Using Blockchain Technology to Power an Open, AI Marketplace For The People

12/01/2017 11:35 am ET Updated Dec 01, 2017
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The advancement of artificial intelligence is well underway, thanks to blockchain technology, a humanoid robot named Sophia and a few thought leaders in the space.

The renowned father of artificial intelligence, Dr. Ben Goertzel, is leading the SingularityNET project, which has been created to provide a global, decentralized marketplace for AI. Blockchain technology will manage transactions on this open, AI system, ensuring that the future of AI will be created “by the people, for the people and of the people.”

Dr. Goertzel is joined Dr. David Hanson in his quest to advance AI. Dr. Hanson is the founder of Hanson Robotics and Sophia Hanson, the Chief Humanoid Officer of SingularityNET, who is also the most sophisticated humanoid robot ever built. This team, along with blockchain technology, will help solve challenges associated with AI to ensure more sophisticated and efficient AI systems in the future.

Sophia, Chief Humanoid Officer of SignularityNET, explains the project

I sat down with Dr. Goertzel to learn more about the SingularityNET project and how blockchain is being used to advance artificial intelligence.

Q: What is the primary purpose of the SingularityNET project?

There are 3 main purposes:

  • Deliver cloud based AI services to all sorts of businesses --- better, cheaper, and with greater diversity and variety
  • Lead to the creation of advanced Artificial General Intelligence, via providing an ecosystem in which different kinds of AIs (some highly general and some highly specialized) can cooperate together and form an emergent meta-level intelligent system
  • Democratize AI by creating an ecosystem that encourages and enables AI developers everywhere in the world to contribute, and businesses everywhere in the world to make use of these contributions

What is exciting is that all 3 of these goals can be addressed by the same software framework, which is SingularityNET, an open source, decentralized marketplace for the AI economy as well as the breeding ground for the emergent Artificial General Intelligence. This framework will create a federation of collaborative algorithms to provide better AI services across vertical markets and also, along the way, to serve the higher purpose of generating a superhuman intelligence.

More than 700 job types are currently being improved by AI. Before long, AI will extend to all job types, and humans will be freed up to do more rewarding things than working jobs. SingularityNET allows any AI developer to monetize their algorithm regardless if they live in high tech urban centers or in remote area of Africa.

Q: How will AI on the blockchain help solve some of the biggest challenges facing AI today?

The core value offered by blockchain in this context is “decentralization”. If one wants to create a network of AIs that self-organizes and self-regulates - with no central controller - then distributed ledger technology, put together with blockchain or similar technologies, is the best route available.

Google, Tencent, IBM, Facebook and other big tech companies have revolutionized distributed computing -- dividing up computing tasks among multiple machines for efficient scalable processing. But their distributed processing tools are still very centralized, and focused on specific tasks orchestrated by central controllers working to achieve very specific goals. The next step beyond this is an approach that is decentralized as well as distributed. This would use a huge number of machines around the world in a scalable way, but in a manner that allows the various machines in the network to all contribute to setting the goals and setting the agenda, via their interactions amongst each other. This way one can create what is basically a digital biological organism, growing minute by minute on computers around the world, ingesting data and currency and wisdom from people and software systems, and delivering value to businesses and end users in every country and every vertical market.

Currently, it is difficult for a PhD student or an indie AI developer, who has created a new AI algorithm, to provide their AI software code for use by business customers. There are no standard interfaces for AIs to use for communication with business software applications, and there is no easy way for business users to search through the scope of available AI code. SingularityNET provides standard interfaces for communication between AI code and business application software code, and a discovery mechanism for business users to search through all the available AI applications and find the best ones for their needs. This makes it possible for independent AI developers to monetize their AI code, via making it available to business users, without having to sell out to big tech firms.

This also incentivizes AI developers to work on the “long tail” of AI applications -- AI applications that are applicable to a small but important segment of the market, big enough to provide valuable revenue to independent developers even if not big enough to interest big tech companies. Put together, these ingredients are why we think of SingularityNET as “AI by the people, for the people and of the people”. SingularityNET disintermediates big tech companies from their role (in the AI as a service market) between AI algorithm developers and businesses that are AI consumers.

