I was listening to an excellent podcast from the team over at A16Z about the intersection of AI and crypto. I initially thought it would be a buzzword mashup session, but was pleasantly surprised by the restraint shown in staying away from most of the obvious memes that can come up in the space.
One section in the discussion jumped out at me, in which there was a discussion about how crypto and AI are, in some ways, opposing forces.
There was that famous, I think, 2018 line from Peter Thiel that AI is communist and crypto is libertarian....
AI is a sustaining innovation in that it reinforces the business models of existing technology companies because it helps them make top-down decisions. The best example of this would be Google being able to decide exactly what ad to display for each of their users across billions of users and billions of page views. On the other hand, crypto is actually a fundamentally disruptive innovation in that it has a business model that's fundamentally at odds with the business models of big tech companies. As a result, it's a movement that is spearheaded by rebels, by the fringes, as opposed to being led by the incumbents. Another point is that AI will probably relate and interplay a lot with all the trends towards privacy because AI, as a technology, has built-in incentives that move us towards less individual privacy. This is because companies will want access to all of our data, and AI models that are trained on more and more data will become more and more effective.
It's an interesting thought experiment to work through how these equally novel innovations might, at some point, be at a crossroads as power centralises on one side (AI in the hands of the FANGOS — including OpenAI as the "O") and new tools that allow people to untether from the State on the other.
I, for one, take the view that the centralisation of power in a few tech companies will only become a more hot-button topic, especially as we see AI permeate more of our daily lives. In fact, as a reaction, I think we see the heat come off decentralisation technology as people see it as the 'capitalist' antidote to an AI-driven world. Who knows it might even be the catalyst for the next bull run.
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