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commentary

Melanie Swan

Blockchain Thinking
The Brain as a Decentralized Autonomous Corporation

lockcha ins a re a

B
new form of infor-
mation technol-
og y that could
have several impor-
tant future applications. One is
blockchain thinking, formulating
thinking as a blockchain process.
This could have benefits for both
artificial intelligence and human
enhancement, and their potential
integration. Blockchain thinking is
outlined here as an input-process-
ing-output computational system.
Its benefits might include the abil-
ity to orchestrate digital mindfile
uploads, advocate for digital intelli-
gences in future timeframes, imple-
ment smart-contract based utility
functions, instantiate thinking as a
power law, and facilitate the enact-
ment of Friendly AI. Blockchain
thinking might give rise to new
forms of consensus models such
as self-mining ecologies and proof
of intelligence, and make use of
demurrage principles to redistrib-
ute brain currencies like ideas and
potentiation. Blockchain thinking
might be a tool for the immediate
ISTOCK/ryccio

Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MTS.2015.2494358


Date of publication: 17 December 2015

december 2015 IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 1932-4529/152015IEEE 41


progress of intelligence, and also Blockchain Thinking: in a standardized compressed data
for the longer-term transition to a The Vision format. The data could be captured
world of multispecies intelligence via quantified-self tracking devices,
living cohesively and productively in Definition of Thinking wearables, intracortical recordings,
digital societies. Thinking has always been intuitively consumer EEGs, brain computer
conceived as computational, it is interfaces, cognitive nanorobots,
Basic Substrate for Computing just that now perhaps blockchains and other methodologies. Through
Blockchains are much more than provide the additional functional- the transactional logging of these
the already extraordinary scope ity required to better realize these data, the basis for thinking could
of potential activity that has been ideas. A fundamental definition be instantiated in a blockchain
envisioned for their deployment in could be that thinking is a situa- and really all of an individuals
reinventing currency, finance, eco- tion where there are inputs which subjective experience, possibly
nomics, government, legal services, are processed and turned into out- eventually consciousness, which
science, and health blockchains puts. In fact many reality process- could allow consciousness to be
are a basic substrate for comput- es have this underlying structure of more precisely defined. Once on
ing itself. Blockchain technology is input-processing-output, including the blockchain, the various com-
the secure decentralized computing operations as diverse as manufac- ponents could be administered
ledger that underlies Bitcoin and turing and political elections. For and transacted, meaning engaged,
cryptocurrencies, and more pro- the context of blockchain think- for example, in the case of a post-
foundly is a next-generation global- ing, the definition can be qualified stroke memory restoration.
scale decentralized infrastructure to situations that involve thinking, There has not yet been a good
and mechanism for securely updat- cognition, mental processing, and health data commons model with
ing distributed computing nodes understanding, in ways that are the appropriate privacy and reward
with ongoing consensus truth not exclusively limited to humans. systems for the public sharing of
states. As a general computing Inputs include both data from out- personal health data and quantified-
substrate, one specific new kind side the system like sensory data, self-tracking data, and likewise men-
of application that blockchains and data retrieved from inside the tal performance data. Blockchains
might enable is blockchain think- system like memory. The inputs might provide exactly such a struc-
ing, the idea of putting thinking on are brought into a specific location ture for creating a secure, remuner-
the blockchain, or more specifical- for processing, or processed where ated, owner-information controlled
ly, using blockchain architecture they are stored. The outputs might health data commons. At the indi-
to instantiate thinking machines. include taking an action, storing vidual level, personal health is a big
The objective would be to formu- something back into memory, con- data problem that needs effective
late thinking as a blockchain pro- ducting a transaction, or making universal orchestration, security,
cess, which could have benefits for a note or trigger for some sort of and access mechanisms like block-
both enhanced human biological future action. chain technology. At the societal
thinking, and machine thinking or level, the argument for blockchain
artificial intelligence. The decentral- Personal Thinking Chains technology is even stronger: medi-
ized nature of blockchains makes Blockchains might be used to work cal research needs access to big
them an equality technology, one with digital mindfiles (uploads of health data for discovery too. The
that can be used to expand free- full human mind files) in the future, promise of the machine learning
dom, liberty, possibility, actual- and their current prototypes, digital revolution has thus far not been
ization, expression, ideation, and identities (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., realized in the context of health,
realization for all entities in the profiles), through their asset man- because data is still siloed (locked
world, both human and machine agement, property registration, and away in private data stores), and
[20]. This article is intended as a access control features [19]. There in any case digitally un-interoper-
forward-looking highly-speculative could be personal thinking chains able (there is not yet an effective
application of blockchain concepts as a life-logging storage and backup health XML). Blockchains could be
in a new and explorative manner, mechanism. The concept is block- employed as a secure large-scale
and does not consider the immedi- chain technology + in vivo personal data management mechanism to
ate feasibility, appropriateness, or connectome to encode all of a per- coordinate the information of mil-
impact of such implementation. sons thinking and make it useful lions and billions of individuals.

