Jun 20, 2019
| 8 min read

Spotlight Series: How SingularityNET Democratizes AI

This series highlights the key insights and lessons from our Digital Leadership series of podcasts. We spotlight the important takeaways from our interviews in an accessible format. The following insights come from Arif Khan, Chief Marketing Officer at SingularityNETStay tuned for the full podcast interview with Arif Khan, in the meantime, take a look at our full library of podcasts.

What are the experiences that have brought you to where you are today?

My background has always been in the technology industry, and I’ve always looked at the emerging frontier technologies as an exciting place to do my best work. In Southeast Asia and Singapore where I grew up was responsible for equipping organizations to make the digital transformation to LinkedIn, helping organizations transform their digital capabilities, tap on more efficient technologies to drive more value for their customers, for their partners, for the organization itself.

Later on I worked for a company that eventually acquired Uber’s business in Southeast Asia, a company called Grab, which is I think one of the top 10 innovative companies in the world. Not many people in North America know about Grab, but Grab has a very strong foothold in Southeast Asia primarily because they’ve been relentlessly focusing on innovation. Sometime around there I decided that I wanted to expand my horizons even more and I felt that maybe there would be other options outside of technology. So, pursuing left-field interests primarily in the domain of consciousness, consciousness hacking was deeply interesting to me.

I moved to San Francisco, and met one of the Co-Founders. Back then I think they were just starting out SingularityNET, Ben Goertzel. Ben and I connected and once the project was growing in scale and scope and they needed a person who has built organizations and done that at scale to come onboard I was more than happy to volunteer and take this forward.

What attracted you to SingularityNET, and what are the origins of the project?

I’ll try and use some ideas here to try and explain what SingularityNET is, briefly. One of the core innovations of our era is going to be artificial intelligence, but people don’t necessarily fully understand how immersed we already are in systems that are governed by AI today. The technology of AI presently is siloed and firewalled by a large corporations that tend to drive a very specific, for-profit bottom-line agenda, which understandably is their core duty to maximize shareholder value. The impact of a technology like this, combined with the relentless pursuit of profit is going to deeply harm and fracture society. And it already has to a certain degree.

A simple example would be Facebook’s news feed feature, this feature was hacked and essentially hijacked by hackers during the American democratic elections a few years back. They were able to leverage the algorithms in this specific feature for their benefit, and for their main intent, which was to subvert the democratic election process, to use essentially the existing systems against them. This could be any platform, it could be YouTube, it could be Facebook, it could be Twitter, any of these large platforms designed these features fundamentally around the aim of disseminating information but monetizing that feed to drive as much viral traffic as possible.

These algorithms generally are designed by PhD researchers who tend to win wonderful awards but sit in large technology companies. I consider them to be architects of the entire ecosystem, because they’re not objecting to the way it is presently designed. What needs to happen is, these AI algorithms that are being used to drive awareness, all these companies need to be democratized, they need to be open-sourced, there needs to be an openness around how the black box is working.  SingularityNET’s essence is like Prometheus, the Greek God that stole fire from the Gods, and essentially was punished, but at the same time democratized the core technology so that people and human beings could have the benefit of that.

How does SingularityNET work?

SingularityNET is a decentralized AI platform where you can interact with the AI algorithms, you can purchase AI algorithms, you can look at their code, you can request for AI algorithms to be developed. We’re a completely open-source project and we have a bunch of contributors globally who are committed to that vision as well, which is democratizing AI, democratizing datasets. Looking at ways in which we can bring core aspects of this technology to people who may not necessarily fully understand it today but they do need it, and that could be either non-profits, small and medium businesses. And they may not necessarily be sophisticated users but these are important people who want to understand how the black box behind the technology is working, but may not necessarily have the bandwidth. SingularityNET makes it easy for individuals to participate in the AI economy that’s coming up. There are about 100,000 people that interact with us on a monthly basis, and participate in our groups and Telegram communities, chats and Twitter feeds.

Could you explain how SingularityNET is structured?

I think the main reason why we decentralized and we also live and breathe that philosophy is, all of us work remotely. We have about 100+ people working for us fulltime in different capacities, as contractors, as fulltime employees, and some in our Hong Kong Headquarters, but the rest are all really dispersed, although we have a pretty large presence in Ethiopia as well. Towards the end of February, we launched our beta where developers can interact with the SingularityNET ecosystem, they can upload an AI agent, they can get rewarded for it in our native cryptocurrency and tokens, and they can participate in this initial economy of AI agents that are going to in the longer-run transact with each other as well.

Can you share any interesting initiatives?

Some initiatives that come to mind include our recent partnership with Domino's Pizza, we’re going to be helping enterprises that have been at the forefront of innovation, and understand the need to constantly innovate, but may not necessarily have the technical talent or capability to do that. We have a solid strong bench of AI researchers and AI consultants that are going to be lending their expertise to organizations, to eventually develop some of these interesting applications. With Domino's we’re going to help them develop supply chain algorithms that would look at allowing them to efficiently deliver door-to-door at speed and at scale, taking into account various complex datasets like the traffic conditions, the weather, the number of riders of delivery partners they have.

And if you look at the delivery landscape there have been a large number of monopolies or demand aggregators that have come onboard to centralize demand from consumers; these are your centralized apps like Uber Eats, they have Deliveroo in the UK which Amazon has recently invested in. So, you have all of these companies that are entering this domain, primarily because the data sets are so rich it’s a high-frequency daily volume business. But the business actually lends itself to a very good use case of checking transactions on the chain, but also leveraging AI to ensure that you can fulfill the promise of delivering on time.

The other interesting initiatives that we’re launching right now, we’ve just launched a SingularityNET- X Lab which will feature a bunch of interesting innovators and companies that want to build on the SingularityNET platform, and leverage our token ecosystem, our community, we’ll be announcing the shortlist of the first 8 or 9 companies very shortly.



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