Big Ideas: “How blockchain and AI can help restore digital privacy” with Blockchain Expert Ken Bodnar
Our personal digital privacy is under attack. Not only does social media like Facebook sell your data/browsing information, but there are other privacy threats such as connected devices leaking your data (your Fitbit might disqualify you from health insurance) and there is the machine-learned inferred data (a retailer deducted that a teen was pregnant from her loyalty card). My software will usher in the era of Privacy Regained. It is called M.A.P.P or Machine-Assisted Personal Privacy. We know of Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin. It has changed mankind forever with cryptocurrency, but it can be much more. It is inherently trusted, secure, transparent, immutable, autonomous & disintermediates third parties. I’m coding a data-centric, semantic, non-linear Blockchain with advanced cryptography zero-knowledge proofs (zk-SNARKs). It will be the smart, secure, semantic data repository for an AI machine that will protect our data and secrets. The system will be our digital proxy for social media interaction, as well as financial transactions big and small. Because of cryptographic proofs and secure data, it becomes our digital doppelganger in the virtual world, that acts on our behalf without spilling our information. Trust will be the new currency of digital life and this system will create it and monetize it and Artificial Intelligence will guard it.
As a part of my series about “Ideas That Can Change the World in The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ken Bodnar. He started his tech career designing circuits for military systems, then became a technical architect for the Canadian government, and finally transitioned to a global practitioner of emergent technologies. He is considered a Blockchain influencer on LinkedIn.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I took computer science in high school. It whetted my appetite for science and technology. We were able to mainframe a computer in the city, which sparked a passion in me for the digital world. After a dalliance with a medical career in university, I became fascinated with technology in all aspects. My first job was designing electronic circuits for a major military systems manufacturer. I loved the advanced technology that our company created. My first software job after that was with a company that created air traffic control software –again rather advanced, interesting stuff. I then bounced around from a global telecom to an electronics research company before becoming a technical architect for the Canadian government. I love creating enterprise systems. I created the system for a first all-inclusive tourist package for a Caribbean Island (Club Grand Bahama), a payment system for the jitneys on New Providence island, and a cash card for the unbanked in the archipelago. I continued my formal education in emergent technology with Blockchain, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things. Since Blockchain will eventually become as important to digital life as the internet, I decided to concentrate on Blockchain mixed with Artificial Intelligence in a consulting career.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
Certainly. Formula One, the governing body of the most exciting motor racing in the world put out a Connectivity Challenge in conjunction with the Mercedes Racing Team in 2017. I won the challenge. I was flown to Dubai and Abu Dhabi for the final race of the season. I signed a non-disclosure agreement and got right into the Mercedes garage where there was a complete tutorial and question/answer session on the technology of the car and the technology behind F1, including broadcast and network tech. We were guests at the Paddock Club, met Lewis Hamilton, the famed Mercedes driver and got the Formula One VIP treatment. It was the thrill of a lifetime, including the visit to exotic Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Can you tell us about your “Idea That Can Change the World”?
Our personal digital privacy is under attack. Not only does social media like Facebook sell your data/browsing information, but there are other privacy threats such as connected devices leaking your data (your Fitbit might disqualify you from health insurance) and there is the machine-learned inferred data (a retailer deducted that a teen was pregnant from her loyalty card). My software will usher in the era of Privacy Regained. It is called M.A.P.P or Machine-Assisted Personal Privacy.
We know of Blockchain, the technology behind Bitcoin. It has changed mankind forever with cryptocurrency, but it can be much more. It is inherently trusted, secure, transparent, immutable, autonomous & disintermediates third parties.
I’m coding a data-centric, semantic, non-linear Blockchain with advanced cryptography zero-knowledge proofs (zk-SNARKs). It will be the smart, secure, semantic data repository for an AI machine that will protect our data and secrets. The system will be our digital proxy for social media interaction, as well as financial transactions big and small. Because of cryptographic proofs and secure data, it becomes our digital doppelganger in the virtual world, that acts on our behalf without spilling our information.
Trust will be the new currency of digital life and this system will create it and monetize it and Artificial Intelligence will guard it.
How do you think this will change the world?
This will usher in a New Age of Digital Data Privacy by creating the toolset to enable it.
There is no killer application of Blockchain like Facebook, Google, or Instagram yet, in spite of all of the hype. This is the advancement that will enable such a killer app for privacy.
We saw the changes that cryptocurrency like Bitcoin and the underlying technology of Blockchain wrought upon society. Those were just precursors. Just like the Internet was used for circulating documents among a few sites when it first went public, no one at the time could see the huge paradigm shifts in social interactions that evolved from the primordial beginnings of the Internet. We are at the same stage with Blockchain. What my idea does, is that it takes the basic valuable attributes of Blockchain (distributed, immutable, transparent, outage resistant, secure) and adds intelligence to the mix.
There is no reason that Blockchain should be a linear chain because if it is a neural graph network, there are very efficient mathematical algorithms to search it and process the data quickly. It allows for a multi-specialty data/ledger/asset store. It should be a neural network just like biological systems for efficiency. It should be semantic — meaning that it knows data and metadata about itself. It should be intelligent.
This will allow a digital incarnation that will allow us to fully digitally interact with each other without wittingly and unwittingly violating our personal data privacy. The pendulum has swung too far in digital life with almost total violation of our data, our secrets, and information about us that can be detrimental if in the public domain. The EU, among other jurisdictions, has enacted privacy laws, but what if it didn’t have to? What if we took back our Privacy with new digital tools using emergent technology? What if we ushered in a new age of privacy and potentially unhackable data stores that made life easier, simpler and more secure? I am making tools to allow this to happen.