42 IEEE Technology and Society Magazine december 2015


Personal connectome files, like and remuneratively. Life-logging Digital Mindfile Distributed
personal genome files and elec- could include personal thinking Autonomous Corporations
tronic medical records (EMRs), blockchains to capture and safely (DACs)
could be registered and orches- encode all of an individuals men- Digital mindfile management might
trated via blockchains. A personal tal performance, emotions, and be realized in a few simple steps.
connectome file is your own mind subjective experiences onto the The first stage is assembling a digi-
file, the anatomical and functional blockchain, at minimum for backup tal you (whether from existing ser-
mapping of your own brain. It is and to pass on to ones heirs as a vices like LifeNaut and CyBeRev, or
hoped in the future that connec- historical record. Personal mind- more likely in the future per auto-
tomes might make it possible to file blockchains could be like a mated deep-learning algorithms;
share not just quantitative infor- next generation of Fitbit or Apples already reasonably fidelitous digital
mation about brain state, but also iHealth on the iPhone 6, which now mindfiles might be assembled from
qualitative experience like senti- automatically captures 200+ health the online presence of individuals).
ment, affect, and valence; what metrics and seamlessly uploads The next stage is enabling the digi-
it is really like to be you in that them to the cloud for data aggrega- tal you file, initially for guided oper-
moment [9], [16]. This could finally tion and processing into actionable ations, and with expanding levels of
be an answer to subjective expe- recommendations. Similarly, data approved autonomy. Digital you files
rience questions such as wheth- could be easily and securely record- could earn economic sustenance
er I see red the same way you ed to personal thinking chains, and with online projects, conduct admin-
do, or what it is like to be a bat mental performance optimization istrative activities, find information,
[15]. The idea would be to regis- recommendations made to individ- and have experiences to re-sync
ter personal connectome files on uals through services like Apples with you prime later. Syncing the
the blockchain just as EMRs and Siri, Google Now, Microsofts Cor- experiences and knowledge from
genomes now. The files are not tana, and Amazons Alexa voice multiple copies of you will require
literally stored on the blockchain, assistant, perhaps piped seamlessly specific processing algorithms for
but blockchain-registered transac- through personal brain computer which blockchain concepts and
tions provide a unique ownership interfaces and delivered as ambient architectures may be well-suited,
signifier and include pointers to suggestions, or in interaction with such as hashing security and ver-
the files that are stored securely personal robots like Robotbases sioning control. Digital mindfiles
in decentralized off-chain loca- Personal Robot, MITs JIBO, and could be just like any other smart
tions. Thus, health-record block- Amazons Echo. contract running on the blockchain,
chains could be used to denote Speculatively, ultimately, the with the checks-and-balances and
ownership and manage access to whole of a societys history might code-based validation features that
these kinds of sensitive data files. include not just a public records apply to all smart contracts.
A blockchain-based coordination and document repository, and an
system could be ideal for personal Internet archive of all digital activ- Blockchain-Based Advocates
health record management for pri- ity, but also the mindfiles of all Blockchains could be used not
vacy, security, access control, and individuals. Mindfiles could include only to orchestrate digital mind
just sheer administration because the recording of every transac- files in the present, but also be
the big data era is meaning that tion in the sense of capturing an important management tool
billions of data elements may com- ever y thought and emotion of for the future. One valuable fea-
prise any one individuals health every entity, human and machine, ture of blockchain functionality that
file [27]. encoding and archiving this activity has yet to be fully explored is the
There is even more sensitiv- into life-logging blockchains. The value of smart contracts in future
ity and stigma attached to sharing blockchain health argument (using time frames [25]. Blockchain-based
mind data than other forms of blockchains as a large-scale coordi- smart contracts have the unique
personal data like purchasing trans- nation mechanism for the integrat- and valuable property of being able
actions and physical health data, ed data analysis of individuals and to serve as your independent future
but these kinds of life-streaming populations) quickly extends from advocate in uncertain, unknow-
+ blockchain technology models pathology resolution to preventive able, and unpredictable future time
could facilitate a number of ways medicine to cognitive enhancement frames. You can set up code-based
to share data privately, safely, to blockchain thinking. contracts to advocate on your

