Blockchain and AI: at the crossroads

TRIBUNE. For Marieke Flament, CEO of the Near Foundation, only web3, with the decentralisation it enables, can counterbalance the power of artificial intelligence.

If I had to list the biggest issues facing the world of technology today, and by extension society as a whole, I would pick out two major themes: the question of trust and fairness.

None of these two issues is new, but the need to address them has never been greater at a time when technology, as artificial intelligence shows, could quite quickly overtake us. We need to be aware of this, we are at a point where the technological choices we make can either enable us to solve the problems of trust and fairness, or lead us down a blind alley.

The reason I bring up the issue of trust and fairness in relation to blockchain and AI is that these two technologies have more potential than any other to help us create a more fair, equitable and open digital world. But only on the condition that they are used properly, which is not self-evident as recently demonstrated by the Future of Life Institute's open letter calling for AI development to be halted for 6 months or financial scandals like FTX.

There is no fatality. A technology is neither good nor bad. Its impact depends on how we, individuals, companies, societies and states, choose to use it. Well used the positive potential of blockchain and AI far outweighs their negative potential.

The interesting thing about AI and blockchain is that their positive impact depends on each other. AI can help us optimise everything from traffic conditions to medical procedures, automating processes that previously took a lot of human time. From this point of view, AI can help make the world a fairer and more open place by giving people access to knowledge, as well as resources and capabilities that are out of all proportion to what was previously possible.

But AI can also become a formidable tool of control, particularly if it is harnessed by large technology companies that rush to "optimise" the experiences of users who will spend ever more time on the platforms.

Used in this way, AI could set us on a path where its potential dangers could soon outweigh its benefits with a less egalitarian and less diverse world with AI treating all of society solely from a data perspective.

The experiences offered by AI are optimised for a person in a given context, not in its deep diversity. AI is undeniably deficient when it comes to uncertainty, emotion and empathy, which are nonetheless consubstantial with human life.

And that's where blockchain comes in. Even if web3 today covers several ideas, it above all carries that of a decentralisation of power in the hands of individuals who can connect directly to each other without going through the big technology companies.

The advantage of blockchain is that it allows trust to be restored in a universe where it is going to be increasingly difficult with disinformation to know what is true or false. Trust is essential for individuals and societies. Without trust, there can be no community. Blockchain can help solve this problem with a balance between the two technologies.

AI can offer everyone the ability to easily create code and applications. Blockchain, meanwhile, can provide the space for creativity, innovation and openness to ensure that AI does not remain solely in the hands of those who would use it for limited and selfish purposes.

By making the Web3 space more accessible to all through the power of AI, we can begin to create a pathway in which these new technologies can be at the service of the greatest number of people, creating a more accessible and diverse world built on trust and connection. It may be a bold vision, but it's one I truly believe we can and must achieve.

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