What I Saw At The Blockchain & Behavioural Analysis

in meetup •  8 months ago

Last Wednesday, Blockchain Hub hosted another meetup at York University. This one focused on two technologies that are both leading-edge, both on the threshold of changing the world, both independent for now. The first, of course is cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. The second is artificial intelligence, or AI. The bulk of the presentations focused on the latter, as many of us don't know as much about AI as we do blockchain.

As per usual, the meetup started at 6:30 PM but the presentations didn't get rolling until 7 PM. The half an hour in between was reserved for "networking," but a lot of us just took our seats and waited.

Part of the pre-presentation featured Othalia Doe-Bruce presenting information on Blockchain Hub's course offerings and virtual incubator service.

These services are part of Blockchain Hub's aim to become a startup incubator and accelerator in the cryptocurrency world, in partnership with York University's Lassonde School of Engineering. In what might have been a first, this meetup was llivestreamed on their Facebook page.

Phillipe Chevry: Emergence and Convergence

The first presenter was Phillipe Chevrey, who streamed his talk live from Montreal. He's the guy on the right in the big split screen:

In his career path, he started off with gaming and then moved into machine learning. After discovering Bitcoin, he explored merging machine learning with blockchain technology. He observed that there was a difference in the emergence of the two technologies: cryptocurrency, being at heart an underground movement, owes a lot to self-learning and a tinkerers' ethic. (He didn't mention this, but the steam engine grew into maturity in the same way.) AI, in contrast, grew largely out of the academy and is deeply dependent upon academic development. In contrast to AI, academics are coming into the blockchain space relatively late. (One exception to this is ZCash, whose core dev team was dominated by professors of cryptography.) That's why, in contrast to AI, a lot of research and development in the blockchain space is being undertaken by startups.

With the latter, the focus is going to be how to decentralize the very complex calculations that AI needs. We all know that a large distributed network of ordinary computers can swing enough computational power to rival a supercomputer. (Just think of how much crypto those malicious botnet operators have made simply by leeching surplus computational cycles from their networks of victims.) A blockchain can validate resource use and the associated cryptocurrency can incentivize suppliers of memory and computing power. The startups converging blockchain and AI will tinker around with incentive frameworks as part of their research and experimentation.

Based upon what he said, startups and their hard-charging guerrilla-building culture will be at the forefront of converging blockchain with AI.

Lana Novikova: What's In A Word?

The next presenter was Lana Novikova, the founder and CEO of Heartbeat AI.

Her company uses AI to attach emotional meanings to words, in order to gauge people's emotions on certain subjects. In contrast to the usual structured-survey method, her raw data comes from open-ended survey questions like: "Do you feel AI will be important to the Canadian economy?" This question was one of five she gave to the audience as a live demonstration of Heartbeat's tech. After getting her responses, she revealed that the audience were more optimistic about AI, and less afraid of it, than a sample of ordinary Canadians. Nevertheless, the audience sample was still cautious about AI. We-all were trusting but not joyous, and were less emotional about it than ordinary folks.

The root method of Heartbeat is to partition words into emotional groups, like joy, fear or anger, and then break down each partition into more subtle sugroupings. Novikova herself used to be a clinical psychologist; Heartbeat has three to five trained psychologists to aid the AI machine to tease out emotions from words and also to check and correct for biases. One of her success stories was Heartbeat's prediction that Donald Trump would win the swing states he won. Funny enough, the level of dislike for Trump was in line with the dislike for Clinton. What counted was the type of dislike. The folks that disliked Hillary were more prone to feel righteous resentment and other emotions of dislike that are actionable. Novikova said that Heartbeat's predictions implied that Trump's victory was caused more by voting against Clinton than for Trump. In other words, it's more accurate to say that Hillary lost the election than to say the Donald won the election.

After the demos, Novikova moved on to the potential of emotional AI technology. Using the analogy of chess champ Garry Kasparov and Big Blue, she said that emotional AI would be unleashed most powerfully in partnership with real humans rather than as competition for humans. Artificial is a way station to augmented, to humans using emotional AI to give a boost to their emotional intelligences. (Just like, to use an analogy up my roadway, a motor plow has augmented human muscle but has not replaced the good old snow shovel. A plow-only job is quick but coarse; a snow-shovel job is slow but granular. Consequently, many professional crews comprise a truck plow and one or two fellows with hand shovels.)

One practical result we can expect from augmented emotional intelligence is much better career locators. The benefit: less floundering around in the job market until something clicks. Another practical, though softer, result would be AI-powered informal psychotherapy and companion services. This tech would help depressed people get back on their feet. As an example, she adduced the Scarlett Johansson movie Her.

Alpha Block: Helping To Face Complexity

The next presenter was the head of Alpha Block Capital, involved in applying AI to financial markets, finance itself and tech.

He talked about Alpha Block tackling complexity, which does include spots of chaos and error. Blockchain technology does not address this space because it was not designed to; its aim was to decentralize the monetary system and move it from single-point-of-failure to peer-to-peer. Alpha Block aims to take data sets from the blockchain and merge them with data sets from the complex network of the World Wide Web. This should lead to connectivity between the two.

Cyptocurrency is revolutionary, but it's stuck in the old in a certain way. A blockchain network is human-made, though sustained by its coding, and is also linear and unidirectional. It's computation-centric, market-cap-centric [as we all know] and the initial distribution of the coins has a large effect. (If you were in crypto long enough ago to remember the "mining wars," in which miners routinely slammed Proof-of-Stake coins, this last point will stick.)

To sum up: blockchain networks, though revolutionary, could benefit from further innovation that would make their networking more sophisticated: for example, by attaching AI tech to a node.

One Ledger To Interface With Them All

The final presenter was David Cao, the founder of One Ledger.

Less philosophical, Mr. Cao came from IBM's enterprise computing division and discovered Bitcoin about two years ago. His goal is to tackle the tricky problem of cross-chain access, including cross-chain transactions.* True to his background, he's developing One Ledger as an enterprise solution to connect independent blockchains.

Doing so would provide interoperability to the large set of disparate cryptocurrencies. His tech offers a high-level interface of modules to the end user, backed by a low-level smart contract. The master contract will provide the cross-chain functionality, and will interface from above with the One Ledger network; this network will interface through smart contracts to each supported cryptocurrencies' blockchains. Cao plans to work in AI modules for self-learning, improvement and optimization.


*: There has been one guy, Ian Knowles, who's been working on this problem since at least 2013. If you're a fan of cryptocurrency trivia, the first atomic cross-chain transaction was an exchange of Qora for BURST in May 2015. Knowles' CIYAM provided the underlying tech for the transaction. Sadly, Qora faded into the night of the '15-16 altcoin bear market.


Panel Discussion, Mostly Philosophical

The final part of the meetup featured Othalia Doe-Bruce and the three live panelists for a Q & A session. Ms. Doe-Bruce asked some questions, like asking about how Heartbeat AI would be integrated with Open Ledger, but most of the questions were from the audience.

And there were a lot of those. The number of questions were well into the double digits, and there were more hands raised than questions taken. By this metric, the audience was deeply engaged.

Most of the audience questions were philosophical in nature. Since AI is still exotic, with deep knowledge confined to professors, academics and pros who are specializing in it, the philosophical nature of many of the questions wasn't unexpected. There were a couple of questions about the ethics of using AI to analyze human emotions. There was even one which broached the Singularity.

After a string of high-abstract questions, I managed to squeeze one in about using Heartbeat's technology to gauge sentiment on cryptocurrency markets to refine the good old Theory of Contrary Opinion. (To borrow Warren Buffett's words, be greedy when everyone is fearful and vice-versa .) Although my question did break the philosophic spell, she intimated that sentiment analysis of this sort wasn't on her list of priorities.

One subject was raised by the techies amongst the questioners: how do you integrate an irreversible blockchain ledger with dynamic and changeable AI? It was a pertinent question, given the centrality of irreversibility to the blockchain and the need for exactness. (Famously, Satoshi Nakamoto coded Bitcoin balances as 64-bit integers to eliminate the occasional inaccuracies introduced by fractionated doubles.) Consistent with his startup, David Cao said that it could be done with a new ledger on top.


