Author: John Souza
Ask 50 people in your industry about what the future holds, and you’ll likely get 50 different answers. But there is one area that virtually every futurist and visionary agrees on: robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain technology will drastically impact the way we live and work in the next decade.
Each one of these areas will bring sweeping change in fields from manufacturing to healthcare. But when they’re used together, each becomes even more powerful.
Robotics — the design, manufacturing, and use of robots — is already impacting our everyday lives in a number of ways. Robots are already used in applications as diverse as military service, self-driving vehicles, space exploration, agriculture, and automotive manufacturing. They’re especially popular in use scenarios where:
- standardization is key (assembly lines)
- human life is unsustainable or could be threatened (bomb detonators, deep-sea exploration)
- tasks are predictable and repetitive in nature (think burger-flipping robotic grill masters at your favorite fast food restaurant)
- precision is essential (neurosurgery)
According to a robotics market forecast from Tractica, unit sales of robotics is predicted to increase from $31 billion in 2016 to over $237 billion by 2022. “Most of this growth will be driven by non-industrial robots, which includes segments like consumer, enterprise, healthcare, military, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), and autonomous vehicles,” Tractica reports.
Outsource Your Thinking
Artificial Intelligence, or AI, refers to machines that imitate human cognitive functions, such as “learning” or “problem solving.”
Human speech recognition (“Siri, what will the weather be like today?”). Challenging our iPhone to game of chess. Taking Netflix’s advice as to what series you should binge-watch next since you loved “Vikings”. Many of the human-computer interactions we now take for granted were considered the stuff of science fiction just a decade or so ago.
The boundaries keep moving forward. Coming next: predictive customer service, enhanced customer recommendations, improved forecasting and sourcing, and “smart” vehicles.
Get a Piece of the Block
Blockchain — the technology underlying cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, ethereum, and Ripple — is predicted to disrupt virtually every industry. Its distributed ledger is theoretically hack-proof, immutable, and resistant to errors, with a transparency giving it an unprecedented level of trust by all parties.
Right now, organizations as diverse as IBM, Bank of America, Walmart, AirBnB, the Singapore government, and the Department of Defense are all exploring how they can exploit blockchain’s advantages to improve back-office efficiency, streamline markets, expand accessibility, leverage Big Data, and more.
Blockchain startup companies raised over $4 billion via Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) in 2017, reports the Wall Street Journal, a number which doesn’t include internal investments by enterprises, or funds raised via traditional mechanisms. According to Statista, the 2017 global blockchain technology market was predicted to reach $339.5 million U.S. dollars in size,
and is forecasted to grow to $2.3 billion U.S. dollars by 2021. Include cryptocurrencies in that estimate, and it could reach as high as $10 trillion in 15 years, RBC Capital Markets analyst Mitch Steves says.
Putting It All Together…
The synergy that occurs when these three formidable powers are combined is nothing short of intoxicating. When you combine the physical capabilities of robotics with the cognitive possibilities of AI, and then connect it via the blockchain, something incendiary occurs.
“Blockchain creates a symbiosis between humans, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics,” states Bitcoinist.com. Here are a few examples:
Decentralizing AI. One of the huge advantages of the blockchain is how it enables individuals to share and profit from their discoveries, securely and seamlessly. Hanson Robotics — the company behind groundbreaking robot Sophia — is now working on a cloud-based marketplace, built on the blockchain, called SingularityNET.
“It’s a decentralized, open market for AIs in the cloud so anyone who develops an AI can put it into the SingularityNET, wrap it in our cryptocurrency-based smart contract and then the AI they put there can help to serve the intelligence of robots like Sophia or any other robots or any software programs that need AI,” the company’s chief scientist, Ben Goertzel, told CNBC.
The result is a democratized marketplace, one accessible by public and private entities.
Creating a Better Robot Swarm
Drones are currently owned and deployed by the government, agriculturists, media companies, and more. And if one drone is useful, wouldn’t a swarm be exponentially better? That’s what MIT Media Lab research affiliate Eduardo Castello Ferrer thinks.
In robot swarms, each robot is programmed for decentralized action and autonomous decision making. The challenge becomes how to coordinate their efforts — something the blockchain can enable. “By combining peer-to-peer networks with cryptographic algorithms a group of agents can reach an agreement on a particular state of affairs and record that agreement without the need for a controlling authority,” writes Ferrer.
This leads to robotic swarms that are more secure, autonomous, flexible and even profitable. These intelligent, coordinated swarms could be used in applications from disaster-relief missions to precision agriculture/aquaculture.
Creating a Smart Airport
Airplane travel — especially internationally — is nothing short of a multiple-hour fiasco. Numerous check-ins, checkpoints, and approvals must take place before you get on your plane and before you arrive at your destination.
Hamad International Airport (HIA) in Doha, Qatar, is on a mission to streamline that process — with the assistance of the blockchain, AI, biometrics, and robotics.
HIA is embarking on plans to implement “seamless identity management” across all traveler touchpoints. Check in once, and then “your face becomes your passport,” HIA’s vice president of airport technology, Suhail Kadri, told FutureTravelExperience.com. As you move from check-in to security screening to boarding and immigration and beyond, your information is transmitted and coordinated to the through the blockchain to various stakeholder agencies.
The new system will “completely transform how you experience the airport today,” Kadri explains.
Filling the Gap
While AI and robotics are capable of an ever-growing assortment of complex tasks, there is always an end to what’s currently possible and to what a company can afford. And there’s always the concern of what will happen in case of potential failure.
That’s where Aitheon steps in.
Aitheon solutions include a number of blockchain applications, including access to freelance workers to help operate robots, as well as AI specialists to step in when AI or the robot fails. One service is Digibots — AI-based intelligent digital agents — to perform back-office drudgery such as accounting and automated payment systems.
Another is Mechbots, traditional mechanical robots like robotic arms that work with Digibots and human “pilots” via the Aitheon blockchain.
The company wants to democratize the robotic/AI marketplace by making it easier for individuals or organizations of any size to acquire robot/AI services, hire backup human specialists, or even sell customized robotic services.
“The idea of human/robot symbiosis is that both humans and robots have a place, and that place is together,” Aitheon founder and CEO Andrew Archer told Bitcoinist.net.
2018 will be the year when the triple-promise of robotics, AI, and blockchain will converge. Until now, we’ve begun to see these forces independently. Now we’ll not only see what’s possible when they’re combined, we’ll also see a whole new frontier opened up through the interaction of these emergent technologies.
John Souza is founder and CEO of Kingsland University — School of Blockchain, the world’s first accredited blockchain training program. Souza is driving conversations around education policy for skill and capacity building in emerging economies at the World Economic Forum, OECD and at conferences and summits around the world. Find out more about Kingsland’s leading-edge education at KingslandUniversity.com