The potential applications of blockchain are fascinating, and Melanie Swan’s book provides an excellent view of these. The part that I found particularly interesting is ‘buried’ on page 26 – the blockchain as a path to artificial intelligence. This happens through the increasing advancement of smart contracts on automation, autonomy and complexity parameters through an emergent form of AI that develops. Either by the introduction of non AI, non blockchain rule- based systems or by the implementation of programmatic ideas from AI research fields.

It led me to think of the development of AI in a Conway’s Game of Life manner – a zero player game that starts with an initial state and evolves based on the rules, and interactions with other entities within the system. In the recent past, I have come across several phenomena that are interesting especially when seen in this frame.

Facebook’s researchers taught bots how to negotiate using examples of actual human negotiations. What is even more interesting is that somewhere in between, the bots developed their own language for negotiation! Not really the global threat it was made out to be, but they managed to fool humans – people didn’t know they were interacting with a bot. It doesn’t require a huge leap to go from the ability to negotiate to the ability to manipulate. Voila! In an era when fake news thrives, it is not surprising that bots/AI are able to influence human behaviour. If I were an optimist, I’d say this isn’t so bad. A great example would be Woebot, which actually helps people manage mental health.

AI continues to learn using human interactions – human-human as well as human-bot. If you have had a lot of fun with Quick, Draw!, you have helped too. One could say that one of the last bastions of what makes humans special is art and creativity. Oh, well. Sure, I said, they can create, but can they feel anything from doing all this? Turns out, they can, and we’re helping them get there.

The idea that biology will soon be history doesn’t seem that farfetched anymore!


'The good news, Dave, is that the computer's passed the Turing test. The bad news is that you've failed.'