Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence: Driving the Fourth Industrial Revolution

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The Fourth Industrial Revolution, as an expression, was originally introduced by Klaus Schwab, the World Economic Forum’s Executive Chairman. He used it in a 2015 article published in Foreign Affairs. Mastering the Fourth Industrial Revolution became the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting theme a few years ago.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution describes the fundamental changes influencing in the way we work, relate, and live with one another. It is based on the extraordinary technological advances that are merging the digital world with our business and social interactions. The speed and depth of the 4th revolution is forcing business leaders to rethink how organizations create value. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about using converging technologies to make computer technology more efficient, and more user-friendly.

Two major technologies causing radical shifts in the business world are artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain. Though each technology is quite complex and has its own ideals to fulfill, merging the two has great potential for providing new solutions for security and decision-making issues.

A blockchain is a distributed database that is shared by all members of a distributed network and allows transaction data to be easily recorded and audited without being altered or manipulated. AI, on the other hand, focuses on creating intelligent machines that can work and respond with a fair amount of flexibility.

Merging the two is helping to prompt the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

Computers have, historically, been very fast, but not terribly flexible. Without exact instructions on how to perform a task, a computer cannot accomplish it. Because blockchain technology uses a “brute force” approach to verify transactions – basically trying combinations of characters until the one that fits is found – AI could be very useful in making blockchain more efficient. Artificial Intelligence offers an alternative to the brute force approach, allowing tasks to be handled in a more thoughtful, intelligent, streamlined way.

According to Daniel Riedel, CEO of New Context, a consulting business focused on lean security:

“The true wonder of the fourth industrial revolution won’t be the data produced; it will be intelligent machines’ capacity to analyze those data and communicate their findings within a network of similarly intelligent machines. Then, each connected machine will act, altering its processes to be more efficient and communicating those changes back to its network.”

Blockchains

Though blockchains are currently predominantly associated with cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, the blockchain technology can be used successfully in a variety of areas. Blockchain is useful for different organizations wanting to communicate and cooperate. It offers transparency and has the potential to reduce legal disputes. Blockchain technology can be used to create a transparent, permanent, public record of transactions and activities.

A blockchain is an evolving list of records, referred to as blocks, which are linked using cryptography. This makes it difficult to alter the data. New uses for blockchain are constantly being discovered. For example, by decentralizing a patient’s health history and tracking their pharmaceuticals, blockchain is becoming a valuable tool for healthcare, revolutionizing the industry worldwide.

Individual blocks contain the cryptographic hash from the previous block, plus transaction data and a timestamp. Blockchains, by design, resist modifications to their existing data without the network’s consensus via their cryptographic hash. The blocks come with a header that includes metadata. Within a blockchain, as the number of participants and blocks grow, it becomes more and more difficult to modify the stored data. While blockchain has great potential for providing “unaltered information,” it does come with scalability and design issues and lacks a clear central authority.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence is a form of intelligence used by computers, as compared to the natural intelligence expressed by humans. The long-term goal of artificial intelligence researchers is a computer that offers general intelligence, mimicking the human mind by learning and problem solving.

AI learns and adapts through the use of learning algorithms. An algorithm can learn how to play chess or learn what product to recommend to customers online, depending on how it is designed. An algorithm is a sequence of steps, or a process, that is followed to achieve a specific goal. (Food recipes are algorithms.)

Artificial intelligence can provide incredible accuracy, thanks to the recent development of deep neural networks and deep learning. An artificial neural network has a collection of interconnected nodes, which are called “artificial neurons.” These connections behave as synapses with an artificial neuron sending a signal to another artificial neuron. Deep learning has thousands of artificial neurons, which are designed with multiple processing layers. (A machine learning system generally works with only two layers.) Multiple processing layers provide a higher level of abstractions, improved classifications, and more accurate predictions. Deep learning is an excellent tool for training an AI for Big Data processing, voice recognition, and conversational skills.

Merging AI and Blockchain

In a fortunate twist of circumstances, artificial intelligence and blockchain work well together. By combining the two, organizations have the option to build and organize immense databases, strengthen cybersecurity protocols, and perform tasks far more quickly than humans. Blockchain provides security and AI provides flexibility.

