You need to pay attention to blockchain technology

Posted by kdow on May 14, 2017 3:59:52 PM

Other than AI, Blockchain is one of my most-favoured topics these days. My RSS feeds are lighting up with Blockchain information, news and tid-bits. And weirdly, AI & Blockchain occupy the same space in my brain. They’re both fascinating, both definitely the future, and both tickle my academic thirst for more understanding as well as my technologist thirst for more tinkering. I also reckon both technologies cross over in various departments.

Take, for example, Apple’s acquisition of Lattice Data for $200m. That price is a drop in the ocean for Apple, but it represents the latest in a string of high profile investments from companies into data processing, distribution of data and AI. All in one go! Lattice is a company that focuses on the unstructured, distributed and often forgotten world of “dark data”.

Dark data refers to all of the data in the ocean of data constructs that remain relatively unstructured. Most notably text, images and the like without meta data to identify what the text or image is. The ability for someone to bring meaning to all of that dark data would mean huge shifts in how we analyse data, statistics and modern behaviours. But it’s hard to do, which is why AI & distributed systems are the best bet right now. And that’s likely to be our digital future: humans making a mesh of nonsense while bots figure it out and give it meaning for other humans to analyse, understand & iterate with.

Blockchain is important here because in my mind it’s a fundamental and reasonably useful shift in how everything is stored & used in a modern world driven by a fear of the unknown (blockchain makes things more known), security concerns and infrastructure requirements. The most obvious & famous implementation of the blockchain technology is obviously cryptocurrencies, which have recently been doing very well as the global economic outlook improves in 2017. Just look at bitcoin & ethereum prices this year:

Most modern venture funds look at things like usage statistics & growth to drive pricing indexes, so looking at the basic stuff also shows positive growth in the general, public use of blockchain tech:

And there’s money to be made from this stuff. It’s not a bunch of fake currency floating around with no on benefitting from it, as seen by the transaction fee’s year-over-year. This kind of growth is absolutely insane:

My point here is that there’s a real business opportunity to drive innovation. And people are actually using the technology. Blockchain isn’t a ubiquitous phrase for netizens, but I predict it never will be. Much in the same way your average Buzzfeed reader or Instagrammer doesn’t know what TCP/IP or client-server architecture is, Blockchain is unlikely to become a huge common turn-of-phrase for people outside of the nerdosphere. Instead, I would predict that users simply use products on top of Blockchain, not knowing how or why these things work.

And that’s why it’s interesting to see huge growth in cryptocurrency. The more legitimate they become the scarier it becomes for banks, sure. But the more business being driven by cryptocurrency, the more legitimate everything around them becomes. It makes sense for banks to invest in crypto, but it also makes sense for the backbone of crypto to become more interesting to other types of business or user.

Same goes for AI. Siri, Alexa, Google Home and other personal assistants are making things more ubiquitous. Sure, they’re not necessarily built on the Blockchain, but the idea is that the common man/woman is using this stuff without caring about why it’s good or how it works. And the AI revolution is starting to see monetary traction, too:

Okay, there’s a bit of imagination needed to tie AI’s value to humans and the startup investment around companies with .ai, but that graph is going up-and-to-the-right in a dramatic way compared to 10 years ago.

Blockchain & AI funding is getting big. The US is seeing 50% more investment money going into Blockchain than the EU, but the EU is shifting quicker to more cutting-edge digital stuff. Hell, Dublin is becoming a bit of a hub for Blockchain & AI activity in the startup world.

Ireland & the Netherlands are taking big shares of Blockchain businesses & investment. No doubt because of the tax benefits of setting up shop here, but also there’s a lot of talent being pumped into the market thanks to years of technology companies being in Dublin & Amsterdam, as well as highly skilled graduates coming from a plethora of colleges. Brexit also benefits Dublin, with it being the only capital city that speaks English as a first language in the EU & eurozone!

But my point here is that Blockchain is a revolution that isn’t en route, it’s here. And it’s growing. And if, like me, you’re a bit of a technologist, you need to look into it. And I reckon Blockchain will have a harmonious relationship to AI as both becoming more ubiquitous.

Watch this space!