In the throbbing heart of the digital cosmos, the grand tug-of-war between two industry titans is hard to ignore. Each drags the future of the internet towards their respective vision. This isn’t a blockbuster, dystopian duel of the titans. Neither is it Silicon Valley’s version of Clash of the Titans. This is Web3 squaring off against Artificial Intelligence (AI)—a scrimmage for supremacy where the steely line drawn in the silicon sand is both defining and redefining the course of the digital realm.
For years, Meta (the butterfly that emerged from Facebook’s self-spun cocoon) played with the tangle of cryptocurrencies and digital wallets, before dramatically retracting its antennae from the glistening web of Web3. Come July 2022, the social media behemoth wound down its Novi digital wallet pilot, symbolically ceding the crypto-castle it once eyed greedily. They didn’t just hit pause; they signalled a strategic pivot away from their once-feted Diem cryptocurrency, a bewildering move for those infatuated with the glimmer of the decentralised web.
Contrast that with the paradoxical dynamism over at Twitter. Here, we have CEO Elon Musk, known for his knack for colouring outside the lines, openly sceptical of the Web3 spectacle. The architect of moonshots argues that Web3, for all its revolutionary promise, isn’t the future. And cryptocurrency? Forget about it, says Musk, stubbornly disinterested in folding it into Twitter’s sprawling ecosystem.
Yet, in another corner of the digital ring, Jack Dorsey, the maverick behind Square, is placing an altogether different bet. His vision of Web3 glows with optimism, albeit tempered with caution. Dorsey, who often paddles against the current, contends that the true triumph of Web3 will come not from its ability to mint a new class of crypto-wealthy but from ensuring that the fabric of this burgeoning digital dimension is woven “for everyone, not just the wealthy.” Dorsey’s vision encompasses the democratisation of technology—an ideal that resonates with the essence of the web’s foundational ethos.
So, in this thrilling contest for digital destiny, who will tip the scales? Will the luminous allure of AI outshine the glitter of Web3? Or will the web’s decentralised avatar upstage the algorithmic titan?
AI and Web3: Converging Crossroads
If you’ve been swept up in the recent digital discourse, you might find yourself leaning towards one of two camps: the AI enthusiasts, who revel in the near-magical prowess of systems like ChatGPT, or the Web3 advocates, fiercely tethered to the potential of blockchain, metaverse and Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). In this crucible, the lines of the battlefield are being drawn, but what if we told you these lines blur and intertwine more than you might think?
Kelvin Lim, the Director of Security Engineering, APAC, at Synopsys Software Integrity Group, offers an illuminating perspective on this debate. It’s no surprise that AI has been hogging the limelight, driven in part by the buzz surrounding generative AI solutions like ChatGPT. The impact is immediate and tangible—AI has snuggled into our lives with a velvet purr, infiltrating our devices and influencing our decision-making with an ease that’s almost eerie. As a result, it seems the public’s consciousness of AI has soared, buoyed by a wave of readily seen benefits.
Web3, on the other hand, feels a touch more elusive, shrouded in the nebulous gauze of the metaverse, blockchain and NFTs. It’s more complex to visualise for the average person, beyond the realm of speculative investments. This disparity might inadvertently nudge companies to pivot from Web3 to the AI juggernaut, further fuelling the latter’s ascendency.
However, a clash of these titans may not be as inevitable as it seems. The corporate tilt towards one over the other is, as Kevin astutely points out, a strategic decision, not a technological imperative. AI and Web3, while distinct in their primary focuses, are not mutually exclusive.
AI is the Dreamweaver, conjuring intelligent systems that can perform tasks, interact with users and deliver personalised experiences. Web3, on the other hand, is the cosmic architect, laying out a decentralised infrastructure that can support these interactions in a secure, transparent fashion. They aren’t combatants on a battlefield but rather two threads in the same digital tapestry.
In the scheme of things, AI and Web3 are perfectly poised to complement each other’s growth trajectories. Imagine the ramifications: AI enhances the functionality of Web3 applications, making them more tailored, intelligent and efficient. Conversely, Web3 bolsters AI, providing a robust, transparent and equitable platform for its deployment. Each technological titan becomes a catalyst for the other, breeding a synergy of potential that’s downright electrifying.
So, while the AI versus Web3 narrative is enticing in its simplicity, the more pertinent question may be how they can work in tandem to shape the future of humanity. AI and Web3 together represent an intriguing fusion of technology, a convergence that could very well hold the key to unlocking the next stage of our digital evolution.
Harmonising the Melodies of AI and Web3
David Li, Chairman and CEO at Greaterheat Pte Ltd, a Singapore-based Web3 infrastructure provider, offers an alternative perspective on the unfolding tech drama that might make you rethink your preconceived notions. He addresses the binary narrative with advocacy for convergence. David asserts that a knee-jerk reaction towards choosing sides in the AI versus Web3 conversation is not the strategic masterstroke it might initially appear to be. Instead, he calls upon tech leaders to survey the chessboard with a more nuanced gaze, finding a balance between the transformative power of AI and the revolutionary promise of Web3.
