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Emerge Blog

How AI and Crypto Are Joining Forces

Late last year, the tech and business world watched in surprise as OpenAI's CEO was abruptly replaced. This incident reignited discussions on Artificial Intelligence (AI) governance, a topic that continues to be a major focus at events like the World Economic Forum. The OpenAI situation underscores the potential risks of centralized control over critical technologies.


This begs the question: how can we ensure AI development is accessible, fair, and transparent? Grayscale Research believes these concerns mirror the core principles of blockchain technology, and others in the industry seem to agree.


Sheila Warren of CCI suggests crypto will play a crucial role in keeping AI development in check. Venture capitalist Fred Wilson even argues that AI and crypto are two sides of the same coin, with web3 fostering trust in AI.


While many of these applications are still in their early stages, the market seems optimistic about their potential. According to Coingecko data, Artificial Intelligence was the hottest "crypto narrative" in 2023.


Further evidence comes from the FTSE Russell Grayscale Crypto Sectors indices, which showed select AI-related crypto assets outperforming the Utilities and Services sector, as well as the broader crypto market.


This report dives into the progress made at the intersection of AI and crypto across three key areas: verifying content authenticity, reducing model bias, and improving access and competition within AI development.


Verifying Content Authenticity: The spread of misinformation and bots is a major societal issue exacerbated by AI. This is particularly concerning as experts warn of a potential deepfake flood influencing the upcoming US presidential election. Public blockchains, with their inherent transparency and tamper-proof ledgers, offer a potential solution to combat this threat.



One initiative tackling this problem is Worldcoin, a crypto protocol co-founded by Sam Altman. Worldcoin aims to register everyone on the planet using biometric scans to distinguish humans from bots. This system is incentivized by a dedicated blockchain token. Since its launch just six months ago, Worldcoin has signed up nearly 3 million people worldwide. Additionally, they recently announced plans to raise $50 million in additional funding.


Another initiative is the Digital Content Provenance Record (DCPR) standard, pioneered by Arweave and Bundlr. This standard utilizes the Arweave blockchain to timestamp and verify digital content, providing reliable metadata to help users assess information trustworthiness.


Reducing Bias in AI Models: As AI models become more integrated into our daily lives, concerns regarding overdependence and inherent biases grow. Imagine an AI-powered chatbot influencing consumer choices or employment screenings biased by a candidate's demographics. This breakdown in trust can have significant consequences. Studies even show "AI detectors" might be biased against non-native English speakers.


Bittensor, a novel decentralized network, tackles AI bias by incentivizing diverse pre-trained models to compete for the best responses. Validators reward top performers while eliminating underperforming and biased models. By fostering an open and collaborative environment with a variety of models and datasets, Bittensor has the potential to advance AI development while mitigating bias.


While still under development, Bittensor has made initial progress with 32 subnetworks dedicated to specific tasks like chatbots, image generation, price prediction, and language translation. Interestingly, following the OpenAI leadership conflict, Bittensor and other leading AI-related crypto assets experienced a significant price increase. This could indicate the market's view of these assets as a potential counterbalance to the centralization risks posed by major AI companies.


Improving Access to AI Development and Increasing Competition: Another concern surrounding AI is the concentrated nature of its development. As AI models become more complex, the high costs associated with computing power and storage threaten to exclude many players, leaving development largely in the hands of tech giants with the resources to afford it. In the past year, the rising demand for AI and computing resources has led to limitations on GPU (specialized processors for AI development) availability from major providers, despite excess capacity.


Decentralized compute marketplaces like Akash and Render aim to address the inefficiency of underutilized GPU resources by connecting GPU owners with AI developers seeking computing power. This system allows individuals and organizations worldwide to monetize their idle resources while providing AI developers with flexible access. By eliminating intermediaries with profit motives and overhead costs, these blockchain-based networks can offer services at significantly lower rates (sometimes as low as 1/5th the cost through Akash compared to traditional providers).


For instance, a Columbia student recently faced difficulties acquiring access to compute resources through Amazon Web Services for his AI project. Instead, he was able to rent GPUs through Akash for as little as $1.10 per hour.

Several of these decentralized marketplaces have shown early signs of traction. Akash, for example, has grown to over 70 active GPU leases since launching GPU deployments in September. Notably, Render, a GPU marketplace for 3D image rendering, experienced a substantial uptick in usage in 2023.


Conclusion

Today, the majority of the progress in this intersection has occurred within the context of crypto protocols helping democratize and accelerate AI development via decentralized GPU marketplaces. Other opportunities could lie in areas such as:


  • Zero-knowledge proofs verifying the integrity of an AI model’s output and confirming that it was produced based on the datasets that it purports to be.

  • Crypto as payment rails for seamless automation and interaction with AI Agents.

  • AI-generated content in crypto gaming, and virtual beings as NFTs.


This synergy is still in its nascent stages, yet it shows promise of gathering momentum through 2024 and beyond, particularly if market participants continue to view these assets as a counterbalance against the future entrenchment of large centralized players like OpenAI.


Whether or not AI and crypto are intrinsically linked, these two rapidly evolving technologies have the potential to mutually support each other’s growth, both in scope of use cases and relevance to the broader public.


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