Some thoughts on Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence

There is a concept dubbed ‘suspension of disbelief’, which means that any work of art like a movie, a book, or a comic, incorporates some circumstances that the audience automatically perceives as true, whatever stupid they might be, as long as they are a basic premise.

It also means that any other stupid thing not related to the basic premise becomes evident. As an example, no one was really surprised with an alien from a far and exploded planet, who looks like a handsome human being, but is also capable of flying and shooting laser beams from his eyes. However, the fact that he is so incredibly lazy that he disguises himself by taking his glasses off, and that everyone buys it, looks downright ridiculous. A robot from the future or an ancient immortal Scotsman, both of whom successfully get older, go the same way.

It happens because human consciousness is inclusive, thus perceiving any fact only through a link with an earlier fact. Any new information contradicting the established one will be considered with some doubt. This simple mechanism is the basis for critical thinking. It originates from an evolutionary need. Most likely, the specimen who believed something like “no, I most certainly won’t hammer your head with this tree as soon as you look away” or jumped from a cliff hoping to fly away didn’t leave any genetic material behind. Critical thinking, however, can fail, just like anything else. In that case, a person becomes overconfident, or, on the contrary, develops inferiority complex.

There is a technological counterpart of critical thinking, which is blockchain. Philosophically speaking, it’s based on the similar principle: it accounts the entire preceding chain of events to avoid double spending. This property is evidently efficient for transactions of different kinds; however, its potential is way higher, as in fact it’s a nearly ready self-teaching mechanism for artificial intelligence.

A natural intelligence is very prone to failing at the same points, so the ability to cross-check everything and make sure nothing like that had happened earlier, is pretty useful. The very process runs so fast in your head you can’t consciously detect it. This concept is the basis of conditional reflexes. In fact, any person has a blockchain in their head.

However, things are way more complex. The natural blockchain can make mistakes. In order to demonstrate this mean feature, let’s recall a good old math problem. Let’s say a bottle of wine and a corkscrew together cost $10.50. We know that the bottle’s price is $10 higher than the corkscrew’s. Now, how much is the corkscrew?

If your first thought resembles stage name of a hip hop artist 50 Cent, then your inner blockchain has just failed. If you look at the problem a bit closer you will note that $10.50 is the price for both the bottle and the corkscrew. If the corkscrew was worth $0.50, the bottle would cost $10.50, thus making the overall cost $11. So the correct answer here is a quarter. This mistake was made by 60% of MIT students, so if you answered ’50 cent’, don’t worry and apply there asap.

Such glitches occur to humane blockchain in situations way more important than a second grade math problem. The glitch itself uses two effects: the effect of resemblance (you see the numbers 10 and 50 all the time, and it confuses your consciousness), and the effect of so-called fast cognitive systems, who is responsible for reflexes. It was the system that had failed you: its analytic view was clouded by repeated numbers that are so easy to count in your head.

Furthermore, hadn’t I told you that the answer was wrong, some of you would have never known that their solution to the stupid problem was so wrong. However, there also is a slow cognitive system, which helped you see where you made the mistake. The slow system is an insurance add-in of the fast one. Its structure is way more complicated; it requires more energy to operate; and it’s incapable of any fast reaction. However, its basic principle is the same: using the available data to run analysis. Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky studied both system, and the former even won a Nobel Prize in economy. Seriously.

Blockchain operates similar to the fast cognitive system: in its world, only information traced back to the genesis block matters. In its heart, blockchain is an isolated system. The isolation is the main reason separating the technology from artificial intelligence. Blockchain lacks any analog of the slow cognitive system to insure it from mistakes when the functionality goes beyond money transactions.

In finance world, the worst thing is theft or double spending, so the fast cognitive system definitely can suffice. However, when it comes to analyzing data located on a higher level (for instance, when you touch something, the object’s form, texture, temperature, aggregate state and other parameters are encoded in electric signals far more complex than any binary), it becomes obvious that we’ll need a more comprehensive analytic system.

If it doesn’t happen, in ten to twenty years you’d easily chat with an andorid about electric sheep, but it will never share its opinion on a new metamodernist epic ‘Harry Potter and the 50 Shades’ or provide you with a well-justified market analytics.

by Jenny Aysgarth