Overall, this was a heady meetup. The subject was popular and engaging, and the speakers certainly held our attention. There are legitimate questions about how well AI can be integrated into blockchain tech. For now, the only low-hanging fruit seems to be tapping a crypto ecosystem for assembling distributed networking: using a blockchain like Ethereum's to record, keep track of and incentivize a system of hiring and paying folks for supplying their computers for AI calculations. Over and above that use case, we're looking at something of an unknown territory.

So there will be special bumps along the merge parts of the converging roads. But those roads will eventually be interoperably converged: these days, that's the way to bet.

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@nxtblg I have an order of 10000 SP in Minnowbooster which will expire in 1 Day could you please fill that up.

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@nxtblg You will be receiving your SP back within Hours. Should I open an Order of 15000 SP lease in Minnowbooster?

@nxtblg is there any more SP I can Lease from you??

I would love to have more.

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Sorry, no. Net of delegations, I only have 2000 - barely enough to make my own upvotes count.

Thanks for asking, though.

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Do you want to make some more money?

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@nxtblg I see you have undelegated around 15000 SP can you lease it to Me?

thanks for writing from an academic perspective on these 2 rapidly growing global disrupting technologies

a growing number of readers on Steem are can already see the inescapable merger of ai and crytographic ledger technology, for example: have you invested or looking into tao and it's first blockchain consensus implementation called Agoras? if you have then i'm sure you can see this will be truly fascinating to see what we can do in the coming decade

btw. i'm from the ComedyOpenMic community...we believe to mainstream Steem for wide adoption, we need to mainstream comedy

original humor is a natural draw to win over and keep members from the likes corporate owned social media as well as the likes largest subreddit s/funny with 50million members (one of our sub-goals is to use humor to build retention into the blockchain and to bring in 500,000 new comedy enthusiasm on board in the next 12+ months ~ about 1% of subreddit funny).......well to scale this effort I was searching for dev tools to help our community witness account (we have C++ and python dev in our community) to automate our competitions and then some, and somehow it landed me here, glad i found your post

Thanks for sharing this meet up with us @nxtblg ! I will need more time to check out some of the links and read more of the post ad it covers a lot , but sounds quite interesting , I hope you got a lot out of it , im not so good at technical and in depth stuff , which I find a lot to do with crypto and blockchains is Lol! Thanks for sharing , upped and resteemed , I wish I had seen this post sooner ! 👍✌💕😀

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Thanks a lot!

I hav'nt seen you post for awhile , I just wanted to let you know before head back to work tomorrow with minimal internet , that I added you to my Auto Upvoter that I just started yesterday so I dont miss your posts when busy ! Steem On my friend !!💕✌👍😀

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Thanks a lot. :)

To be honest, I haven't posted because I'm at a loss about what to write about. (For now.)

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Your welcome ! I get that way a lot lol! I started posting memes on dMania and I enter contests to try and make a bit more steem while im in between posts , plus they are quick for me when im working long shifts with no internet . I also try to take photos on my cell phone when I cook or im out and save them for posts when I cant think of anything . Hope this helps ! good luck !😀👍👍👍💕

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I unfollowed you...let me know when you start blogging again and I'll refollow. Best of luck with whatever you're up to these days!

Sounds like there were some interesting topics & speakers.
That'll make 2 meets up at least this month for you by Sunday eh? lol

You know about Sophia I assume? I know that it's not quite the AI being discussed here, just thought you might enjoy the photo haha

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Ah, Sophia bella signora :-)

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Hmmm that weird bot lol

So much to learn about blockchain and cryptocurrency. Wow.
Will sure continue reading this in the morning. I'm feeling sleepy already #smiles
Good night @nxtblg Have a great night. U'r such a rare gem. Weldone

What a loaded post.. I have a lot to learn fron this post of yours.. Blockchain and cryptocurrecy are still giving me issues. I believe I have what to keep myself busy with, later in the day. Thank you so much sir! @nxtblg

Fascinating to contemplate what the future will hold in blockchain / AI blending.

@nxtblg you were flagged by a worthless gang of trolls, so, I gave you an upvote to counteract it! Enjoy!!