Today, AI is all around us, with bots generating more Internet traffic than people
(Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers Annual Report).
Yet these bots are largely still perceived as crude, mostly obvious and somehow separate but that is about to rapidly change, as the bot market is growing in volume and sophistication, from $3B today to $20B+ in the next four years alone (Gartner).
Botanic Technologies CEO Mark Stephen Meadows, believes “Conversational user interfaces (CUIs) represent a paradigm shift similar to going from command-line interfaces to graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Ultimately, these will make the Internet more accessible and usable by a wider part of the population and spawn all sorts of new services and applications. They will change every organization in every industry.”
In short, bots solve two key problems: organisations need to have scalable, personal relationships with every single user 24 hours a day, and they in turn expect increasingly simpler, faster and more responsive interfaces. This combined demand from both sides of the marketplace will propel CUIs to eclipse many websites and apps over the coming years. The critical question then is how can companies have the opportunity to communicate their brand through these exchanges in a secure and privacy respecting way.
Trusting bots, and the AI systems that drive them, will be one of the major concerns of our time
We believe these CUIs will become more invisible and pervasive to the point we will regularly forget we are even using them. As they assume personalities, sometimes mirroring our own, they will become more personable and CUIs will evolve such that we will converse them without reasoning why, and the evidence shows potentially much less reason, for them to be trustable.
This raises serious social concerns. Perhaps one of the concerns of our time. Who owns the bot? Is it Amazon or a hacker? If it is Amazon, what does and doesn’t it intend to do with the user’s data? What, exactly, is it recording — my contact info, my words, my voice, my emotions, my worth? And if I want to opt out of Amazon, how can I trust an entirely new bot creator to enter my life?
Should we just concede The Web to FANGS or create an AI Commons?
This creates a number of conflicts most don’t have the time or ability to consider, that force them to either abstain entirely from The Internet (yeh right) or just accept and even endorse the status quo. Today that is to accept a world dominated by FANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, Google), and to trust and hope for their benevolence.
Today, FANGs and BATs in Asia (Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent) have an unparalleled data advantage, making it difficult for any new, independent entrants because of the sheer scale of their user base. This is important because user data is now regarded as the most valuable resource on the planet (Economist). So should we, just submit control of our lives, brands, or customer data to say an Amazon who are already fighting multiple class action lawsuits for invasion of privacy?
Furthermore, as bot interfaces evolve, they open up vast new, more sophisticated and revealing data than just the words we use. CUIs unlock the emotions and intent behind what we say about ourselves through our voices, body language and facial expressions. This becomes available for analysis by the companies we speak to, and we may never see these results. Worryingly some companies now claim they can diagnose mental illness from under a minutes-worth of recorded voice. Who gives them that right? Who owns the recording? Who owns the analysis? And who sees the diagnosis?
Whoever controls our interfaces, owns tremendous value and wields unheard levels of influence and power. This is why Botanic Technologies have formed The SEED Foundation to decentralise and better distribute this value for the benefit of all, as an AI Commons. They want to create a more equitable, secure and privacy respecting bot economy for all stakeholders from developers, end users and the companies that want to deploy them.
Here trust is foundational not an option or afterthought.
Firstly SEED is backed by Botanic Technologies,™ a real and profitable company, that has committed to open-sourcing its proprietary bots framework and toolkit, developed over nearly a decade, to supercharge an open industry standard and enable the bot community to build a set of open industry standards, including:
• Prized bot frameworks
• Data structures
• Personality templates
• Additional tools developed since 2006 (inc. a patent pending for Voice-To-Blockchain)
• Key patents and applications
• Source code and tools for clients, middleware, and servers
The SEED Network is the first open-source, decentralised network designed specifically so that any and all bot interactions, whatever their industry or purpose, can be managed, authenticated and remunerated in order to establish an interface to AI that is democratic, trusted, and equitable.
Botanic Technologies’ Multi-Modal (chat, voice & video) Bot Framework has been developed over the last nine years by world-leading and seasoned experts in natural language processing, real-time 3D animation, affect and sentiment analysis, API aggregation and and is already in use on Android, iOS, Skype, Signal and other clients.
