As you read this, you have no idea if I’ve written this or ChatGPT, the AI-powered chatbot, has. 2023 is the new 1998, where AI is concerned. It’s a tipping point. A moment when the world stood still, and in unison thought ‘uh-oh’. 

The strides forward made by OpenAI’s ChatGPT cannot be ignored, but the implications vary widely from person to person. To some it represents an enormous opportunity, to others it is considered a threat, to the 3 billion without an internet connection, it’s not even a consideration. 

OpenAI’s ChatGPT hit the 1 million user mark just five days after its launch. It’s being used to automate, enhance, and speed up tasks ranging from content creation, moderation and editing, to translation, to coding, and much, much more. This comes off the back of OpenAI’s launch of DALL-E 2, the AI-powered generative art application being used to generate and enhance  images, diagrams, charts and illustrations of any kind from plain text. 

To millions around the world, there’s a sense of anticipatory nostalgia creeping in. In a blink of an eye, some of our most beloved art forms have been compromised, ravaged, exploited - they will never be the same. 

Best to cry it all out. The AI train has left the station and it’s not coming back. Not only is it not coming back, it’s picking up speed and it will continue to. It feels as if it has zoomed past the station we call the arts. It’s heading twice as fast to the stations involving human tasks better done by machines. And then twice as fast again to the stations of decision making, problem solving, forecasting and management. 

And what then? 

Well, the answer all depends on the rails it’s on. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? That a train’s destination depends on the rails it’s running on.

The difference with this train is that at some point it will be able to steer itself - and at that point, more than at any point in our digital history - it is critical that the AI train is running on rails that benefit everyone - the 100% - and not just the 1%. And that’s where Web3 comes in.

Two Rails, Two Very Different Destinations

Ever got on a train, settled in, dozed off, and woke up in a post-apocalyptic world? Me neither. But that’s pretty much where we’re collectively heading unless we do something about the state of our digital infrastructure. 

I’m talking about Web2 vs. Web3. I’m talking about us surrendering to the status quo - Web2, and accepting our fate despite it being a grim one. I’m talking about us falling asleep at the wheel, or train window, in this case. 

What’s Web2? In a nutshell;

Web2 was a significant improvement in functionality, speed, accessibility and ease of use on Web1 - the first version of the Web, but at the cost of privacy, security and control. Web2 social networks like Facebook make it easier to connect and communicate with others online, and they also allow users to become creators by sharing and earning a living. However, the power of the Web2 internet is mostly controlled by large tech companies who monetize users and their data. 

That, of course, was ChatGPT paraphrasing an article I wrote on Web1 vs. Web2 vs. Web3, which you can check out here if you’d like more context.

Today most of what we use the internet for runs on Web2 rails. If we continue in this direction then as Artificial Intelligence continues to artificially become more and more intelligent, the value, information and power it generates will be concentrated into the hands of the few. 

The Age of AI-driven Automation will be centralized, controlled, by the 1%.

Don’t Stop the Train

None of us want our data, digital identities and value we create siphoned off to a few Silicon Valley and Chinese corporations to be sold to goodness knows who and used for evilness knows what. None of us want to pay exorbitant fees for money transfers, taxi rides, or purchasing things online. None of us want our digital identities to be at the mercy of Metaman Zuckerberg. 

But we think it’s the only option-  or don’t think about it at all. And if we think that’s the only option, then there’s no wonder there are people calling to slow down the rate of innovation. There’s no wonder people are scared of AI. Who can blame them? AI + Web2? That is Orwell-rolls-in-his-grave level terrifying. That’s ‘goodbye I’m off to live out the remainder of my life on some Pacific island’ kind of unsettling. 

But we don’t need to stop innovating, because we have a choice.

We can and need to change the infrastructure this innovation is taking place on, and the way value is created and distributed, from Web2 to Web3. From centralized to decentralized. AI is not a good or bad technology in and of itself. The AI train is neutral - the tracks it’s currently on, are not.

A Fork in the Railroad

We are just in time to be able to change the course of the internet, and with it, the course of immensely powerful technologies such as AI. We’re just in time to pull the Web3 lever and make it run on rails that are open and free, not closed and guarded.

