Building a Humanistic Information Economy with ObEN’s PAI Security and Data Ownership Practices

Oil, gold, and…data? For most of history, the acquisition of valuable physical commodities has been the driver of prosperity and progress, turning clever or lucky discoveries into world-dominating empires. But, in the digital age, the notion of value has shifted, with data becoming the most valuable resource on the planet.

Mining data, however, is not the same as mining oil or gold. The data valuable to today’s leading companies are derived from users. Even when you exit a social media site or a shopping platform, the companies that own these services can still track your data – often monetizing that data or using it for their own research purposes without your conscious awareness.

Jaron Lanier’s treatise on data, AI, and humanities place in the new information economy draws many parallels with the goals of ObEN.
Jaron Lanier’s treatise on data, AI, and humanities place in the new information economy draws many parallels with the goals of ObEN.

In Who Owns the Future?, early virtual reality (VR) pioneer Jaron Lanier argues that those now in possession of large amounts of user data — tech companies, financial institutions, even government organizations — form a body of “Siren Servers” that have gained far more in value than they return to users. More insidious than that, Lanier sees us as unwitting contributors to the content that helps these “Siren Servers” thrive. His argument is well reflected in our current culture, where stories of data leaks, breaches, and mishandlings dominate the news.

Lanier’s solution is a rebalancing of the data economy, into what he refers to as a “humanistic information economy (HIE).” It’s a philosophy that ObEN strongly believes in, and we put it into practice with our research and our suite of B2B and B2C products, including PAI News, our PAI avatar content platform, as well as PAI Studios, our PAI content creation and management platform. In short, we believe that every bit (or byte) of data used to create your PAI, as well as ever piece of PAI content you create, should be owned and controlled by you – and you should be free to monetize the data as you see fit.

But how do we go about creating this HIE? How do we control and monetize the data generated from our digital activities? For ObEN, the proliferation of blockchain technology affords the perfect solution. For over a year now, we have adopted the Project PAI blockchain as a means of securing the IP of our celebrity and enterprise partners, tracking that IP on the PAI blockchain to ensure that PAI data is never misused or shared without permission.

PAI stands for Personal Artificial Intelligence. It’s a digital double, an intelligent 3D avatar created using ObEN’s full-stack AI technology. With as little as one selfie and a brief voice recording, a user can generate their digital twin, one that both looks and sounds like them. Users’ PAIs are secured and authenticated on the blockchain, to ensure that they themselves retain use and control of their avatar. With the PAI, users can generate fun and engaging PAI content and experiences that they can then keep for themselves, share with family and friends, or even monetize.

ObEN’s technology powers the intelligent 3D avatars on the PAI Blockchain

 

We put this system to an internal test when we launched our PAI News app this past May. For the launch, our Computer Vision team used an artist rendering to create a PAI of Satoshi – the world’s first AI news anchor and an homage to Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto. All of Satoshi’s IP is secured on the PAI blockchain, and those familiar with decrypting hash values can find Satoshi’s secured IP in the blockchain transaction here.

The world’s first AI anchor delivering top stories on PAI News

So how does this process work? To facilitate data security and also create a way for the easy transfer and monetization of data, the PAI Blockchain operates in tandem with a torrent-based data storage network, so users can tie a piece of data to a PAI Coin transaction. Each coin transaction can also contain an encrypted data pointer that leads the recipient to where they can download the data on the torrent network. The transaction of the coin, and therefore also the transaction of the data, is tracked on the blockchain and stored on a decentralized, peer-to-peer network accessible only to its intended recipient. Any content can be stored in this manner, and the ownership of the data and IP easily tracked and verified on the immutable blockchain ledger. In addition, this system can also be replicated on numerous other blockchain networks, making the same process adaptable to many different blockchain ecosystems.

In fact, ObEN’s PAI Studio – a content creation and data management tool which we are already rolling out to our B2B partners –  will take this a step further. ObEN plans to use this technology to secure the IP of many of our celebrity clients, as well as using the blockchain as a secure way to store the videos, interactive experiences, and other content created through PAI Studio. Much like using Google Drive tools, or Adobe Creative Cloud, the content management is built into PAI Studios, so our celebrity clients get all the added security with no additional work on their part.

The PAI Blockchain’s platform is designed to facilitate data control and exchange.
The PAI Blockchain’s platform is designed to facilitate data control and exchange.

This system is not only useful for the securing of data, but for the transfer and monetization of data as well. Last year, in an effort to collect data for our speech and computer vision algorithms for the Asian market, ObEN released a miniprogram in popular Chinese messaging application WeChat. The miniprogram used an algorithm that ObEN developed to estimate a person’s height based on a brief voice recording and a selfie. It was a fun scientific experiment for users, and more importantly, users were given a chance to let ObEN use their selfies and voice recordings to train our AI in return for some PAI Coin (the native cryptocurrency of the PAI Blockchain). This served as a basic example of how developers, researchers, and users can all benefit in a HIE system. The results of our ‘How Tall’ app were extraordinary. In less than 48 hours, we received over 5000 user selfies and voice recordings taken under a variety of use conditions. Even better, users were automatically compensated for their data with PAI Coin, and were secure in the knowledge that they would immediately be able to see and track a transaction on the blockchain, should ObEN try to share the data with another party.

So who owns the future? By building on Lanier’s vision, ObEN believes the answer will be the individual user. No longer would disproportionate economic power be in the hands of those who own the largest servers or fastest processors, and no longer will we be unwitting donors of our own intellectual property. In exchange for the benefits and insight our data provides, we can receive remuneration for our contributions to the data economy. Every time your PAI’s data is used to improve an AI algorithm, you can be rewarded by the developer in PAI Coin. If you create amazing PAI content, or you’re a celebrity who creates an experience that lets fans interact with your PAI, you can be compensated automatically via the blockchain network. The concern of stolen IP is greatly mitigated because these blockchain transactions serve as record and proof of who owns –  and who has permission to use –  your PAI data and content.

When the digital age gave people the power to share information, it ostensibly brought more transparency to the world. The HIE is the next step forward, peeling back the veneer of transparency in our current digital space to the valuable data exchange occurring beneath. By giving people control of their data, we are empowering citizens of an increasingly automated world that is dependent on data. Because if information is people in disguise, why should we remain unwitting slaves?

 


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ObEN is an artificial intelligence company that creates complete virtual identities for consumers and celebrities in the emerging digital world. ObEN provides Personal AI that simulates a person’s voice, face and personality, enabling never before possible social and virtual interactions. Founded in 2014, ObEN is a Softbank Ventures Korea and HTC Vive X portfolio company and is located at Idealab in Pasadena, California.