AI and Web3 are not adversaries; they are dance partners, each swaying to the other’s rhythm in the dance of digital evolution. The steps they take together can lead to a synergy that transcends their individual capacities. David demonstrates just how these partners can work together to shape the future of technology:
- Decentralised AI market. An open marketplace that uses blockchain technology to store AI models and algorithms is no pipe dream. Such an ecosystem could spark an explosion of innovation, providing a platform for thinkers and doers to share and exchange AI technologies, thereby accelerating AI’s advancements and widening its application horizons.
- Decentralised data market. Leveraging the power of blockchain and smart contracts, a decentralised data market would enable individuals to control and manage their own data securely. By providing this data to AI developers for training and model improvement, the market could stimulate data sharing and innovation while safeguarding individual data privacy.
- Decentralised identity verification and trust: A decentralised identity verification system built on blockchain technology would allow individuals to possess and control their digital identities. The system would facilitate secure identity verification and sharing across applications, fortifying trust and security in the digital realm and paving the way for new decentralised applications and services.
The AI-Web3 Landscape
It’s difficult to ignore the glint of a gold rush, especially when the ultimate prize is the promise of AI. Thomas Bedenk, Vice President of Extended Reality at Endava, presents an intriguing comparison as he draws attention to the burgeoning AI investment in the Asia-Pacific region, which is expected to reach a staggering USD $49.2 billion by 2026. Yet, as he aptly points out, tech trends often sparkle brightly before fading just as rapidly, leaving us questioning whether AI’s current dazzle might eclipse the nascent glow of Web3 or if it would ultimately cease.
Thomas cautions against the potential pitfalls of being swept away in the hype, a wise reminder given our proclivity to dive headfirst on technological frontiers. He argues that the AI surge may, for the moment, cloud Web3’s early adoption, but it is too early to dismiss Web3 or its transformative potential. The central challenge for organisations lies in discerning which technologies offer a viable path towards sustained success.
To navigate this minefield of trends, it’s vital to resist the allure of bandwagon jumping. Adopting the latest technology without a solid strategy, a defensible justification or a thoughtful implementation plan is a siren’s song that, at best, may lead to ineffectiveness, and at worst, could prove detrimental.
Both AI and Web3 bring to the table a host of capabilities and implications, each holding its own potential to drive value for businesses. Web3 and its offspring, the metaverse, extend an invitation to reimagine how we work, collaborate, and consume information. AI, meanwhile, gifts organisations with potent analytics, automation for mundane tasks and formidable fraud monitoring mechanisms.
Leveraging these technologies, however, doesn’t necessitate a seismic transformation or a complete business overhaul but an assessment of the value they can add to the organisation. The call to action here is for an iterative approach to technology implementation, favouring incremental, strategic steps over disruptive leaps and bounds. This perspective ensures prudent resource allocation while maintaining the agility needed to adapt to evolving trends.
The ‘Screwdriver’ or the ‘Hammer’
Winding down, Guillaume Huet, Co-Chair of the A.I. & Big Data Committee at the FinTech Association of Hong Kong, raises a fair point. Perhaps, this entire time, we’ve been asking the wrong question.
The Web3 versus AI debate, in Guillaume’s view, is a false dichotomy. Web3 and AI, he contends, are merely tools, shining beacons of technological advancement that serve specific use cases. To see them as competitors in a digital cage match is akin to the absurdity of debating the merits of a screwdriver against a hammer—it is the goal, the task at hand, that dictates the tool required.
There are realms where the blockchain excels, creating a single, immutable truth accessible to a vast number of participants. AI, on the other hand, shines in tasks such as generating images, texts, or codes—areas where the blockchain offers little assistance. At times, the marriage of both technologies may be called for, as when storing AI-generated content that needs to be tied to specific owners.
Since 2022, the AI screwdriver has grown exceptionally potent, opening up vistas of opportunity we once considered out of reach. But as the sheen of AI’s capabilities glistens, it’s critical not to lose sight of the fundamental question: What problem does it solve? Is there a demand for it? Only then should we consider if AI or Web3 is the most suitable tool for the job.
While the allure of cutting-edge technologies like AI and Web3 is undeniable, it’s important to remember that their presence does not automatically translate into market demand. The key consideration isn’t whether a solution employs AI or Web3, but whether it addresses pain points, delivers benefits and positively contributes to society. The measure of technology’s value isn’t the hype it generates, but its capacity to make our lives better.
So, as we navigate the pulsating tech landscape, we must remember: AI and Web3 are not competitors in an arena but tools in our kit. They are a means to an end. And the true question, the one that truly matters, isn’t about choosing between them. It’s about understanding how they can work together—or independently—to make our world better. The debate may have started with AI versus Web3, but perhaps it is time we reconsider the question.