Blockchain technology is so synonymous with cryptocurrencies, and especially Bitcoin that it is almost like the financial sector has usurped its potential. In times like these, where an investing bear market has befallen the cryptocurrency space, it is easy to get down on the revolutionary possibilities of blockchain technology.
Since the original Blockchain, that is Bitcoin, emerged, there has been a considerable focus on transactional blockchains which have been at the forefront of the mainstream understanding of the technology. Bitcoin is often the layman’s first point of call with the stories of investing success stories obscuring the view of other possibilities.
However, blockchain technology is moving along in an undercurrent separate from the comings and goings of the cryptocurrency market and the financial interest it has garnered in just a few short years.
Ethereum and smart contracts have taken blockchain technology to a second generation where many different sectors are in the sights of its potential disruption. Even a third generation is being bandied about, with regards to Directed Acylic Graphs, but the fourth generation - which will be an essential part of the fourth industrial revolution - will need the help of some similar revolutionary technology.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been cutting a distinct but similar path through the nascent stage of technology development. Its uses and adoption have been growing, and its implementation has reached a critical point.
Both AI and blockchain are in situations where they can benefit from each other, and help one another, regarding reaching their next step on the road to this fourth industrial revolution. There is already evidence of this embryonic partnership beginning to blossom with many sectors feeling their twin disruptive powers.
The trifecta: Big data, AI, Blockchain
While blockchain and AI have been forging their paths with little overlap in their own past 10 years of existence, there is an clear link between the technologies in the form of data. Big Data’s emergence and importance recently have catalysed the relationship between blockchain and AI.
The biggest reason for this AI revolution is the advancements in Big Data. These recent developments have allowed businesses to organise a large amount of data into structured components which can be processed by computers very quickly.
At the same time, this importance of data has fuelled blockchain’s advancement as its distributed ledger is a new and novel way for data to be stored in an alternative and effective manner. To this end, the need for data analytics with AI is growing, and the combination of AI and blockchain is part of the reason for the onset of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
With both these technologies able to effect and enact upon data in different ways, their coming together makes sense, and it can take the exploitation of data to new levels. At the same time, the integration of machine learning and AI into blockchain, and vice versa, can enhance blockchain’s underlying architecture and boost AI’s potential.
The offerings of blockchain, such as its security and immutability due to its cryptographic nature, makes it ideal for storing the highly sensitive, personal data which, when smartly processed, can unlock so much value and convenience in our lives. One of the most significant sectors that are trying to unlock this protection and processing of sensitive data is the healthcare sector.
Additionally, blockchain can also make AI more coherent and understandable, and we can trace and determine why decisions are made in machine learning. Blockchain and its ledger can record all data and variables that go through a decision made under machine learning.
More so, AI can boost blockchain efficiency far better than humans, or even standard computing can. A look at the way in which blockchains are currently run on standard computers proves this with a lot of processing power needed to perform even basic tasks - such as hashing.
Hashing power is a hammer and tongs approach, whereas a smart combination of AI and blockchain would see far more efficient code-breaking.
What the Fourth Revolution will look like
It is clear that the blockchain can tackle many inefficiencies in our technology as it stands, and AI similarly so because of the importance that is put on data currently. However, if it is to drive the fourth revolution, there needs to be an integration of the two technologies which will then have the potential to change some very steady and familiar technologies we take for granted today.
Paul Lee, CEO of Mind AI, understands the importance of blockchain technology merging with AI and how it can shape our upcoming future.
“One big, immediate way that blockchain can help AI is through its ability to decentralise the ownership and sharing of data,” he explains. “Currently, large corporations with massive amounts of data - like Google, Facebook, Baidu, Tencent - can own their stockpile of user data to create and continuously improve AI.
“Blockchain has the potential to break down today's data oligopoly through individual ownership and control of data. This will open access to vast numbers of data sources that can be used by AI developers that previously didn't have access to such data.
“This means that there will also be a data marketplace, which can be a free market for developers looking for specific types of data for their projects. In the same sense, AI can boost blockchain, as some of the most compelling use-cases and early-stage applications of blockchain technology is for AI. This will help pave the way for more progress in blockchain technology to better mesh with AI, and this progress and applications will inevitably have a spillover effect into other domains, helping boost the rate of blockchain adoption.”
Yoav Vilner, the former CEO of startup marketing company Ranky, adds on to Lee’s thoughts about how data will be redistributed in the fourth industrial revolution.
“Making private data secure again will invariably lead to it being sold, resulting in data markets, model markets, and with the introduction of intelligence systems, maybe even AI markets. The markets will have easy, secure data sharing that will help smaller players enter the fray,” Vilner explains.
The examples are quite endless, but from de-powering the technology oligarchies, the combinations of these two technologies can also rewire the entire cybersecurity environment, as Karin Flieswasser explains:
“When AI and blockchain are put together, they provide a double shield against cyber attacks. Machine learning algorithms can be trained to automate real-time threat detection and to continuously learn about the behaviour of attackers, thereby thickening the malware detection armour. Meanwhile, decentralised blockchains dismantle the inherent vulnerability of centralised databases, requiring cyber attackers to challenge not one but several entrance gates.”
Both blockchain and AI are continually coming up with new ways in which to advance our technological lives; however, there is no denying they are both very much in the nascent stage. In saying that, the combination of the two as a dual technology to tackle today's problems for the fourth industrial revolution has still got a long way to go, but their intertwining and actioning is moving forward.
“AI and blockchain technology will intertwine more intensely and frequently in the future, whether or not the AI project/company is a centralised business or an open source project. We already see multiple great projects around distributed computing for AI applications as well as various AI marketplaces, all utilising various blockchain technology,” Lee explains.
“Of course, other AI projects might not need any technological benefits offered by blockchain at all, and that is also totally okay. Though there will be projects and businesses in both sides of the spectrum, my prediction is that blockchain and AI will come together more intensely and frequently, as we will need more transparency, security, and decentralisation in the AI space."
A whole new world
The fourth industrial revolution will be the first major revolution that has gone from a technology-focused state to another, more advanced one. For that reason, it is not surprising that it could well be predicated on technologies that are currently profoundly misunderstood, and often seen as too advanced.
Blockchain and AI have massive potential, but their actual effect will only be seen a long way down the line, and they will also only be effective when tied together as they both boost each other up, and expand on their different capabilities.
Read the original article on Forbes.com: