for businesses and individuals are gigantic, the platform is still infantile. Time will tell if this type of platform will have a place in the world, or if it’s merely a stepping stone toward a more robust ecosystem.
Providing solutions to supply chains is a company called Bext360, the firm is using AI and blockchain to boost transparency of supply chains, as well as increase efficiencies across several industries including seafood, minerals, coffee, and timber. With bots and blockchain technology tracing the journey of produce to production and distribution, the AI takes care of measuring the quality of produce, whilst also making valuable weather and harvesting predictions.
Here to Stay.
For many researchers and analysts, these nascent technologies are due for commercialization at some point. The technology, as outlandishly complex as it is, is due for a radical shift to simplification over the coming years; even then, it is anticipated that enterprise-grade or B2B solutions are still at least five years away from being realized.
At their philosophical core, both blockchain and AI are opposites. Blockchain is decentralized and is still yet to overcome the speed bottleneck, though efforts like Ethereum 2.0 are underway to resolve this. AI, on the other hand, processes complex data fast, relying on huge data sets and significant computing power.
Seemingly, many of the blockchain-related AI applications appear to be platforms and services that democratize AI, with the intention of making it more accessible, trustworthy and easier to implement. As the challenge of understanding and implementing the technology with ease has been overcome, the transformative power of blockchain/AI applications will be quite staggering.