What AI and Blockchain can do for Information Systems

Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain within Information Systems

RESEARCH

Abstract

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain are two major technologies with the potential of transforming modern business and leadership. While each one of the two technologies offers both technical and business advantages, when working together they promise a technical and economic revolution. In modern business and leadership, the two technologies promise to improve transparency, efficiency and openness in all processes. In the discipline of Information Systems, AI and Blockchains ensure that various stakeholders own up to their data and keep a log of every individual that accesses such information. This research explores why the use of AI and Blockchain in Information Management Systems increase fairness, empowerment and fosters open economies.

Introduction and Thesis

Science, Technology and Society is an interdisciplinary field that explores how science and technology influence society in our exponentially advancing modern civilization. STS, therefore, attempts to create a bridge between the various themes of history, science, engineering, philosophy and public policy studies. The field seeks to answer various crucial questions regarding scientific and technological innovations and their effect on the society. By answering these questions, the field explains what science is, creates an understanding of scientific controversies, explores the effect of scientific knowledge on other disciplines and creates a procedure for handling ethical issues in science. STS is, therefore, a proper approach to understanding how the technologies of AI and Blockchain will influence the field of Information Sciences.

The term ‘Wicked Problem’ describes an issue that is hard to get through due to confusing requirements. These requirements could either be constantly changing, opposing or insufficient. Adoption of AI and Blockchain in Information Management, Business and Leadership is an exercise that would require perspective shifts for entire organizations. This requirement makes the adoption a wicked problem in the area of administration and public policy. STS always seeks to establish authoritative, competitive and collaborative gambit to tackle wicked problems. STS is, therefore, a leading alternative in solving the most pressing Wicked Problems in the contemporary world.

Technology From The STS Perspective

An integral part of the STS field, technology involves the practical application of scientific knowledge to manipulate the environment for societal benefits. Developments in technology arise from gains made in various fields of knowledge, particularly engineering, mathematics, linguistics, history and science. While the exact relations between science, technology and engineering generate heated debate, it is clear that these disciplines are interdependent and act synergistically to advance human capabilities (David Edgerton, 2010). This research explores two particular technologies that could potentially shape the modern world: Artificial Intelligence and Blockchains.

Principles Behind Artificial Intelligence

AI describes technologies built to achieve intelligence in man-made machines. These techniques program computers and other machines to mimic human cognitive capabilities such as memory and decision-making. Using a cross-disciplinary approach, AI intends to endow machines with learning, reasoning and perception capabilities. Over the past couple of decades, scientists, engineers and technologists have made various strides in attaining Artificial Intelligence. Some examples include computers that could beat humans at chess and self-driving cars (Hunt, Carterette & Friedman, 2015). These machines have achieved near-human levels of accuracy and precision in the decision-making process, creating new benchmarks for AI.

Artificial Intelligence promises a plethora of gains for human beings, both at individual and societal level. AI uses large sets of data to predict outcomes and make decisions. Uniquely advantageous to AI, machines are not subject to exhaustion or emotion. AI is therefore a crucial supplement to the human decision-making process. This feature has led to the widespread use of AI in the Automation of Business and Manufacturing processes. The technology also takes in large chunks of incomprehensible information and presents it in a human-readable, easy-to-interpret format. AI systems are programmed to achieve high levels of accuracy using a combination of mathematical, computing, linguistic and social knowledge. AI is therefore crucial in complex systems that require high efficiency (Duggal, 2014). The technology has found suitable application in the fields of Supply Chain Management, Precision Manufacturing and Big Data to predict otherwise unforseen societal or economic shifts. Below is an illustration based on Artificial Intelligence in a “Level I” technologal ecosystem phase which is discussed under the literature review in further detail.

FIGURE 01: Artificial Intelligence Technologies, Level I Ecosystem Phase (Forbes, 2017).

FIGURE 01: Artificial Intelligence Technologies, Level I Ecosystem Phase (Forbes, 2017).

Principles Behind Blockchain

This technology uses a distributed ledger to ensure access but not duplication of information. Blockchain uses a combination of distributed systems and cryptography to ensure there is a record of every economic transaction and all valuable activities surrounding the transaction. Since its inception in 2008, enthusiasts have posited that the Blockchain would form the backbone for the new internet. With continued interest, the Blockchain technology has become a giant collection of records that are linked cryptographically (Breu, 2017). Due to this property, blockchains are known to introduce the aspect of trust in transactions.

