The 1982 Blade Runner is a masterpiece.
A recent rewatch brought up questions about AI and how crypto-biometrics could ultimately curtail the concerns around it
The story uses the fictional Voight-Kampff test to gauge emotion responses of rogue Replicants (androids). If they fail, they get retired.
Our great conflict with artificial intelligence is the idea that it will one day be capable of unrestrained, subversive decision making. There’s a looming fear that the novel products we’re using today set the stage for a Skynet-esque armageddon.
Knowing what we do around centralization, it isn’t likely that those in power hand full control of the nukes to giga-intelligent computers. The real negatives will, in my opinion, be felt as early AI pervades slightly further into everyday social and digital spaces.
Deepfakes and bot herds are becoming simpler to produce and more persuasive. The hazards for social media, identity management, and fraud protection could multiply at a dizzying rate.
Even if this doesn’t materialize, we can assume that the steady hysteria now creeping into the media will rise regardless. Headlines equal advertising dollars, after all.
To protect ourselves against this we have two choices: either verify proof of AI or proof of humanity.
Chasing down machines which are getting continuously smarter is likely an uphill battle. Inverting this approach by definitively establishing human-ness in the first instance makes the process of elimination simpler.
This is where crypto-biometrics comes in.
Storing biometric data on a blockchain could be the foundation for a global identity system. The significance of achieving this goal could herald massive shifts in many major tech niches. Protecting bank details and private keys could be simplified, traveling with a physical passport could become a thing of the past, and government election processes could finally be truly transparent.
Worldcoin is arguably the most recognizable project in the space. The grand vision of placing iris-scanning orbs in social spaces across the globe seems far-fetched considering the manufacturing costs and education process needed. There are also questions about tokenizing such an ecosystem which have recently been articulated by former Ethereum developer Hudson Jameson.
A different approach is to create a biometrics identification layer like HUMANODE, which acts as a platform for further innovation to be built on top of. Once a user has submitted biometric information they become a unique validator - a human node - on the network. The result is a registry that is both encrypted and easy to search.
The interoperability is key here. Being able to loop a social media network or financial platform together with blockchain-proofed identity verification could, in theory, be a protective buffer against AI misuse. Through a lens of immutability we would have a definitive way to filter out Replicants in our own systems.
This interlink between biometrics and blockchain isn’t entirely a digital Valhalla yet. There are still red flags around the (mis)use of immutable, transparent personal data and its role in surveillance, cultural bias or stereotyping, and identity theft.
As a space, when we discuss identity, we seem to often overlook the possibility that someone wants to be forgotten, and the process of removing information stored on a decentralized system. This is something we’re actively exploring at The Tinkering Society and will share more insight soon.
Blade Runner opens with a wide shot of 2019 Los Angeles, flying cars and all. Our timeline is delayed but artificial intelligence is beginning to realize its potential as a positive adjunct to societal progress. If the fears around its capabilities are indeed realistic then decentralization, and immutable identities, could be the underpinning safeguard that sets it (almost) free.