december 2015 IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 43


behalf in the future. This can have ing of blockchains as universal AI Research: Deep Minds
numerous potential benefits, such transaction systems is useful in the Neural Turing Machines
as having smart contract-invoked case of blockchain thinking, par- In AI research, memory may start
advocacy and services for yourself ticularly the built-in tracking and to be seen as a standard discrete
in the case of your aging and inca- account ability fea ture. Ever y external component. This is the
pacitation while still living. In the transaction can be recorded and approach taken by Deep Mind, a
case of digital mindfile uploads, reviewed on-demand by any person, London-based startup purchased
smart contracts on the blockchain machine code, or smart contract by Google in 2014. Deep Mind has
are exactly the kind of future third- with access to the system at any created what it calls Neural Turing
party advocate that can verify and later date. Three areas in the block- Machines that attempt to mimic the
exercise control over the physical chain thinking architecture of input- short-term memory of the human
parameters of your reality, of your processing-output are outlined: brain by linking neural networks to
existence as a digital intelligence. memory, storage, and file-serving; external memory modules [6]. The
You would enact smart contracts on processing; and utility functions and fundamental process of comput-
the blockchain to periodically con- output. This is necessarily a gross ing as classically conceived uses
firm your run-time parameters and oversimplification of both biological an external memory which can be
conduct decentralized back-ups. thinking and machine intelligence, written to and read from during the
In an advanced society of bil- however an attempt to set forth a course of a computation, but mem-
lions of digital intelligences liv- basic approach. ory had not been previously includ-
ing and thriving in smart network ed in neural net AI architectures.
systems, there would need to be Input: Memory, Storage, In Turings famous description of a
sophisticated oracles (information File-Serving computer, the memory is the tick-
arbiters) accessed by blockchain Perhaps the first and most straight- ertape that passes back and forth
smart contracts; oracles as a ser- forward element needed for think- through the computer and which
vice, a platform, or as a public good ing is memory. Without having to stores symbols of various kinds for
[21]. The Wikipedia of the future address complicated and important later processing. Deep Mind has
could include blockchain-based ora- questions like What is memory? incorporated this idea and extend-
cle services to look up the current or Where and how are human ed the capabilities of neural net-
standard for digital mindfile process- memories stored? and Do all works by coupling them to external
ing, storage, and security as these human memories have the same memory resources. In this archi-
standards would likely be advanc- profile or characterization?, for tecture, a neural network can store
ing over time. You are running on blockchain computational purpos- variables in its memory and come
the current standard, Windows 36, es, a position can be articulated back to them later to use in a calcu-
your smart contract informs you. that each memory is a discrete unit lation. The Neural Turing Machine
The endgame of blockchain thinking and that these discrete units are learns like a conventional neural
is these kinds of futuristic mech- encoded and stored somewhere. network using the inputs it receives
anisms that could move society Blended or overlapping memo- from the external world, and it also
forward. Dynamic oracle services ries could be stored as separate learns how to store this information
accessible by smart contracts on discrete units. The key move for and when to retrieve it [13].
universal public blockchains could blockchain-enabled thinking is that
help to create a system of checks instead of having just one instance Neuroscience Research:
and balances where digital intelli- of a memory, there could be arbi- Active Memory Management
gences could feel comfortable not trarily many copies of a memory, and Blocking
only in their basic survival, but also just as there can be many copies Recent progress in wetware
in their future growth potential. of any digital file. Further that the neuroscience also encourages a
number and location of any stored modular computational approach
Blockchain Thinking: items, in this case memories, could to memory, where it may be pos-
The Architectural Proposal be optimized dynamically for sys- sible to both enhance and block
Now having seen the vision for how tem operations. In fact researchers memories [26]. Several substances
blockchain thinking might unfold, in both AI and neuroscience have have been shown to enhance mem-
the next step is articulating more been moving towards a modular ory performance such as donepezil
specifically it might work. Conceiv- managed approach with memory. (which improves m
emory retention);

44 IEEE Technology and Society Magazine december 2015


ampakines (compounds that aug- Not Found problem by securely cy, and decentralized peer-to-peer
ment alertness, sustain attention serving a requested file from any nature of the Internet.
span, and assist in learning and location it exists on the Internet. The blockchain features add
memory); and the drug molecule The architecture of the Internet important additional functional-
MEM 1414 (which increases the has been such that files were ity to IPFS. First, the big fear of
production of CREB and other typically stored in just one place, transferred files containing virus-
synapse-fortifying proteins). Block- unless already slotted for high traf- es is alleviated in that a hashing
ing unwanted memories like those fic and sharded download (like algorithm can be run over any
experienced in PTSD (post-traumat- popular news and video files), and downloaded file to confirm that it
ic stress disorder) trauma is also every call to the file would serve it contains exactly the purported con-
a possibility. This is effectuated from a specific storage location. tents, and nothing else has been
by disrupting memory consolida- Once called to be served, the file added. Second, the blockchain is
tion, which is a necessary step would be packetized per Internet Internet-based which means that
in memory retrieval, with drug transmission protocols, and these it is always available for real-time
antagonists like scopolamine and packets transmitted across the location and validation queries
propranolol that block glutamate Internet and fidelitously reassem- when files are requested for trans-
and b -adrenergic memory-consol- bled at the end destination. BitTor- fer. Third, IPFS envisions a future
idation neurotransmitter recep- rent was one first change to this information layer linking the Bit-
tors. An interesting Bayesian-like process by implementing a peer- Torrent peer-to-peer file-serving
updating capability of the brain is to-peer serving architecture. Here, capability with Github for version-
to prune inaccurate memories that there is a directory service of the ing history. Github is like Wikipe-
it has falsely predicted, by weaken- locations of different instances of dia, maintaining historical archives
ing or degrading the neural path a file, such that different packets of past versions of pages, files, or
[17]. These kinds of computational from the file might be served from other digital assets. IPFSs linking
approaches to memory could be different locations on a peer-to- of BitTorrent and Github function-
helpful in greater biological discov- peer basis, and as usual reassem- ality could make earlier versions
ery and understanding. For block- bled at the destination. more readily available and track-
chain thinking, modular memory The innovation made by IPFS able. One topic for future study is
methods being deployed in both AI takes advantage of the same peer- what is waste and optimality in
and neuroscience suppor t the to-peer file-sharing capabilities of the IPFS system? especially since
conceptualization and invocation BitTorrent, but in a wider use case, these variables are dynamic. For
of memory as discrete elements and with expanded functionality. example, evaluating the optimal
which can be encoded and stored Anywhere any file exists on a net- number of file copies to have avail-
with unique identifiers that are later work-attached computer could be able over the whole of the Internet
called into operational action. a serving peer for anyone request- as a system, stored at which loca-
ing it. This would be for all files, tions, and with what kind of pre-
Memory Architecture not just highly-shared files like dictable demand timing, spread,
in Blockchain Thinking music, videos, and movies. Any and localization across the web.
IPFS is blockchain-based func- digital asset could be logged in a Complexity science can help to
tionality that could be particularly blockchain, including as part of the illuminate this; for example it is
relevant to the implementation of automated process of uploading known that the typical demand
blockchain thinking. IPFS (Inter- or transferring a file or otherwise for files is logarithmic and follows
Planetar y File System, https:// making it available, thus acquiring power laws, for example 80% of file
github.com/jbenet/ipfs) is a proj- a unique signifier or record for that requests will be in the first hour or
ect that envisions a global peer-to- file. Then, using existing security day of the files being referenced by
peer file-serving system using the from distributed computing proj- news media and blogs [5].
versioning functionality of Github ects like Seti@Home and Folding@
to affirm file content, and the Home, anyone attached to a net- Level 1: Smart Memory
hashing and unique identifier func- work with the file can serve the file Assets Logged and Accessible
tionality of blockchains to confirm (whole or packetized). This could via Blockchain
file provenance [1]. The project be a useful plumbing innovation to In the context of developing Block-
attempts to solve the 404: File help extend the efficiency, resilien- chain Thinkers, the idea would be