The merging of blockchain and AI is a fairly new concept. As a new industry, it is wide open for creative thinkers to use in starting a new and useful business. Listed below are businesses that have effectively combined the two technologies with successful results:

  • An AI Doctor: Doc.ai offers an AI doctor to the general public. It performs deep learning computations on the edge of its network – or on mobile devices – to provide insights based on personal medical data. After users provide Doc.ai with access to their health records, data from wearable devices, and access to social media accounts, artificial intelligence is used to process the information, drawing inferences from the accumulated data. When relevant, the user will be asked for additional information by the AI (vaccinations, medications, etc.)
  • Big Data Processing: Bitfury, a blockchain technology business, recently added an artificial intelligence division with the goal of processing the world’s vast amounts of data and gaining value from it. Theoretically, the use of blockchain will make their information more accurate, but accuracy at the source is also necessary.
  • Supply Chain Efficiency: Bext360 is using AI and blockchain to promote supply chain efficiency and transparency in the mineral, coffee, timber, and seafood industries. Their artificial intelligence system analyzes crops and then predicts growing patterns. The company’s AI measures the quality of coffee beans and predicts weather and growing patterns while the blockchain immutably records the farm where the beans originated and the exact specifications of a coffee shipment. It even acts as a payment ledger to ensure that all parties are paid quickly and fairly.
  • Audience Analytics: AlphaNetworks uses blockchain and artificial intelligence to improve audience analytics and viewer algorithms. Their combination of blockchain and AI supports the business’s “Proof-of-Engagement” tools. These tools trigger automatic payments to the content providers using the number of views and engagement times.  
  • Cyber Security: Cyware Labs incorporates AI and blockchain-based tools into its cyber security and threat intelligence solutions. Their Situational Awareness Platform provides tools for a suspicious incident report, mobile threats, and secured messaging. As a result, researchers can access an overview of mobile cybersecurity protocols in real time.    
  • Autonomous Vehicles: Hannah Systems is focused on bringing blockchain and AI to autonomous vehicles. The company has an AI controlled data exchange platform, an insights dashboard, a real-time mapping tool, and a blockchain system. One of their autonomous vehicles can absorb, interpret, and safely store data at high speeds.
  • Predicting the Future: Neureal is described as a prediction engine which combines blockchain, AI, and cloud technologies to predict anything from Google searches to stock market fluctuations. Their AI scans previous prediction successes to make future predictions. Its blockchain ledger will log each outcome, allowing the computer networks to pinpoint trends in correct predictions. Recently, Neureal stated it was working on predicting the exact paths of hurricanes.
  • Combating Fake News: Blackbird.aiuses its AI and blockchain to rate news content credibility. It combats “fake news” by using AI to classify content and file it, using credibility indicators which identify hate speech, misinformation, and satire. Their blockchain functions as a ledger that safely stores the verified content. Blackbird.ai has scanned thousands of news outlets for fake news since the 2016 presidential election.

Smart Cities and the Future of AI-Blockchain

Smart cities provide an ideal environment for maximizing the use of artificial intelligence combined with blockchain. The goal of smart cities is to provide efficient, intelligent services to their citizens and guests by offering such things as easy parking, lighting automatically turned off and heat turned down when not needed, and easy access to the internet.

One of the more obvious benefits of merging AI and blockchain in a smart city would be the ability to vote online with complete trust the votes could not be manipulated. Another is the use of AI to monitor security and city resources while blockchain records its decisions.

Ellen Hwang. the director of smart city and Municipal Innovation for City of Philadelphia, in describing the goals of a smart city, said:

“If we harness innovation and technology thoughtfully, they can help us support equity and build relationships with the city’s diverse community of residents. The conversation is not solely about engaging with startups and embedding them into city government (although that’s an interesting idea); it’s about looking at our processes and engagement and ensuring we are connecting our goals and projects with the neighborhoods that need innovation the most and have historically been left out. Co-creation and working alongside our residents is the ideal, but our bottom line is about inclusion, so that marginalized communities are at the forefront of what we do, not simply included as an afterthought.”

The merging of blockchain and AI is still wide open for new ideas and concepts. Though the combination of the two technologies has gained a fair amount of scholarly attention, new concepts that are focused on using this interesting combination are still rare. Combining the two technologies has the potential to produce services never before thought possible, providing a true industrial revolution.

Image used under license from Shutterstock.com

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