My article in the International Business Times…

Blockchain bots: Why we need a decentralised and open AI future

Nathan Shedroff is Executive Director at Seed Vault Ltd

  • By Nathan Shedroff

Today, if you want to engage with Artificial Intelligence your options are limited. You might have access to Amazon’s Alexa or perhaps a bot delivered through Facebook Messenger. What’s almost certain is that you’ll be talking or chatting with one of the five Internet giants and their AI systems behind the scenes. This isn’t all bad, as those companies have designed some powerful systems that will make our lives considerably easier and arguably more interesting. But I’m worried. Seriously worried.

We saw this same path trodden with social media and web 2.0, where we happily signed over rights to our data without receiving anything beyond the digital products in return. This deal has created the world’s most valuable companies in Google and Facebook with a typical Facebook user’s data representing approximately $300 a month in advertising revenue. Just consider that for a moment. $300 a month is akin to the money a typical British family spends on overseas travel every year. In fact, the Office for National Statistics finds the average UK household spends somewhere in the region of £2,800 annually on overseas travel.

I think this situation is wrong and we mustn’t repeat it with the next phase of the internet. In a future where chat and conversational bots provide the interface to highly valuable AI systems, there’s a host of new data up for grabs. A ‘multimodal’ conversational bot receives data from our voices, our body language and our emotions. Around 200 new data points can be collected, analysed and potentially used commercially – that’s why I’m working to build an Open AI future. One where AI and the interfaces that enable it are accessible to more companies, and one where we deliver an equitable exchange with users, where we’re rewarded for the data we provide and can manage our privacy.

Enter the Seed Vault Foundation

To achieve this vision of the future, I’m creating Seed Vault Ltd. to govern an Open Source approach to building the future interfaces to computing. By the way, I do expect there to be millions of bots serving very specific uses in the years ahead in customer services, wellness and healthcare, and even performing secure financial transactions, for example. Perhaps even billions.

To accomplish this, I’ve partnered with Botanic Technologies Inc., a company that has been building multimodal bots for industries including healthcare, finance, education, government, retail, entertainment and technology. This partnership opens the gateway to put the power back into the user’s hands by giving them a platform that connects AI to these bots through a string of APIs. They own over 11 highly valuable bot patents, including a ‘voice to blockchain’ patent – in short, they have the ingredients for developers and companies to quickly and easily build robust world-class AI bots.

With Seed Vault Ltd. any developer can take the open bot framework and construct their own avatar, personality or bot and make it available to users and the wider community. Other companies or developers can then license that bot for their own use and receive SEED tokens in exchange – our own unique utility token that powers the Seed Vault micro-economy. We fully intend to decentralize AI, putting bots in the hands of more developers, companies and ultimately individual users.

Similarly, users will be able to find valuable bots via the Seed Vault app, and if they choose to engage they can do so in private mode where they transmit no data back to the bot. If they are comfortable sharing data then they are rewarded with SEED tokens, which can be used as a utility within the system to access premium bots, for example. It’s a circular economic design that has real longevity. Most importantly, Seed Vault has been established as a non-profit and in such a way that it can never be acquired by one of the big players.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the blockchain community for having laid the foundations that make such a vision possible. We’ve been able to build our SEED network on the Ethereum network today, but we’ll soon be up and running with our own distributed ledger that underpins Seed Vault, too.

The convergence of AI and blockchain is absolutely necessary. it means that bots and their creators can be held accountable. By logging details on a public blockchain for all to see we can authenticate bots and store their interactions giving users vital confidence and trust, something that’s missing today. If this sounds like a future you’d like to be involved with, we encourage you to join us.