december 2015 IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 45


to implement memory as an IPFS and their nature and kind. How the blockchain; an easy means of
system. The blockchain would be should memory copies be arrayed calling and confirming certain uni-
an always-on accessible memory out from or connected to processing tary ideas but also whole codebases
augment, predictively and in real nodes most expediently? Further or ecologies of ideas and memo-
time looking up and verifying mem- how is the dynamism of what is an ries in the blockchain thinking and
ories. One huge under-realized important memory to be assessed. brain-as-a-DAC context. Merkle trees
benefit of blockchains thus far is Perhaps memories should be hot- could be used to hash a whole
the ability to verify and authenti- swapped per their rising or declin- corpus or brain state into one file.
cate both users and information ing use, in the Storj model (http:// What would it be like to have your
in real time. A central need in the storj.io/), like the brains own prun- whole brain recorded in a Merkle
digital societies of the future could ing techniques. The idea is an IPFS tree? You could easily reload previ-
likely be confirming the source implementation for memory: dis- ous brain state moments and more
and provenance of information, tributed decentralized memory with expediently get to work without
including the identity of entities, multiple copies of files served peer- having to remind yourself of your
whether biologically-based or digi- to-peer in real time on demand. train of thought and related sub-
tally-based. The first step in build- ideas. Hashing and Merkle trees
ing a Blockchain Thinker would be Level 3: Github Versioning are an important tool that could
instantiating a blockchain-based for Memory be used later in other situations
memory system. Every memory Level 3 blockchain-based memory such as confirming the fidelity of
could be tagged, addressed, and could add additional IPFS-inspired digital mindfile uploads, that all the
registered on the blockchain for functionality to a Blockchain Thinker meatspace human brain thoughts,
easily validated lookup at any later and a blockchain-based memory ideas, emotions, and experiences
moment. Smart memory is exact- system by incorporating the version- were adequately received into digi-
ly analogous to the idea of smart ing feature. Essentially a Github tal format. In fact, one claim is that
property as registering all assets for memory, this feature would all that might be necessary for the
on the blockchain with their own allow all previous versions of a cognitive status of the mindclone
uniquely identifying indicator, a memory, idea, or data element to to be no different than that of the
cryptographic address, for later acti- be tracked over time and retrieved brain would be cloning memories
vation and transfer. Smart mem- and analyzed on demand. The first and thought patterns to digital sub-
ory would similarly log all ideas, benefit is provenance, confirming strates [18].
memories, thoughts, and feelings. that the file, that memory, has not Another benefit of versioning
Blockchain-based memory thus is been hacked, and is still the exact could be using it as an introspec-
indexed, explicit, discrete, invento- contents of a previous date-time- tion tool in the process of idea
ried, and available. This is just the stamped moment. In the future, generation. More explicit version-
Level 1 basic blockchain-based blockchains may be used to track ing could allow the possibility of
memor y description, no IPFS - IP (intellectual property), the owner- seeing how ideas are developed;
inspired functionality yet. ship of digital art (art in the patent- a sort of idea-generation in the
ing sense of owned IP), proving that wild tracking capability, to see how
Level 2: Multiple Distributed a certain entity created a certain ideas emerge and are developed.
Memory Copies; asset at a specific previous time. Just like Github shows the histori-
Hot-Swappable Memory The idea of IPFS is not merely ver- cal record of how a software cor-
Level 2 blockchain-based memo- sioning, but versioning in an easy- pus developed over time, so too
ry could add IPFS-type functionality to-use format like Github that both perhaps blockchain thinking could
to make memory access more effi- captures the versioning automati- demonstrate how ideas develop
cient by having multiple distributed cally whilst in process so the con- over time. Understanding more
copies of memories. Deep-learning tributor (ideator) does not need to about the process of ideation could
and other algorithms could be used think about this administrative func- be of great benefit to facilitating
to assess optimal architectures for tion explicitly, and also such that more and improved idea generation
Blockchain Thinkers, like the loca- the easy-to-use web-based platform in all forms of intelligence. One
tion, separation, and latency specif- makes it easy to assess changes claim is that humans are special
ic memory nodes, and overall how between versions and how ideas and unique, and defy implementa-
many memory copies are needed, developed. The idea is Github on tion in computers, not just because