So, what’s the promise of Web3? Here’s ChatGPT to summarize more of that article;

Web3, the next evolution of the internet, builds upon the information exchange of Web1 and the social networking and e-commerce of Web2, by adding ownership and exchange of assets via internet-native tokens on the blockchain. This allows for decentralized, community-governed applications to be built and for people to directly verify information, cutting out the need for intermediaries. 

And in case you thought there was too much technical jargon in there, here’s what ChatGPT spat out to the query ‘Explain the importance of Web3 to a 6-year-old’;

Web3 is important because it helps keep your information and things you own on the internet safe, like having a secret treasure box that only you have the key to. With Web3, you can keep your pictures, videos and games safe and nobody can take them away from you. It's like having a super power that helps you stay safe and private on the internet.

The Role of Web3 Networks like peaq

So Web3 allows us to own things on and via the internet, allows us to own and control our data and identities, and allows us to govern and earn from the apps and platforms we use and interact with. Kind of difficult to argue against it in my opinion, but I digress. 

Web3 is a meshwork of community-owned and governed networks on which applications run. We call these apps decentralized applications, or dApps, just to hammer home just how much more awesome they are than existing ones.

These networks exist to enable all the same things we use the internet for today, just in a more secure, open, free and generally humanity-friendly way. As the new plumbing of the internet, they serve a huge purpose and have huge potential to inform the course that AI takes in disrupting the next decades. Let’s take the peaq network as an example.

On peaq, people build applications for the Internet of Things. Think of any vehicle, machine, robot or device, then think of any service it can provide to humans or other machines (people often like the Uber example). peaq exists to enable that without you having to give any value, information or power to a centralized corporation. 

As AI becomes more ubiquitous in vehicles, robots and devices - which we’ll refer to as machines herein - and as AI becomes more and more powerful, we’re on course for the same thing that’s happening with ChatGPT and DALL-E to pan out across industries such as delivery of food and goods, long and short term renting of vehicles on land, sea and sky, lending and borrowing of machines of all kinds, and much, much more. 

That means there are hundreds of millions of jobs in the firing line, globally. 

Sure, people will find new ways to get busy - but there is no escaping the fact that a huge shift is underway in the workforce, from flesh, to steel. If this happens on Web2 rails, then all the value, information and power that will come with machines taking these millions of jobs will be concentrated into the hands of a few, tipping the scales of inequality to unprecedented levels with likely catastrophic consequences for humanity.

If this takes place on Web3 rails, like on the peaq network, we will all be able to share in the AI-driven Age of Automation. 

If the entrepreneurs of today choose to build dApps on peaq instead of apps on Web2, we can look forward to;

  • Earning more as machines take more jobs, thanks to concepts such as Machine NFTs, and in the future, Universal Basic Ownership (UBO), which will grant every human access to a piece of the Economy of Things.
  • Engaging with apps on a peer-to-peer basis, i.e not having to give big corporations money or data when using apps.
  • Being in full control of our identities and data; not having to rely on centralized third parties, and being able to choose what can be done with them, when, by who, and how.

That’s what it’s going to take. Us to recognise the trajectory, decide it’s not what we want, and choose to build with the future in mind. 

Pull the Lever

We’re not going to sugarcoat this one: we’re on a dystopian trajectory. This amount of power concentrated into the hands of so few is scary. It can be difficult to understand in the moment, time is still passing at the same rate after all, but zoom out and quickly becomes apparent; this is nothing like the industrial revolution, this is exponential. 

The good news is; it’s not difficult to change the trajectory. The switch-rail lever is in all of our hands - we just need to have the guts to pull it. So, what do we need to do to keep the dystopian sci-fi novels on the bookshelf?

  1. Recognise that this is not just an alternative that works, but an alternative many of us, from different backgrounds, places and political ideologies have been calling for for decades - it just hasn’t clicked yet for many, possibly due to its sheer complexity.
  2. Entrepreneurs to take decisions with future generations in mind. Apps and businesses that can be built on Web2 rails can be built on Web3 rails too, and the potential impact is so, so much greater. 

What can you do now?

Be the change you want to see in the world - build on a network that benefits everyone.

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