AI plus blockchain is more than a meeting of buzzwords, we hope

AI blockchain
Image credit: Kiselev Andrey Valerevich /

When you spot an article that has AI and blockchain in the title your reaction is to think, ‘why not add 5G, IoT and smart city and you have a full house’.

Yet when you read on, you realise that the two technologies – both on the edge of acceptability – are very different and very complementary.

Blockchain is decentralised and essentially sets anything that looks like a transaction in stone.

AI allows things (at the moment mundane ones) to happen faster and more accurately than ever before.

One of things that would freak climate change activists to their roots is how much energy blockchains consume. The computing power needed is enormous – one transaction can burn as much energy as a house for a week.

So, enter AI to sort out all those computations and you potentially reduce the amount of power by a very significant amount.

All of which sounds sunny and great and game changing.

And then you think, the problem, or at least the problem that cynical old journalists have (other journalists are available) is that it is all a bit new. Not exactly tried and tested as the risk averse among us would like.

It is not just AI or blockchain or [insert name of new technology] paranoia. We recently learned that a cloud outage can disrupt security systems. We know (only too well) that security issues around 5G are at the top of Government agendas, worldwide (too many links to add).

And rightly so (see the Special Report here).

Like technology, new partnerships are forming and reforming around us as we speak. Apple looks like it is buying a bit of Intel, its modem business. Fedex is ditching its domestic contract with Amazon, Bill Gates is funding a chip start-up that uses light to turbocharge AI.

As the world seems to go from reasonable common sense and globalisation to paranoia and nationalism, companies seem to be going from strategic to tactical (although many cover this up by talking about their ‘three month’ strategy).

All of this might end in tears or might end in a triumphant breakthrough into sunny uplands of low energy consumption and peaceful, prosperous partnerships.

But, boy, for the moment it feels a lot like panic and tactical experimentation. As a very senior and very clever man who worked for IBM once said, ‘our toes are dangling over the edge of a very uncertain future’.

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