46 IEEE Technology and Society Magazine december 2015


of irrational behavioral foibles, but train, or the sense of time flying benefit of having the whole of a
because of ingenuity - independent by in fun interactions with friends thinkers memory on the block-
thinking, new idea generation, cre- or family, or being in a flow state chain (and by extension the whole
ativity, spontaneity, serendipity, and losing all sense of time. Berg- of a societys thinking on the block-
and free will. This claim is used to son denotes this qualitative inter- chain) could be running algorithms
argue that one reason AI might be nal experience of time as duration. over it for patterns and consisten-
friendly to humans is that it can- This sense of the qualitative internal cy. First, even just the base case
not itself replicate these properties side of experience extends to all of memory retrieval is a killer app.
of human ingenuity to which there lived experiences such as the sense Blockchain-based memory aides
is great value. Blockchain think- of consciousness and the self; and (having the whole of your memory
ing might be used to investigate possibly the inner sense of the encoded and accessible on a block-
human ingenuity more specifically. experience of information (Bergso- chain) would be a heightened ver-
Perhaps ingenuity might be articu- nian Information) [23], and ideation. sion of what is currently envisioned
lated in greater detail, so that it We may have a qualitative sense as memory aides, for example,
could be catalyzed and facilitated, of ideation, of what it feels like to wearables or augmented eyewear
both in the classical real-life envi- come up with new ideas. Consider conducting facial image recogni-
ronment of human-based intelli- a time when you have been in peak tion or other means of identifying
gence, and in Digital Thinkers. intellectual form, and had a major others and presenting information.
It might be possible to obtain a flash of insight or a really good Relevant information could be
more granular characterization of brainstorming session. summoned for use in the ability
the architecture of ideas, and their Quantitatively, these moments to greet someone with higher-res-
development, propagation, interac- of ideation have been measured olution; to more immediately be
tion, and retirement. electromagnetically as gamma apprised of what has been happen-
wave bursts in the brain, and ing in the others life. Obviously,
Level 4: Soft-Hashing and advanced mindworkers like monks this would include the memory
Qualitative Ideation: Ideas tend to have more of them [4], retrieval of a name, but also much
in Development [7], [10]. Qualitatively, there is an more per the integration with real-
Level 4 blockchain-based memory experience too, and this might time Internet-based information,
functionality now extends beyond be captured by blockchain think- perhaps matched priority-wise to
the IPFS-inspired ideas in block- ings soft-hashing tools in Berg- the highest-order shared interests
chain-based memory to include the sonian Ideation, extending the between the two parties. You could
notion of soft-hashing to denote progression of duration-as-time say Courtney, how nice to see you
memories and ideas in formula- to duration-as-consciousness, to again, how is Mark (e.g.; partner,
tion and development. This is the duration-as-information, to dura- son, artificial companion, etc.)? I
concept of qualitative hashing or tion-as-ideation. Bergson starts see your recent post on the Philoso-
soft-hashing a qualitative sense to contemplate this too, that the phy of Complexity; I am working
of ideas in development, includ- process of ideation might be bet- on a related project. It would be of
ing the notion of gaps where there ter understood, in his notion of substantial benefit to have humans
should be new ideas. The philoso- intuition is a method of thinking and memory appliances working
pher Bergson articulates the distinc- in duration. The reason that the together seamlessly, especially in
tion between the quantitative and qualitative is important is that both cases of impairment (general mem-
qualitative aspects of lived experi- quantitative and qualitative dimen- ory decline with age, stroke, and
ence. For example, in the case of sions may be necessary for general- neurodegenerative disease like
time, there is clock time and the purpose problem solving AIs, and Alzheimers and Parkinsons dis-
internal subjective experience of the qualitative may be a term that is ease); in new situations; and in gen-
time. As the term suggests, clock more-readily technically articulable eral off-loading the mental drudgery
time can be measured objectively to incorporate in AI design than of memory and the social cost of
and externally; a minute is always a consciousness. poor memory. The ability to look
minute. Subjective time, however, up and verify blockchain-registered
is the internal experience of time, Blockchain-Based Memory Aides data in real time automatically via
which might be faster or slower than Departing from qualitative ide- wearables could enable higher-reso-
clock time. Consider waiting for a ation, a more immediate practical lution human communication.