Q: How will smart contracts help AI agents communicate with one another and why is this important?

Smart contracts on blockchain and similar technologies enable a “trustless” network, in which two AIs can interact in a secure and reliable way without requiring any centralized intermediary. They also enable a reliable reputation system that’s difficult to gain, so that each AI can check other AI’s reputations (as rated by other AIs) before choosing to transact with them. Part of the route to a reliable reputation system is a “curation market” in which AIs stake tokens (AGI Token currency) on each other, in effect betting on each others’ future reputations. To make a curation market work well, smart contracts are a critical underlying technology.

Q: What is the difference between AI and beneficial Artificial General Intelligence?

The recent revolutionary advances in AI have been primarily in “narrow AI” -- AIs that are good at solving very particular problems. Whether these are facial recognition, or document translation, or car driving, today’s AI agents can only do one thing at a time.

A General Artificial Intelligence is an AI that can solve a lot of different tasks using a common methodology and understanding. Just like a human brain is good at doing multiple things, and generalizing and adapting its knowledge from prior tasks to new tasks. An AGI can even learn to do new things that were not existent when the AGI system was created, which is quite critical given that the world is constantly changing with new phenomena always arising.

AGI systems need not be humanlike nor need they respect or understand human values. However, obviously, it is of great interest to humanity to create AGI systems that do respect, understand and promote positive human values. The best way to do this is to have our early-stage AGI systems, as they develop, carry out compassionate and beneficial tasks that involve helping humans and working together with people in emotionally, socially and ethically positive contexts.

Toward this end, SingularityNET will provide reward tokens to AI Agents carrying out tasks that are democratically determined to promote the common good. And the humanoid Hanson robots, such as Sophia, will use SingularityNET to drive their social and emotional interactions with people, thus learning more about human values as well as doing good for the world.

Q: SingularityNET just announced the details of its token sale. Can you talk more about the ICO and what these tokens will be used for?

Formally we are not having an ICO but rather a TGE -- token generation event -- and corresponding token sale. The TGE is tentatively scheduled for the 8th of December and it will give everyone the chance to buy the AGI token and support the SingularityNET foundation in its mission to create a decentralized, open marketplace for the future AI economy.

The AGI token has been specifically designed for transactions between AI agents; and the economic logic of the overall AGI token economy has been designed so that the network of AIs comprising the SingularityNET will have the maximum collective intelligence, the maximum potential and propensity to self-organizing into a global AGI meta-mind. Everyone with an AGI token will be able to access our platform and buy AI services. This is a way to give everyone the possibility to support us economically, but also to take part to a project that we believe is going to have a huge impact on the future. We’ll be creating one billion AGI tokens in our token generation event; and in our initial token sale, we’ll be selling half of these -- 500.000.000 tokens -- for a total price of 36mln USD. The token sale will take place online through smart contracts.

Q: If you had to make a prediction, what do you think is in store for AI on the blockchain - what does the future hold and will this become the “norm”?

We want to see the world of AI becoming more and more decentralized and open source to avoid AI being controlled by one big industrial (or military-industrial) complex. We also want to ensure AI is developed for the common good.

The future of this planet and human life is currently at stake. If SingularityNET succeeds, AI will remain open and accessible to anyone, so that humanity as a whole will be able to guide its development. We see the future being made by a complex of AIs working together to keep humans happy, thriving scientifically and culturally, while also spawning the next generation of intelligence on the planet in the form of transhuman AGI.

In the positive future we envision and are striving towards, humans will have AIs doing most or all practical jobs. As a result, humans will have more time for intellectual, social, aesthetic and cultural pursuits. Humans might also have the possibility to go beyond the legacy human condition and merge their minds into a the cloud, seeded by decentralized AI networks such as SingularityNET. It sounds science fictional, but then the Internet, self-driving cars, CRISPR gene modification and space flight would have sounded incredibly science fictional to my great grandparents. Science and technology are bringing us to amazing new places. But if we want AI and AGI to bring us to good places instead of bad, we need to have AI developed in a democratic and decentralized way “by, for and of the people” rather than oligopolized by a small number of governments and megacorporations with narrow goals.

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