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Despite mounting evidence of enterprise success, some have declared that artificial intelligence is “more hype than reality.” We’ve been down this road before with new technologies such as cloud computing, social media and digital transformation; it makes sense why people might be dubious when you consider AI setbacks that have cost some companies millions of dollars.
Blockchain is experiencing a similar phenomenon. In a 2018 survey by Deloitte, over 70% of respondents saw a need for the technology in their businesses, but still around 40% felt it was “overhyped.”
In the past few years, I have founded four companies in the AI space (and exited one). It’s not my experience with the technology, but my experience deploying it with customers that gives me extraordinary confidence in using the two together. I actually don’t think we have enough hype for AI or blockchain. In fact, I believe the combination is one made in heaven.
When cloud computing hit a fever pitch, critics bemoaned the privacy and security risks that came with it, but eventually, we had “hybrid cloud.”
The idea was simple: Put your least sensitive data on public clouds, and put your most sensitive data on private clouds. Problem solved. That’s all it took for Amazon Web Services to become an extremely successful enterprise technology venture; AWS now “controls around 45% of the world’s cloud-computing capacity,” according to The Guardian. Over time, the tech sector developed security solutions that addressed the weaknesses of the public cloud, and many businesses made the leap entirely.
Now consider AI. We hear similar objections surrounding privacy, security and cybercrime.
Yet, I believe AI has something cloud computing never did: complementary technology that directly addresses its risks. Blockchain (or more accurately, distributed ledger technologies) offers a level of control and privacy that exceeds other trust-based systems.
With DLT, AI training data, model updates and uses can be tracked and attributed to specific identities at a specific moment in time. All this information is encrypted to protect the parties involved and can be accessed (but notably, not changed) in the event an audit is needed.
Enter not hybrid cloud, but “hybrid infrastructure.”
This time around, I believe AI teams and technologies can partner with DLT platforms and solution providers that can check the privacy and security boxes on an enterprise buyer’s shopping list.
How To Manage Your AI And Blockchain Concerns
Imagine if we had a platform for next-generation security available in the early days of hybrid cloud. My top recommendation to companies grappling with AI security concerns is to look to the future, not the past, for a better solution.
Insofar as AI runs on data, blockchain offers the most robust answer to data security we’ve ever seen. With blockchain-powered decentralization, AI no longer represents a centralized point at which critical and sensitive data can be targeted by hackers. Even some cybersecurity companies have adopted the technology.
Of course, there are aspects of the blockchain community that are still the Wild West. If you’re evaluating vendors for blockchain solutions, my advice is consistent with how you should buy almost any other technology.
First, buy from people who are selling solutions to your business problems, not lists of features, bells and whistles. Second, talk to their reference customers. In the case of blockchain, it’s still early, so you might need to talk to pilot customers and partners who are still at the proof-of-concept phase, but that’s OK. At this point, you just need to validate the vendor has the expertise and motivation to succeed with your project. Find out if the vendor is well-staffed, customer-driven and honest about when they don’t have all the answers. In my experience, if you can verify those three criteria, you’re in business.
I believe if you want to secure the data that fuels your AI-powered applications, you can’t wait for your IT department to build out its blockchain competency. A growing number of options for plug-and-play decentralization are a near-term solution that will propel your AI strategy ahead of your competitors.
Still scared to dip your toes in the water? There are many companies that validate the hype, and I believe they will play a critical role in the next five to 10 years of your AI strategy. Once you meet the good ones, blockchain never looks the same again.
Evolve Or Die
Soon, I believe there will be no excuse for businesses that have ignored the hype around AI and blockchain. Moreover, hybrid infrastructures that manifest the benefits of different stacks and protocols while minimizing their weaknesses are here to stay.
I’m as much of a contrarian as anyone, so I understand the appeal of bucking the trend, but these changes happen fast, even if you can’t feel them. Remember the Earth spins at roughly 1,000 miles per hour. Do you want to wake up in five years and realize you are a flat earther in the middle of your very last board meeting? I didn’t think so.
January 24, 2019 at 08:48AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs