Two topics that are rarely out of today’s headlines, in one way or another, are blockchain and AI. Both these pieces of technology seem to be at the cutting edge — futuristic, mysterious and full of benefit. The mystery that surrounds is often part of the allure. People enjoy speculating about how AI can be used to create robots with ever-increasing intelligence — a scary yet simultaneously exciting prospect. Likewise, businesses and techies are often found shouting about how blockchain can seamlessly connect the world, permitting cross-border transactions without friction. Perhaps one of the most exciting things that can happen is when these two worlds collide.

Blockchain and AI — A Short Introduction

Anyone who has been reading my articles will know that I talk about blockchain quite a lot. Although there are still some critics, it is now widely accepted that blockchain is on its way to mass adoption. In essence, a blockchain is a shared database or ledger, used to store and send information between individuals or businesses. Blockchain technology is inherently secure and transparent — allowing for anyone with access to view and acknowledge the entire history of company dealings, without the ability to alter the information. Moreover, smart contracts are bringing higher levels of automation to transactions, removing intermediaries, reducing costs and increasing productivity.

Artificial Intelligence or AI usually concerns the development of computer systems that can perform tasks typically requiring human intelligence. Typical AI systems include visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages. Smartphones use face recognition software to unlock, and Google Translate is used frequently across the world to help people from different countries communicate. The world was first introduced to AI back in 1997 when IBM’s Deep Blue beat chess master, Gary Kasparov. The robot’s victory signalled the age of machine learning, how a collection of computer chips and wires could simulate human intelligence — going from understanding nothing, to beating perhaps the greatest chess master in history. AI is now used everywhere, and almost all technology relies on elements of machine learning.

Combining AI and Blockchain

Both AI and blockchain are centred around data; blockchain as a means to share and store it, AI analyses vast amounts of it to learn and adapt. It is perhaps not so difficult to see that there could exist a kind of symbiotic relationship between the two, in which the trusted data could be used to help the machine learning, which could then facilitate more advanced, efficient systems. Some areas that a combination of AI and blockchain is already being considered are:

  • Self-driving cars — in which vast amounts of data are used to improve the car’s performance and increase safety continuously.
  • Bringing trust to AI systems — humans will still need to be able to audit AI decision making to ensure that their conclusions are still relevant and safe. Blockchain will ensure that a permanent record of events is kept, enabling a simple review.
  • Monetisation of data — data as an asset is fast becoming a vast industry. The sale and ownership of one’s data can be achieved through blockchain as individuals can store their data and sell it to those that want it. In turn, AI can be used to analyse the data and help companies and individuals understand their target market. 

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