The SEED Network Marketplace unlike FANG bot marketplaces, which at their extreme, can can be regarded as a form of ‘digital feudalism’ SEED creates an exchange for independent bot developers to share, buy, and sell bot components of all types to make bot creation and management faster, easier, and more equitable for a wider group of people. The marketplaces use blockchain to track usage of bot components for developer compensation throughout a bot’s life-cycle including each constituent part’s trust weighting.
The SEED Token has been designed with us at Outlier Ventures and our partners at Imperial College over a 6 month period, principally centered around how bots can have trusted reputation and represent end user values. The token will incentivize bots to extract and exchange data and intelligence, while disincentivizing the proliferation of bad actors in the economy. Developers, authors, their bots, and even the assets those bots use will be assigned reputation ratings based on their activities.
More detail will be revealed as we near public token sale estimated early 2018.
Bringing it all to life (Buying, Configuring & Selling Bots):
- A bot developer is working on building a use-flow for the health industry, to allow for a highly specialised form of medical diagnosis, to augment generalist physicians in the field.
- Currently, this diagnostic information is only available to a handful of doctors around the world. By creating a bot with equal, if not improved capabilities, this will allow for better distribution of a life saving knowledge, to anyone with an Internet connection or cell phone.
- This is a large, complex and highly regulated use-flow that integrates unique prediction models with appropriate social interfaces prizing patient confidentiality and conformity with local laws and company insurance policies over all else.
- As such, this requires the bot to be trained by specialists who will need to be remunerated for their time and indemnified against possible future litigation should the advice be acted on incorrectly.
- In the bot store, the developer finds and licenses this use-flow for a generalised diagnostics template and builds, on top of this, for the relevant local laws and various disclaimers.
- She customizes the use-flow for the individual case and its nuances, and plugs it into her company’s proprietary prediction system via an API. She also finds a set of use-flows and personality templates for basic social responses (greetings, escalation, etc.) and licenses these to integrate into his bot.
- As she integrates each component part, the original creators are paid royalties automatically through smart contracts using the SEED protocol and token, as are the specialist doctors who test and refine the bot’s outputs in a training environment.
- Using tested methods built into the SEED network this bot can take direction and complete actions with agency to go beyond the simple advice chatbots we regularly see today. This bot can even connect to a language translation interface to extend its reach.
In this use case, the developer has had to add use-flows with specific needs, but she’s considerably further than if she had to start from scratch. She’s also more confident in the sections she’s bought, since they came from highly-rated sources.. Everyone who has contributed to this bot’s capabilities are equitably and fairly rewarded in a fully auditable environment.
For more use-cases go to: seedtoken.io
APPROACH, TRACTION & TEAM
Through the SEED token sale, Botanic Technologies (a company that boasts clients including Fortune 100s, startups and multiple government agencies) is open-sourcing its otherwise proprietary IP to supercharge an open industry standard for the common good.
To ensure it can’t be bought, assimilated, or killed by the FANGs and BATs to continue their advantage, the SEED Token is managed by Seed Vault Ltd., a not-for-profit organization based in Singapore not under the control of Botanic Technologies or any other commercial entity, and overseen by trusted members of the bot community such as legendary chatscript pioneer Bruce Wilcox.
SEED is justifiably ambitious about the amount of capital its community needs to raise because, to succeed, it must compete with the likes of Google or Amazon and recruit and incentivise the global bot developer community. However, they have already reached deeply into key bot communities totalling tens of thousands of developers and aim to surpass the 5,000 Amazon AI developers working on Alexa within its first year.
As a slightly more personal subjective comment, I have spent a lot of time personally with Mark and his fantastic team over the last few months and never have I been more convinced of a team’s vision to ‘do good’ and their commitment to the open-source movement. They are a senior, professional, and experienced team that have been in the startup trenches with each other on multiple occasions many with a strong basis on personal friendships for decades.
In short, if anyone has a chance of taking on the FANGs and BATs from all the teams we have spoken to, since focusing on our convergence thesis, it’s these folk and whilst it’s a big challenge we feel it’s worth a shot.
Artificial Intelligence is only as valuable as the data it’s based on and that data, ultimately, comes from us humans. Through the Seed Vault distributed ledger, they tackle the two biggest emerging issues with bots: trust and user data. Blockchain allows us to build an open source economy and an equitable exchange of value between bots and humans.