Building a Virtual You

EPA-EFE/FOCKE STRANGMANN

A robot perform for visitors at the CeBIT computer fair in Hanover, northern Germany, 12 June 2018. From 11 till 15 June, about 2,500 exhibitors show the latest developments in computing, intelligent automotive solutions, artificial intelligence and cloud based services. The 2018 CeBIT in Hannover follows a new concept focusing more on events and conferences.

Building a Virtual You


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For tech addicts, blockchain has rather recently become the all, but unavoidable rage. With endless, lofty promises of a better future through data democratization and security in tow, could this be the breakthrough that saves humanity?

Yet, removed from geeky forums and technocrat roundtables, confusion—and subsequent ignorance—is abundant. That’s not to say there aren’t hordes of pages hosting guides, videos and tutorials aiming to educate users, and more importantly, motivating them to invest time and money. Hell, even Hollywood is getting involved. But why isn’t it working?

For one thing, while beneath the hood, it’s complex, it doesn’t have to appear that way to users. Plenty of machines, gizmos and doodads are complicated to explain, but simple to operate. Cars, TVs and the Internet all fall into this category.

To familiarize the concept, companies are now hunting for ways to leverage blockchain with more novel approaches that will still yield meaningful results. The question is, what do people like more than anything else?

In short, themselves.

This week, Project PAI launched a new blockchain platform that is intended to house personal AI’s. In other words, users can access the platform and create digital versions of themselves using voice recordings and pictures. To keep the AI clone continuously resembling its user, a constant information flow is necessary. As alarming as this may sound, keep in mind that blockchain is continuously lauded for security.

Still, for anyone who has seen Black Mirror’s “White Christmas,” the notion of a personal, digital copy with practically unlimited potential might seem at least a little bit awry. Then again, no one knows you better than you.

While Project PAI’s utility may feel a bit trivial at the moment, if enough people get behind it both in membership and research, the opportunities would be limitless.

Consider this: a few years down the line, your digital copy has amassed so much information that it knows what you want before you do. One unimportant Wednesday afternoon, that knowledge may, for example, include that your apartment is rather dirty, but a cleaning service is coming Saturday afternoon and your Friday evening is free.

Without any user interaction, the AI sets up a get-together (let’s call it a party) by generating guidelines (time to arrive, what to bring, location) typical to past decisions and invites the likely people that you, yourself, would call. Attendees are concurrently notified and calendars updated. Everything is set.

Then, tragedy strikes.

Your poor elderly dog passes late the day before the event and you no longer feel up to hosting. Perhaps gleaned from a Facebook post relating the news or through personal texts, your PAI also becomes “sad” and reports to other PAI that the party plan is no longer possible. Nevertheless, the system works together quickly developing a backup plan, changes calendars and informs users. All done with zero human input.

If friendship’s not really your thing, a future PAI could also become something like a career agent and can simultaneously work with other job agents to continuously put you in roles that are not only professionally, but also mentally best suited for you.

Need a new skill? A class would be suggested. There would be no more applications, interviews or offers. Everything would be handled virtually, efficiently and in the best interest of both parties. Neither side would be required to track developments until they needed to know.

Of course, this would all depend on how much data was shared with the platform from both sides of the negotiating table.

Though many of the explosive blockchain developments are happening beyond the borders of the EU, there are organizations within member states quickly ratcheting up their efforts.

Europe may have been slow to the game, but it’s still very much in the race.

Just this week, a group of banking giants, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC, KBC, Santander, Société Générale and UniCredit (among others), announced a successful five-day trial of cross-border financial trades run on the we.trade platform, which was built using IBM’s blockchain platform design.

The pairing of blockchain with finance has undoubtedly become a typical entry into the broader topic, but across Europe, teams are already putting together projects that look beyond current norms and utilize the technology for ideas besides currency.

Working from Malta, Switzerland and the USA, Thrive Labs is developing a platform that aims to break up the AdWords monopoly that enriches companies, but not users who provide valuable information.

ConnectJob, from Gibraltar, is making it easy for anyone with a skill or two to monetize themselves using the “Uber model.” If you’re close, available and someone needs your help, you can get paid.

The European Commission itself has created the EU Blockchain initiative that monitors what seems to be hundreds of projects and puts them onto a complicated map, that’s informative, but annoying to navigate. They also host educational videos, articles and events.

To be sure, this is a technology that despite its early development, has still managed to cause a sizable splash. Practically speaking, though, this is just the start of a rabbit hole that still has no end in sight.

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