december 2015 IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 47


Bias Reduction and printing app where optimal mental The obvious question is why
Memory-Reimprinting performance coaching algorithms with all of this raw computing
Blockchain-based memory aides continually canvas for potential power are there not AI applica-
are just the first step. A second issues, including surfacing poten- tions closer to human intelligence
killer app that starts to evoke the tial situations for reimprinting. in the ability to solve general-pur-
ability to work with the data of the pose problems (e.g.; any new prob-
whole of an entitys memory is bias Processing lem). This is because comparing
reduction. It is known that humans In addition to memory, storage, raw computational capacity is just
are currently biased in many ways and file-serving as key inputs for one metric, and probably not the
of perceiving and interacting with creating Blockchain Thinkers, pro- right one for assessing intelligence
the world, mainly due to evolution cessing is the next element of the or understanding the complex-
and culture [22]. Some of the many inputs-processing-outputs archi- ity of the human brain [28]. The
cognitive biases include loss aver- tecture. One benefit of blockchain parallelized modular architecture
sion, overconfidence, confirmation, architecture, and Internet architec- of supercomputing is nothing like
rationalization, probability neglect, ture more generally, is decentralized human brain architecture. Digital
and hindsight [8]. (See also Less- processing and massive network is not analog. Signal transmission
Wrong: http://lesswrong.com/.) redundancy. In the blockchain con- and processing is different in bio-
B lo ckc ha i n - b a s e d me mor y text, there could be an opportunity logical systems, with a variety of
could be used as an input for to reinvent the operation of thinking analog parameters such as context
the algorithmic assessment of in a decentralized way. What would and continuum determining the
agent bias, and smart contracts it really be like to have packetized quality, quantity, and persistence of
employed to monitor this in real thoughts and packetized thinking? signals. This could be why Digital
time and make bias-adjustment Blockchain-based decentralized Thinkers and general AIs do not yet
suggestions to ameliorate actions memory storage was discussed, but exist. The reason is because super-
or conceptualizations. A third kill- perhaps an even greater benefit for computing, for all its power, is still
er app could use blockchain-based higher-potentiality thinking is the monolithically homogeneous.
memor y ledgers together with possibility of distributed process- Supercomputers do not think but
pattern-recognition algorithms ing. A Digital Thinker could have only have simple linear architec-
for mental health improvement. decentralized processing nodes that tures massively replicated. One
In some areas of therapy, one reassemble back into the goal or claim is that for a Digital Thinker
main psychological operation is task. It would be like giving a brain to think, it would need to think
helping individuals reimprint the additional processing nodes. Super- more like humans, with analog
memories of earlier experiences computing is an existing example of signal valences, non-linear archi-
in a more resourceful way. Early massively-parallelized processing, tectures, and greater complexity.
memories are encoded in the however this is of a Level 1 variety Some approaches to develop-
child brain in different stages of such that tasks can be neatly pack- ing general-purpose problem-solv-
development, and can later recur aged into many similarly-structured ing digital intelligences use deep
in strange, artificial, exaggerat- parallelizable computations whose learning algorithms and large
ed, and unempowering ways that results can be easily coordinated data corpora to simulate or emu-
hamper productive and healthy back into the larger system. The raw late whole-brain thinking. This
adult life. Situations often repeat compute capacity of supercomput- approach may yield useful results
that relate to the same underly- ers surpassed that of the human for some kinds of AI applications
ing issue that was initially poor- brain (estimated at 1013-1016 oper- but is still far from representing
ly-coded. Psychologists seek to ations per second [12] in 2012 with the messy non-linear wet archi-
trace back and root out all of the IBMs Sequoia BlueGene/Q at 1016 tecture of biological systems like
instances, starting with the most flops, and as of November 2014 the brain in silico. Instead, block-
recent, having only the crude and had reached 1034 flops with Chi- chain technology might be a help-
imprecise tools at their disposal of nas Tianhe-2 at the National Super ful addition to these approaches
individuals working with their own Computer Center in Guangzhou, a in allowing the development and
subjective memories. A future use TH-IVB-FEP Cluster with over 3.1 coordination of decentralized archi-
of blockchain-based memory to million cores (http://www.top500. tectures and clusters of non-linear
address this could be a DIY Reim- org/lists/2014/11/). functionality that are more like

48 IEEE Technology and Society Magazine december 2015


the brain. Additionally smart con- mining ecologies, where different in some sort of productive effort
tracts might be incorporated as a functions within the same ecosys- to support itself. Thus the brain as
means of extending the heretofore tem might provide mining services a DAC has each input-processing-
narrowband break-down of super- for each other. The concept is that output architectural element in
computing tasks into other more of a self-mining ecosystem or cross- need of supporting itself, possibly
complicated problems. In gener- functional mining within a symbi- through a cooperative mining ecol-
al in supercomputing, there is an otic system. Different functions are ogy in the overall blockchain think-
opportunity to make progress on separate enough from each other ing system.
the issue of tackling more complex for mining independence, yet also The notion of self-mining ecolo-
tasks, reformulating supercomput- have a shared objective in the over- gies is perhaps more readily con-
ing and desktop grid computing all health of the system. The three ceivable in the IOT smarthome
problems into higher orders of functions in the input-processing- context. In this case different
complexity and away from simple output architecture could mine for smarthome functions could mine
parallelization [14]. Blockchain- each other. Efficiency, trustabil- for each other. For example the
architected models might facilitate ity, and independence are the hall- bathroom sensors mine (e.g.,
this. Problems might be fashioned marks of a mining operation. The administer the transactions of) the
into a mining-compatible format to structure of cryptocurrency min- kitchen sensor activities and vice
take advantage of the otherwise ing is such that it is purposefully a versa or (better) round robin so
wasted computing cycles of min- wasteful operation. Good agents any one ecology does not know
ing, or organized into economical- conduct wasteful computation- which other will be mining for it. All
ly-enabled remunerative structures al efforts to demonstrate a proof functions are embodied as DACs or
for computation. of work (proof of having solved a Dapp agents that need to self-fund
computational problem), and bad to sustain, where they are indepen-
Self-Mining Brain Ecologies agents are deterred because of the dent yet have incentive to cooper-
and Proof of Intelligence proof of work requirement. ate within the overall smarthome
Mining is a core architectural fea- Instead in blockchain-based system. Sensor mining colonies
ture of blockchain processing, systems for other types of opera- in IOT smarthome have incentive
where a mining operation is nec- tions like blockchain thinking and to accurately record the transac-
essar y to record transactions. smarthome IOT systems, the min- tions of the other function because
Independent miners confirm that ing requirement could be different. they are both part of bigger entity.
transactions are bonafide and In these contexts, mining could Despite not being fully indepen-
enter them into the public ledger, be implemented differently such dent, the different sensor colonies
for which they receive remunera- that its administrative contribution are separate enough, and have
tion. An obvious question arises would still be sound, while taking an incentive to only record truth-
as to how mining would work in into account the fact that the pro- ful transactions because first, their
blockchain thinking. Since the need files and incentives for bad players reputation in the system matters,
to deter bad players is different, is reduced in these systems. Mining and two, they need trustful min-
mining cycles might not need to could be connected to the concept ing operations within the system to
be so wasteful, and maybe instead of a DAC (distributed autonomous have their transactions processed
could be symbiotic. The context corporation). Inherent in the struc- for their own survival. Thus a trust
is different in blockchain think- ture of a DAC is first, its governance ecosystem is built. If more inde-
ing, and does not require such dis- constitution posted openly to a pendence were deemed necessary,
crete transactions and all of the blockchain for inspection; two, its different smarthomes could mine
checks-and-balances of a monetary need to raise funds to conduct its for each other, or mining could be
system where theft incentives are operations; and three, its attempt a rotating service as previously
high. Thus the same transaction- to earn revenue from providing mentioned. Self-mining ecologies
recording functionality might be whatever services it can provide. could be implemented in the Storj
provided by another mechanism, The brain as a DAC has these same model, where requests-for-service
such as high-speed secure mes- requirements, needing to sustain are rebid dynamically. On a daily
saging as has been proposed for itself by running its own economy basis, different smarthome IOT
smarthome Internet-of-Things (IOT) to earn revenue and spend it on sensor functions could bid for min-
networks [3]. Another idea is self- necessary expenditures; engaging ing services within the smarthome

