September 26, 2023

Why the AI boom needs Web3: Self-sovereign data, now

In the first part of this blog post, published here, we talk about data’s growing importance in the age of AI and the frictions around the control and ownership over it. We called out “surveillance capitalism” as the prevailing business model of the digital economy and warned that the race for AI domination could prompt companies to double down on this approach.

So is it time to pull the plug on AI and all the countless benefits it may bring to humanity? Nope. But it’s time to embrace Web3 and its self-sovereign data. 

peaq was designed to power the Web3 Economy of Things, with AI and data being its crucial components, and Ocean Protocol’s tech stack spearheads a decentralized data-sharing paradigm. Together, we are collaborating within and beyond the EU-backed moveID project, which is building a Web3-powered future of mobility — a vision offering an example to follow for the wider tech space, including when it comes to handling data.

The Web3 revolution in data ownership

Web3, or the decentralized web, is the next generation of the internet where users get to own their data. It's an ecosystem built on blockchain technology, which enables transparency, security, and, most importantly, decentralization. In a Web3 world, the data that users generate is no longer a commodity for Big Tech to harvest, but an asset people are free to do what they want with.

The beauty of this approach is that it is fully consent-based. Users can explicitly specify what uses they are signing off for their data, monetizing it should they wish so, monitor what happens next through blockchain, where everything is out in the open, and revoke access at any time. As a result, Web3 establishes a new contract between users and tech companies, one fundamentally built on trust and transparency.

Imagine you’re driving to work, for example — you can choose to share your location data, properly anonymized, with the navigation service to help pin down things like traffic jams, and earn a bit from that, or you can keep your data to yourself. The same goes for many other things, from digital art to the data that comes from your wearables, your smart home, your smart car, any connected device that are so omnipresent these days: if anyone wants to use yours for training, they’d have to pay you, or you can block that option off entirely.

AI in a Web3 world

So, what does this mean for AI? It transforms the entire equation, nothing short of that. In Web3, users can choose if they want to open their data for teams working on AI and get rewarded for that or close it off for anyone. This defuses a key tension at the very core of today’s AI boom and lets researchers make use of the abundance of data in a way that respects user privacy and control.

Web3 is also well-suited for creating decentralized AI models that are trained on user data directly on-device or in encrypted environments, ensuring that the raw data never leaves the user's control. This approach, known as federated learning, sees local models learn from one another, resulting in an AI that grows more and more precise over time without having to scoop petabytes of data and store them at a centralized data center.

From fleets of smart cars growing smarter together to delivery drones monitoring how crowded the city streets are on the go, self-sovereign data is promising an entire world of opportunities for the Economy of Things. It enables machines to create more value without any additional workload, leveraging the monitoring tools they would already use for navigation, maintenance monitoring, and other purposes. And for us, humans, it means living in a world that’s growing more intelligent by the day to work better for us without encroaching on our personal lives. 

Ocean Protocol and peaq are building the tech stack that makes this vision a reality. We believe that AI and Web3 together can unlock the full potential of the Economy of Things, where connected devices interact and create value in a decentralized, user-centric, and privacy-preserving manner.

With the way things are currently going, AI and privacy are like water and flame: When you put them together, either one will get extinguished or the other will evaporate. But we believe that the solution is already here. By putting users back in control of their data and adopting privacy-preserving AI techniques, we can ensure that the age of AI doesn't come at the expense of user privacy. After all, in a Web3 world, the punchline is not data, it’s self-sovereignty — and we’re sure Italy would appreciate it just as much as Musk.  

About the authors

Sheridan Johns is the Head of Ecosystem at Ocean Protocol, working around collaborating with visionary entrepreneurs from around the globe passionate about building the New Data Economy including experts in Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Business Innovation, Data Science, IoT and Machine Learning.

About Ocean Protocol

Ocean Protocol was founded to level the playing field for AI and data. Ocean tools enable people to privately & securely publish, exchange, and consume data.

Leonard Dorlöchter is a co-founder of peaq network, the go-to blockchain for real-world applications. He has built multiple organizations, teams, and products during his five years in the blockchain space. He operates at the intersection between business and engineering. He enjoys building disruptive products and ecosystems.


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