There are significant unintended consequences of such a tool. New technology can be used for good as well as bad. This platform tool, with its enhanced privacy, may enable activities such as money laundering, terrorist activities and illegal tax haven activities. Those are also real possibilities with Bitcoin and the current spate of cryptocurrencies now in play. Think of the Silk Road website that sold drugs and guns. However, this platform tools offers a way to mitigate those risks with enhanced eDId — electronic digital Identity verification using the advanced cryptographic mechanisms of zk-SNARKs and other zero knowledge proofs.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?
There was a tipping point that led me to this idea. I was presenting Blockchain at ArmourExpo 2017 — a cybersecurity conference in the Cayman Islands. There were two outstanding speakers. One of them was the noted American economist Dr. Richard Rahn who accurately predicted the rise of cryptocurrency back in 1999! This is a phenomenal feat because predicting the future is really tough. Dr. Rahn’s book is still available on Amazon and it is called “The End of Money And The Struggle For Financial Privacy”. Dr. Rahn’s second major thesis after personal digital money was financial privacy.
The second notable speaker was Arthur Keleti, a Hungarian cybersecurity expert. He has written a book as well called “The Imperfect Secret”. The thesis of his book is that the only way to preserve personal privacy is to hand it over to artificial intelligence. But that was the extent of his idea. He offered no practical solutions.
The Eureka moment came for me by degrees. I thought that Blockchains, by their very nature, could help. But the current offerings were primitive — like Black & White TV in early days of television. I figured that I could write a better Blockchain. And while I was at it, why should it be one large unwieldy chain? That’s when the ideal of a neural Blockchain sprung itself on me. Then if it had branches, those branches should be clustered around similar data. There was a failed effort for Semantic Web (an idea way before its time) but the way it works with machines knowing about the data, fits in here, so I added it in. And since it was semantic in nature, an artificial intelligence engine was a natural fit.
What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?
I need to finish coding the platform and deploy it. But this platform itself is not the end goal. It is a tool. It needs an adoption for an application in the fintech, ecommerce or social media milieu. The success of it there, will the thin edge of the wedge for widespread adoption. The early adopters will use this for the good of the world. I am in talks with a group near Washington DC who want to create a Bone Marrow Transplant/Genomics Registry with the ambitious goal of a billion people on the registry and this would make the perfect vehicle for that effort.
What are your “3–5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.
1) Don’t pooh-pooh new tech when it is young and cheap. The early adopter gets the worm. I would be retired rich if I bought Bitcoin earlier than I did and liquidated it when I did.
2) There is a definable cycle to technology introduction. When the elderly and children start to get on the bandwagon, and every new play is a me-too, it’s time to stop investing in it. We saw this with the first tech boom, the domain name speculation, the cryptocurrency-Bitcoin craze and the ICO (Initial Coin Offerings).
3) Don’t hang onto ideas too long if they are not serving you well. I worked on a few failed startups that didn’t gain traction. And I held on too long to these losing propositions. Most of them involved solving problems that didn’t need solving or not consulting customers and users before laying down software code solutions.
4) Be statistically and probability aware. This is especially difficult because we have biases to overcome depending on how the situation is framed. One example that comes to mind is with a mobile eCommerce app that I wrote. After 100 downloads, it was barely used to transact business. I figured that it would improve after 1000 downloads. In fact, the percentage remained the same.
The future of work is a common theme. What can one do to “future proof” their career?
One can future-proof their career with a twofold plan. The first is to be aware and identify emergent trends that will affect your work. The second is to educate yourself with continuous learning and adopt those trends into your career path.
Based on the future trends in your industry, if you had a million dollars, what would you invest in?
Myself. I would create a research skunkworks to disruptively apply emergent tech for the good of all people — especially the under-privileged and the under-served.
Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?
1) You are never too old to learn stuff
2) You won’t win or succeed at anything if you don’t try.
3) Failure is not fatal. It is part of the success process.
4) Surf the edges of experience. That is where the fun and fulfillment is.
Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?
I ask myself these questions every day:
1) What is the most important task that I should be doing right now?
2) Have I taken care of myself today (exercise, mental exercise, rest, nutrition)?
3) Am I on the path to achieving a larger goal?
4) When faced with a new situation, do I do contrarian thinking to discard mental laziness and bias? (I once that the internet was just a novelty when I first saw it in its primitive state)
Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
My project helps people achieve online data privacy in total confidence. It will usher in a new age of online data privacy. It will create vast repositories of useful personal data that cannot be misused. My project changes the internet paradigm by bringing trust into online anonymity to enable social interaction and ecommerce while maintaining privacy. I will do this with a meld of an innovative Blockchain, new zero-knowledge cryptography tools like zk-SNARKs and artificial intelligence. My tool could be the basis for a brand-new internet.
Blockchain has not achieved its potential yet, because of Form, Fit and Function Fixedness of its practitioners and its primitive state. It needs to be smart, useful, semantic and coupled to external referencing intelligent machines. Just like the primordial internet needed bandwidth, a browser and a markup language to make it into a social and commerce juggernaut in our lives, Blockchain needs the same revamp of its morphology. My paradigm does it. It adds intelligence, structure, availability and self-sorting data to bring about the bigger goal of Machine Assisted Personal Privacy — the intelligent digital online privacy guardian.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.
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About the Author:
Christina D. Warner is a healthcare marketer at Walgreens Boots Alliance. She is a Duke Business School alumnus and has innovated commercially for Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, Veniti (now Boston Scientific) and Goldman Sachs. Christina is a regular columnist for Authority Magazine and Thrive Global and has been quoted in many national publications. You can download her free ‘How To Get Into the C-Suite and More: top secrets from CEO’s, political figures, and best-selling authors. Connect with Christina at LinkedInor Twitter