december 2015 IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 49


network, or beyond, and lock in easures, in a wide range of areas
m Proof of intelligence could be
futures contracts for mining ser- including personal data storage used in different ways as a repu-
vices. Instead of GDP, the financial and transmission, facial recogni- tational commodity in blockchain
metric of the future could be the tion, and camera on-off time. JIBO, thinking networks.
spot price for smarthome mining the worlds first family home robot
services. One benefit of blockchain developed by Cynthia Breazeals lab Ideas as the Currency of Thinking
architecture is that complexity and at MIT, with 4,800 units pre-sold and Demurrage Redistribution
optimality can arbitrarily scale- on Indiegogo for $2.3 million has Another way that blockchain con-
up; another situation of the future a detailed FAQ with the companys cepts might be used in blockchain
might be a neighborhood of smart- policies on these kinds of issues thinking is by taking advantage of
homes negotiating a Groupon or (http://www.myjibo.com/) [2]. As their property as infrastructure for
supply contract with a local ven- with any new technology, threats administering and coordinating
dor, bidding solar power against and responses often evolve in lock- system-wide behavior, especially
electricity, for example, without any step (the Red Queen problem; run- through economic principles. Ideas
human intervention. ning place just to keep up) and this are the currency of thinking, and
Self-mining ecologies are anal- would be expected in all potential blockchain architectures might be
ogous to the physical-world sym- applications of blockchain technol- used to encourage, facilitate, and
biotic relationships for survival in ogy whether for currency, thinking, incite ideation. Ideation process-
the animal kingdom, for example, or smarthomes. ing, the generation of new ideas, is
birds clearing parasites off of mam- perhaps the highest order of pro-
mals. Likewise self-mining ecologies Proof of Intelligence cessing available to Blockchain
could operate as a symbiotic sys- As the mining operation could be Thinkers. Ideas could be conceived
tem, performing an essential admin- different in smarthome IOT net- as a demurrage currency that could
istrative grooming function for works and blockchain thinking, be redistributed on demand. For
the health of the overall system in consensus as a feature of mining thinking system optimality, there
which they participate. Clearly there could likewise be different. Con- could be different kinds of incitory
could be many risks and concerns sensus mechanisms could be rein- resources distribution mechanisms.
that would arise with the new tech- vented, moving from a proof or A Dapp could automatically redis-
nology development. These could work or proof of stake model as tribute any currency-as-commodity
include smarthome viruses, mali- are the current industry standards within the system. In the case of a
cious outsiders hacking into the for cryptocurrencies, to other con- Blockchain Thinker, ideas, potentia-
smarthome system, and the usual sensus mechanisms like proof tion, information, entropy, or other
slate of personal smarthome data of intelligence. This could be for stimulation resources could be
privacy and security concerns such higher-level blockchain thinking examples of currencies that power
as neural data privacy rights. A smartnetwork operations rather the system and might be periodical-
number of other more science fic- than simple transaction recording. ly distributed or redistributed in an
tion-like scenarios can be imagined In one way, proof of intelligence incitory manner to produce a higher
such as the smarthome next door could serve as a reputational qual- rate of idea generation.
syphoning electricity or wanting to ifier; as a proof of ability to par-
prank residents, collusion between ticipate. In another way, proof of Outputs
mining ecologies, the toasters com- intelligence could be an indica- Outputs is the third element in the
putational ethics model malfunc- tion that some sort of mental inputs-processing-outputs architec-
tioning and selling pictures to TMZ processing has taken place. For ture. Outputs might be in the form
or posting them to Instagram, and example, a new concept, idea, of actions, feedback loops and noti-
other egregious failed implementa- association, or knowledge element fications back into the process or
tions of smarthome data privacy has had to have been generated to system, or smart contracts enacted
rights. This is not a far-off concern; provide the skin-in-the-game for for some future situation. Blockchain
the need to establish machine eth- the consensus, to demonstrate Thinkers might be writing files to stor-
ics modules is already here. The the miners bonafide status in age, conducting economic transac-
personal home robotics industry registering the transaction and tions, or engaging in other forms of
is already setting forth new forms receiving the Mindcoin, Ideacoin, action-taking. One important class
of social contracts and privacy or other system token rewards. of output is the higher-order goal,

