When I spoke with Toby Simpson, the news had just emerged that his company Fetch.AI has just joined three other businesses to form the lobbying group Blockchain For Europe. He was clearly delighted and enthused by the project.
Cambridge-based Fetch.AI aims to create a “decentralised digital world in which useful economic activity can take place.”
Simpson describes the EU partnership as a “truly wonderful opportunity” to influence policy in the European Union “in an area which I think is enormously important.”
He says it will “positively change the lives of so many people. The convergence of technologies like machine learning, AI and decentralised ledgers delivers the opportunity for a world where technology works more effectively for the benefit of us all.”
The European Union has demonstrated that it has “substantial understanding” and is taking blockchain very seriously.
Fetch works by making the data smart and selling itself. They create an environment where simple autonomous agents can thrive, creating a bottom-up approach to intelligence as opposed to the current top-down approach.
Simpson previously worked for DeepMind, which is the generalised artificial company acquired by Google in a multimillion dollar deal.
In the future, people, cars and sensors will transact with one another autonomously to find the best price from an energy supplier to wash their clothes or charge their electric car.
The logic is today’s complex systems in transport, health and energy are too difficult to manage efficiently from the top down, hence the need for the restructuring.
Spinning more plates
He summarises Fetch.AI’s ethos as about “making peoples’ lives easier in an increasingly complex world,” he explains. “As people and companies are expected to spin more and more of their own plates.”
He says top-down, centralised management structures tend to be “not as robust and flexible” as those using blockchain and “it’s very difficult” to manage so many component parts in the centralised structure.
Lack of computing power
Simpson and his team have been working on the project for the last decade but couldn’t make it work then due to “lack of computing power.”
The decentralised ledger technology (DLT) of blockchain has been “the key to unlocking the puzzle” in more recent times.
He explains what they do by citing a shipping container as a “dumb asset” that’s not being fully utilised as it has no idea it’s a shipping container nor where it is. Fetch.AI changes this approach and has a clear benefit in logistics and supply chain, improving efficiency.
The technology can be useful for the “management and supply chain and in healthcare.”
He also says: “If you see a bunch of people put their phones in their pockets in London, chances are it’s just about to start raining. That will determine transactions such as whether they will choose to get their step count up or take the underground.
“All these little transactions add up and can be utilised by computers for big data.”
What Fetch does is learn how to connect things according to “need and desire”, he says.
It promises to give more control back to individuals ensuring they are able to have self-sovereignty which is an “enormously attractive proposition.”
“It will give people more control over their identify and the information which will benefit them.”
Asked if he’s motivated to make the world a better place, he replies: “Well, I don’t want to make the world a worst place. We are creating something that is arguably fairer.”
The unpermissioned ledger is central to Fetch’s functioning and scalability.
The digital entities (autonomous economic agents) can freely transact and co-ordinate tasks independently of human intervention and represent themselves, individuals, devices or services.
‘Exchange dating agency’
The open economic framework of the platform is like an “ultimate value exchange dating agency of sorts” in which each agent can see a space optimised in real-time for them. This framework is their gateway to the digital world.
Simpson says the platform can offer incredible support and assistance in a number of ways.
It will be able to help many individuals, entities, and businesses globally by increasing efficiency.
Any resistance to the technology, he says, is fuelled by human insecurity as people may view AI as the sort of stuff seen in films like Terminator, when it’s “lots of small pieces of knowledge that can benefit a network.”
The whole point is about trust building and giving people autonomy.