This morning Fetch.AI chief technology officer Toby Simpson took part in a Q&A with 499 Blockchain Community. The organisation has brought together the most influential female blockchain entrepreneurs in China and South Korea. It is committed to creating a platform for female leaders in the blockchain industry.
Here’s the interview transcript:
499 Blockchain Community Moderator Laura Oh:
Good afternoon everyone, our guest today is Toby Simpson. Toby is a Co-founder and CTO at Fetch.AI. Toby has over a quarter of a century of experience in software design and development, and more than a decade as CTO across three companies. As well as being the producer and director of the highly successful Creatures series of Artificial Life games, he spent the early 2000s developing and deploying games on a biologically inspired, agent-based massively multi-player engine called Alice. He then became Head of Software Design at Deepmind, before using his virtual world and simulation experience to architect a system for executive training.
Fetch.AI CTO Toby Simpson:
Thanks for the introduction! Doing Fetch.AI is a dream come true for me: it is an opportunity to build the largest digital world ever conceived, fill it with more digital entities than we can imagine, and have those all work to solve life’s problems. Converging AI, decentralised ledgers and more like this is incredibly exciting.
Sounds amazing! Now let’s do a deep dive into Fetch.AI.
1. How did you think of adopting AI with blockchain? Could you elaborate more on the background of your project?
That is a long story, so I will try not to type for too long! The original idea came many years ago when Humayun Sheikh (Fetch.AI’s CEO) and I were talking about whether it was possible to create a virtual world so large that we could populate it with representatives of the entire economy. That means little digital entities that represented data, hardware, services and more. The idea was that we could use AI to figure out how to connect them together so that they could get useful stuff done for themselves, but also for you: it would be like having thousands, maybe millions, of little personal assistants that would solve problems for you.
The problem was that we couldn’t figure out how to get the scale. We couldn’t make our world big enough. We also couldn’t get the computing power necessary to do that amount of AI: learning who should talk to who, when and why, is not trivial. We also had issues with identity, and a method of letting these little digital entities transact with each other.
Blockchain solved this for us: it allowed us to make our world as big as we wanted. It provided us with the decentralised computing power to do the AI. It provides *identity* and it provides a method of value exchange (the tokens). In short, when we discovered blockchain and the other cryptographic goodies that come with it, we realised that we could build our world. And that is Fetch.AI: an economic Internet where billions of digital entities (which we call Autonomous Economic Agents) work to make your life better.
2. What makes Fetch.AI unique compared to other blockchain projects that also combine blockchain and AI technology? How is Fetch.AI different from others?
Blockchain isn’t a thing by itself. It is a tool, a component, something that you combine with other things to deliver grand visions. It is an *enabler*. That is what I think is so important about it: it’s not about building blockchains, it’s about building incredible things that were not possible before.
Fetch.AI is unique because it creates a world for Autonomous Economic Agents to get work done. It is a vast digital environment that uses AI to restructure itself in real-time to better connect those agents together. I often describe it as “the ultimate dating agency for value providers” in that it learns how to connect those that want something to those that have something. There are other projects that allow people to share and use each other’s AI features, but none that use AI *on the blockchain itself* to create shared knowledge for the benefit of everyone. It also enables decentralised, distributed computing on a scale not achieved before: we call this synergetic computing, a method of collectively solving huge problems to help the network’s users to solve problems.
In particular, this can be used to generate predictions. Predictions are important, because it gives agents the insight as to what *will* happen, rather than what is or did happen. Predictions allow agents to better serve those that they represent, like you, me or something else.
So we’ve created this world where billions of agents get things done, and that world is enabled by blockchain, and powered by AI. This AI exists on and around the network and that is unique.
We use AI to create an almost magical world for digital entities so that what they see is optimised just for them. Imagine if when you opened your eyes, all you saw was precisely what you needed to see to lead a happy, peaceful and productive life? Well, in reality, we can’t do that, but in a digital world we can: each digital entity (or Autonomous Economic Agent as we call them) sees a view that is unique to them. Adapted perfectly so that they can get the work they need to do done with the minimum of friction, delays or problems. That is why we combined blockchain and AI: so that we could allow billions of these agents to work effectively to solve problems for you. We can organise travel for you, we can change the way energy works, we can get a business’ assets to *manage themselves*. Life gets more and more complex, and with Fetch.AI, that complexity can manage itself.
3. What is the roadmap of Fetch.AI for 2019? It will be great to have both technical and business roadmaps.
We have a detailed plan for all the cool things we’re doing in 2019. We have blog posts that talk about the technical side, but there is so much else going on. Most importantly, we will continue to deliver the technology on time so that we can get to a native main network by the end of this year. It is a tough schedule, but we are making excellent progress. We also are building our community: we know that we can’t do this by ourselves, and that the imagination and ideas of others will make a significant difference – we want to encourage and support all those who wish to experiment with, build with, or just play on Fetch.AI. We have released our community web site and through that you can get access to all sorts of developer resources. You can also access things like our “Network Participation App” that lets you create agents on your mobile device just by dragging and dropping!
