Back in the ’70s a young Micheal Jackson sang “A B C, easy as one two three”; half a century later this acronym is used to indicate the three technologies that represent the foundations of innovation: AI (Artificial Intelligence), Blockchain and Cloud.
“A” like Artificial Intelligence
By “Artificial Intelligence” we mean, to paraphrase John McCarthy (term coiner), “the science and engineering that makes a machine intelligent”, or all those methods and algorithms designed to recreate human intelligence within a computer. In a more modern key, artificial intelligence can be defined as the area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work, “think” and react as human beings. To carry out such operations a computer must have a lot of information related to our world: objects, categories, properties and the relationships between them.
The core component of artificial intelligence is machine learning, that allows computers to learn without any kind of human supervision. But what does learning mean in this case? It could be summarized with the identification of certain patterns given an input data stream, but obviously it is only a trivial reduction.
In reality, we must take in consideration the most complex concepts of classification and numerical regression, that act as load-bearing columns in the learning and functioning processes of an “intelligent machine”:
- The classification determines the category(s) to which any piece of data belongs;
- The regression deals instead with discovering the functions that allow the generation of adequate outputs based on the series of inputs that are provided.
Obviously these concepts are closely connected with the mathematical analysis of learning algorithms, whose implementation and performance study is entrusted to the branch of theoretical computer science defined as “computational learning theory“.
“B” like Blockchain
It is a distributed peer-to-peer ledger system, which redefines the concept of DLT (distributed ledger technology) through the organization of data in “sequentially-chained” blocks. A distributed peer-to-peer is nothing more than a system formed by a network of single computers (called “nodes”) that share their own resources, such as computational power or memory, without a central control entity (or server).
The absence of a central and coordinating subject is the main feature of this system, which makes all the nodes of equal importance; not a revolution if you think of technologies used for years and based on file sharing like Torrent or Emule: the novelty is to be found in the distribution of ledgers (and not just files).
Therefore, within the Blockchain there is no main register to refer to, but there is a network of registers containing the same data and the same information. In this perspective, a central authority performs exactly the same task as the Blockchain; a system that not only does not make mistakes, but in which data is not lost or modified incorrectly and no one can access information for which it is not authorized.
“C” like Cloud
The Cloud, or rather “cloud computing“, is a technology that allows 24/7 usage of software and hardware resources through one or more remote servers. The benefits of this technology can be summarized in the following list (not in order of importance):
- Reduction of IT costs related to the purchase, management and maintenance of systems;
- Ability to scale up or down based on the resources actually used;
- Efficiency in the public release of platforms.
Cloud computing is one of the main symbols of the digital transformation that many companies are following through the provision or exploitation of three different types of services:
- SaaS (Software as a Service) – The services of this type can be used by the end user via an Internet connection and a browser, which consequently makes them usable by any device with these characteristics;
- PaaS (Platform as a Service) – The services of this type are found, in the so-called “cloud pyramid“, between the SaaS layer and the infrastructural layer (IaaS – which we will see in the next point). The providers of this service generally prepare the remote development environment on which the developers can create their own SaaS services;
- IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) – The services of this type are provided by the “cloud providers”, which offer a virtual hardware (in the form of CPU, RAM, storage and network cards) by removing any kind of burden for the user of physical hardware management.
“A B C, (not) easy as one two three”
Companies up to now have implemented projects focusing vertically on only one of these technologies, not taking into consideration the possible interdependence of these technologies and, consequently, a holistic approach to the implementation of the ABC of innovation.
The interaction between “emerging” technologies, such as Blockchain, and “mature” technologies, such as the AI and the Cloud, is not really an “easy” process (as the King of Pop sang): this complex integration has the task of removing the control of the human being and delivering it to one or more artificial intelligences. The concept of AI DAOs (“AI-driven Decentralized Autonomous Organizations”) is born from all this.
Before focusing on the important role that AI can play in this area, it is appropriate to take a step back and focus on the very concept of DAO, that is an organization represented by the rules set out in a Smart Contract and that, consequently, uses a blockchain to keep track of how these digital contracts are executed. Another definition instead describes a DAO as an organization capable of living in an autonomous and decentralized way, based on functions designed to make decisions without the need for such an organization to grow, be profitable or “physically exist”. Some examples of DAO are to be found in “The DAO company” or “Terra0“.
Consequently a DAO brings a substantial reduction (if not total elimination) of the bureaucracy in favor of rules defined in a Smart Contract and the possibility for investors or stakeholders to participate in company decisions in a transparent manner, if they possess any tokens related to DAO (its “shares”).
What role can be attributed to the AI in all this? By exploiting all the data available in the Blockchain, the founding base of the DAO, the artificial intelligence would be able to make decisions like a CEO; furthermore, we could develop different AI’s, each with a specific sector (economic, human resources, etc.) in order to better manage the information coming from the ledger; and the role of the Cloud? Although these DAOs do not exist as physical organizations they need their own space to live in – space that can be found there.
Although at first glance it seems that this integration only brings advantages to the plate, in reality there are some problems that must be taken into consideration. Leaving aside any sterile ideological polemics (which for example see in contrast the AI, conceived as an automated and centralized entity, and the Blockchain, the only true source of decentralization and disintermediation), the main obstacle to face is the legislative one:
- How can you make an automated and centralized organization “GDPR-compliant”?
- How will the DAOs justify their decisions within a possible consortium, if necessary?
- Taking the utopian case of a completely decentralized world without any regulation, is there a way to guarantee the effects of DAOs on our current social structures?
- Since these organizations will be decentralized and located in different places on the planet, which jurisdiction should they refer to?
- Although they are basically a software that self-governs itself, what may be the legal status to be attributed to it?
- How far does the responsibility of a DAO extend and when a “fault” can be attributed to the creators under any form?
As we can see, this holistic approach of the ABC represents a virgin territory where it is possible to do technological experimentation and business innovation, on which the legislative eye oversees, deciding to evolve accordingly or to put the brakes on the development of such interaction.