Web3, AI and the Internet of Things: Exploring the Trivergence of Emerging Technologies
By Alex Tapscott
The rise of new technology has time again transformed business, consumer behavior, and society. But often it is the combination, or convergence, of several technologies that creates the most lasting impact on our world.
For example, the combination of smartphones and wireless networks lead to the rise of mobile apps, location-based services, and mobile-centric business models, transforming human behavior. The convergence of digital photography and the internet transformed the way people capture, share, and store photos. Earlier in history, steam engines, combined with improvements in metallurgy and manufacturing processes, revolutionized transportation, agriculture, and manufacturing. Telegraph lines were laid down beside railways making them arteries for freight and information.
Today, we stand at the brink of another transformative era and when all is said and done it is the convergence of Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain and the Internet of Things – that will combine for maximum impact.
Call it The Trivergence.
First a primer: The Internet of Things describes the growing connectivity of everyday objects and the physical world to the Internet. Today’s IoT applications range from the mundane—such as your fridge ordering milk from Amazon—to the miraculous. AI describes the ability for computers to perform tasks that used to require human intelligence, from writing investment memos to writing poetry to writing code to generating art and music. And of course, blockchains have unleashed Web3. They enable us to store, manage, and exchange anything of value—money, securities, intellectual property, deeds and contracts, music, votes, and our personal data—in a secure, private, and peer-to-peer manner.
I have been revisiting this idea of the trivergence considering the news that ChatGPT Creator Sam Altman’s Worldcoin is about to close on another $100 million in funding. Launched in 2019, Worldcoin’s ambitious vision revolves around building the largest identity and financial network worldwide as a public utility to enable everyone to own and participate in the global economy regardless of their background or geographic location.
Altman’s vision of the future assumes AI transforms the economy, culture, and the nature of human work in big ways, where massive gains in productivity are offset by potential dislocation and displacement of workers. The solution to the disruption is a universal basic income (UBI) where we all participate in the bounty of AI. In order to access Worldcoin, users must first verify their “humanness” via an eye scanning device that looks kind of like the love-child of Hal-9000 and a basketball. From there, they receive a wallet with access to a free token that comes with future utility and governance as a reward. This project has continued to gain momentum with over 1.7 million sign ups, and investment from noteworthy backers including a16z crypto, Coinbase ventures, and Khosla Ventures.
It also exemplifies the trivergence in action. The retinal scanning orb is an example of cheap, durable and useful IoT technology, while the Worldcoin token and wallet illuminates the ease of deploying a global system for moving and storing money. Users benefit from AI disruption, getting airdropped AI dividends to their wallet. Worldcoin has courted controversy, with some critics alleging that retinal scans undermine privacy, and who owns the data anyway? But in my view, this is a bold and visionary plan that clarifies for me just how important the trivergence will be to our future.
May 25, 2023
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