As well as our technical and community plans, we’re also engaging with regulators and those involved in legislation in this space. We’re one of the founding partners in Blockchain for Europe, for example, through which we help grow and nurture this whole blockchain and decentralised space by talking directly with those that wish to encourage innovation, but do so in a safe environment: safe for those developing and safe for users. We think that this is very important. This is a new space, and we are all learning. It is best to work with those that are going to grow and deliver the rules so that we can all benefit.
Commercially, we continue to work with the various groups we are involved in such as MOBI and the Trusted IoT Alliance to deliver working examples of Fetch.AI doing things. We have a video, for example, that shows how Fetch.AI can hugely improve journey times for electric cars by optimising their use of charging points:
When you combine this with people’s desire to sleep, eat, rest and more, then you can see how Fetch.AI’s Autonomous Economic Agents could transform our lives in a positive way. And as well as working with these partners, we are also developing agents for others. We’re very excited about what is going on and in the coming weeks and months we will be able to reveal some very, very cool stuff: real agents doing things (such as solving travel problems for you) and combinations of Fetch.AI with other technologies to make the environment even better for solving problems. To learn more about how Fetch.AI can help solve travel problems by changing the way the industry works, please read my blog post.
4. What are your predictions for the blockchain market in Europe in 2019? Is there any specific output that Fetch.AI expects from the European market?
The space is growing and we are doing it together with the regulators. We all recognise that blockchain and the decentralisation it enables will profoundly change our lives, and it will do so for the better. You will own more of your stuff, be in control of your identity, the claims made against it and the value that you hold. It will allow more personalised solutions and a better management of our complex lives.
It will have the same, if not greater, impact on our lives than the Internet did because of what it enables. For all of us working in this space, we want to be able to create and to do so safely. We want to be able to build with confidence and we want users to be able to benefit from our creations in a way that is safe for them. That requires working with governments, in particular those involved in regulation and legislation, and doing so to make this work for everyone. We don’t want regulation to prevent innovation, but we do want an environment that can grow.
So for the European market, we’re doing things like Blockchain For Europe (along with our friends and other founding partners like Ripple, NEM and Cardano) so that we can be involved in all of this in a positive way.
But generally, since you asked me to predict, I’ll add this: in 2019 we’ll see a more mature space. Real technologies, real products, things that you can see how they will help your daily lives. The market will grow up: and it will do so globally, not just in Europe, and I feel that is a great step for us all.
5. What kind of reactions did you get after the sale?
We got a very positive reaction. It was very exciting for us to do the token sale: it meant that many more people would have the FET token and that means that we’d be able to build so much more. It also marked the point in our journey when we could really push with nurturing our community. Doing a token sale is a complex thing and involves a lot of effort from many people, and we were very fortunate to have such excellent partners to work with for the entire process.
6. Could you give us some examples of your technology? Do you have any partnerships in place?
Absolutely: two key use cases are travel agents and transportation. Autonomous Economic Agents can work together to provide these solutions for you, so you don’t need to worry. And that’s really what it is all about: right now you, as a person, have to make all of the effort to coordinate your modern digital life. When I travel, for example, I need to use many different Apps and I need to remember to do this, otherwise I find myself waiting for a train that will never arrive, or delayed standing in the rain somewhere. With Fetch.AI, the solutions to your problems are delivered to you, directly, without you having to work to solve them yourself. It makes your life easier, nicer, less stressful and gets you better solutions because you don’t need to *remember* or *research* all the possible things yourself, your population of digital agents will do that for you.
Other use cases are in asset management and energy. Energy is interesting because with Autonomous Economic Agents in everything, devices, batteries, generators etc. can negotiate amongst themselves to get the best deal and with more electric cars out there, there is the chance to harness all that wonderful storage to deal with energy on a more local level. This is more robust, more efficient and increases utilisation whilst decreasing waste, which is very important for our future.
I’ll touch briefly on asset management as it is one we come across often in large businesses or services. Hospitals, for example, sometimes even lose patients, but often lose equipment or find people are in the wrong place at the wrong time. By putting agents in everything, this can change: stuff knows what it is, what it does and where it should be. If you bring stuff to life with agents and put them on Fetch.AI, then the AI will take care of ensuring that all this stuff can help itself without human intervention. This is very, very cool.
To answer the question about being partnered with companies: yes. We are working with many, directly and indirectly. Indirectly, we work with huge companies such as Bosch and BMW via MOBI and TIoTA associations where we’re collectively working together to build exciting new use cases and applications of technology like Fetch.AI. Directly, we’re building agents for specific projects, and we’re looking forward to being able to announce many of those in the coming weeks and months.
Of course, there’s also our community: Fetch.AI introduces new opportunities to build on an economic Internet and we are working hard to support and nurture the community so they can take what’s in their imaginations and make it a reality on Fetch.AI.