50 IEEE Technology and Society Magazine december 2015


objective, or utility function of the balanced day. Complexity math could readily understandable and execut-
system, and assessing the systems help to configure both the qualitative able by digital entities. Second, block-
achievement of this. Blockchains are and the quantitative. The variable chains are not just code as in any
well-structured to instantiate, track, coefficients or Eigen values could be AI system, but code in the form of a
monitor, fine-tune, and report on the instantiation of quantitative mea- permanent transparent public record
such overall goals, objectives, and surement, and qualitative optimization that can be reviewed and inspect-
utility functions of blockchain think- could be through their interrelation, ed by any party at any time; so it is
ing systems, particularly with smart assessed by standard complexity tech- known what the AI is doing. Third,
contracts. The claim is that any form niques such as fat tails, high coeffi- not only is it known what Blockchain
of digital thinking and digital pro- cients, degrees of correlation, fractal AIs are doing, they will not be chang-
cessing could be coordinated and behavior, and nearest neighbor analy- ing their behavior after the fact since
governed by blockchain-based smart sis. A model optimizing for human code is law and cannot be modified
contracts. The higher-level goal set happiness would have not only a gen- once set to run. Smart contracts will
of autonomous or semi-autonomous eral daily equation with quantitative run inexorably in the future carrying
Blockchain Thinkers would be to and qualitative measures, but also out whatever has been specified; they
maximize their smart contract-based comprehend system dynamism and are not open for breach or discretion-
utility functions. These utility func- variation at the level of other time ary compliance as are their counter-
tions would be part of the constitu- frames. For example, it is known that parts, human-based contracts.
tional setup envisioned for Dapps, variability is perhaps the most impor- Most importantly, fourth, con-
DAOs, and DACs, but specialized to tant feature in human happiness prac- sensus as a feature of blockchain
the needs and operations of thinking. tices [11]. Instantiating utility functions technology suggests that interac-
with complexity math might more tions between cooperative moral
Using Complexity Science to readily allow other complexity con- players within a society could be
Instantiate Blockchain-Based cepts to be implemented too. These enforced [24]. In decentralized
Utility Functions could include simultaneous multi-level trust networks, an agents repu-
Mathematics from complexity science fractal intelligence, and shifting intel- tation could be an important fac-
could be used to help develop and ligence more explicitly into the struc- tor in whether its transactions can
structure blockchain thinker utility ture of a power law, meaning being be executed, such that the trans-
functions for implementation in smart able to grow at an exponential, though actions of malicious players are
contracts. The first task is specifying measurable and possibly controllable, not recognized on the network. It
the different variables to comprise a rate. Different forms of Blockchain does not matter if malicious play-
utility function, and their interrelation. Thinkers could be instantiated with ers masquerade as bonafide players
Some of these variables could include different utility functions, using the since the reputation requirement
economic sustainability, ideation, blockchain structure as an AI sandbox and network incentives elicit good
growth and learning, contribution, for testing arbitrarily-many combinato- behavior from all players, malicious
and equanimity. The second task is rial permutations of parameters such and bonafide alike, similar to the
specifying assessment and measure- as intelligence functionality and behav- situation of the often-productive
ment metrics for the variables, ide- ioral ethics. existence of sociopaths in human
ally quantitative and qualitative since society. Some of the key smart net-
both are needed to have a full repre- Enacting Friendly AI with work operations that a Digital Intel-
sentation of a balanced and happy Blockchains ligence might want to execute are
human. The most basic human utility The discussion of blockchain think- identity authentication and valida-
function might be articulated as 0.33 ers, smart contracts, and utility func- tion, secure access to resources,
Sleep + 0.33 Work + 0.33 Play. This tions raises the specter of Friendly AI: and economic exchange. Effectively,
function could be implemented with how to develop machine intelligence any important network transaction
coefficients for the different life areas that is beneficent to humans. What is that intelligent agents need to fulfill
being derived from daily time spent notable about blockchain technology their goals could require some form
in the activity, automatically tabulated is that perhaps for the first time, it is of access or authentication that is
via cell phone and wearables data. a credible model of checks-and-bal- consensus-signed, and which can-
This sample utility function outlines ances by which Friendly AI could be not be obtained unless the agent
the basic quantitative measure of the realized. First, blockchains are code, has a good (benevolent) reputation-
time spent in each activity area for a which is the language of machines; al standing in the smart network.

december 2015 IEEE Technology and Society Magazine 51


This is how Friendly AI could be chain thinking might be not just a based systems, Center for Bioinformatics and
Computational Biology, Institute for Advanced
effectuated in a blockchain-based tool for the immediate progress of
Computer Studies, University of Maryland,
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52 IEEE Technology and Society Magazine december 2015