Blockchain technology finds suitable application in two major disciplines: Supply Chain Management and Decentralized Banking. The supply chain is a data system comprising goods, people and processes involved in the logistics of trading. The modern consumer is concerned with a lot of information on the product being sold. The blockchain system helps clients easily verify the information as it is recorded, stored and processed within the transaction system (Marine, 2016). In supply chain management, the blockchain realizes such benefits as: error reduction, elimination of delays, minimized fraud and an improvement in management. Blockchain technology also packs features that could help improve financial systems. A blockchain backed financial services may encompass a large database of distributed information, a transaction system and ledger balancing to ensure among all parties that transactions are executed with perfect accuracy. Through the use of smart contracts, Decentralized Banking Systems would improve decision-making, giving financial networks immunity from fraud and malicious access. Below is an illustration behind the central Blockchain working functions as implemented in the Supply Chain Management environment.

FIGURE 01: Blockchain Becomes a Crucial Link in the Supply Chain (Mullaney, 2018).

FIGURE 02: Blockchain Becomes a Crucial Link in the Supply Chain (Mullaney, 2018).

Literature Review

Technology influences societal progress. Technology is a great frame of reference for measuring societal progress because it possesses the character of irreversibility. Technology is an embodiment of scientific discovery, and represents a real world application of the body of knowledge gained in exploring the natural laws. In the contemporary world, technology exemplifies how modern humankind applies rational thinking to its betterment. Technological progress is no longer viewed as an independent event, but the interaction of various social, economical and technical systems. We characterise technology into Levels Ⅰ, Ⅱ, and Ⅲ depending on the interaction between the technology and these systems as proposed by scientists Daniel R. Sarewitz and Braden R. Allenby.

Level Ⅰ Technologies

Technology is all about functionality. Humans usually embrace technology as a way of enhancement; to help improve in their volition. Level Ⅰ technologies therefore aim to connect human desire with an associated outcome. Level Ⅰ technology covers the direct benefits of the technology as witnessed by those who created it (Allenby & Sarewitz, 2011). Thus, observing any technology acting on its own without regard to its effect on other disciplines makes it a Level Ⅰ technology. Examples of Level Ⅰ technologies in regards to the thesis of this research include Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain.

Level ⅠⅠ Technologies

Often, Level Ⅰ technologies constitute a larger system that is more complex and less predictable than the technology itself. These larger systems are comprised of smaller subsystems that interact to produce characteristics which cannot be explored at any individual level alone. In this level, every technology is interconnected to other technologies, activities, institutions, and socio-cultural practices. These less bounded, complex, socio-technical systems are referred to as Level Ⅱ technologies which accomplish a wider range of goals than the Level I technologies they may be comprised of. AI and Blockchain Level I technologies find themselves appropriately nestled at the heart of Level II technologies such as Information Systems as would be alluded by scientists Allenby & Sarewitz. Other multidimensional systematic infrastructures include the transport system, the education system and the healthcare system. All these higher dimensional systems clearly represent the workings of Level Ⅱ technologies.

Level ⅠⅠⅠ Technologies

Beyond the two classifications above, technology can also be described as an Earth System. At this level, technology is dynamic and all societal elements interact to produce highly unpredictable outcomes. This hierarchy in the taxonomy is often unexplored because it is usually too complex to effectively flow chart nonetheless explained through comprehensible forms (Allenby & Sarewitz, 2011). However, it is clearly understood that at this level, technology affects social, cultural and economic trends. AI and Blockchain are relatively new technologies, particularly in their application of use, and are yet to achieve the state of Level Ⅲ technology.

Science From The STS Perspective

This is the field of STS that deals with man’s exploration of natural phenomena to improve their knowledge and quality of life. Science is characterized by rigorous research, carried out either in higher learning institutions, companies and government agencies. Advances in the field of science have practical public administration impacts, leading to the creation of scientific policies. Some scientific policies seek to prioritize the development of such products as environmental protection, commercial products and armaments. Modern science is a conglomeration of a myriad disciplines that benefit from each other. These can be collectively grouped into three branches: natural sciences, social sciences and formal sciences. This section explores the three branches as applied to the Science of Information.

Natural Sciences

This branch seeks to explain natural phenomena using evidence gathered by observing and experimenting. This branch is further categorized into life sciences and physical sciences. The Information Science equivalent of this is Natural Data. Natural data covers information about plants, animals, weather phenomena and landscapes (Guillain, 2013). This information includes species name, location, weather and climate data among others. This data of the natural sciences may be harvested and aggregated into an Information System environment to produce usable statistics. AI systems then provide us with a more comprehensive outlook we otherwise could not have been able to conclude due to the enormity of data provided by the natural sciences.

Social Sciences

This branch of science concerns itself with the society and associations among people within systems. It has a hoard of sub-branches, including communication studies, linguistics, economics, history, public health, psychology, and political science. It’s Information Science equivalent is human knowledge (Kertzer, 2009). This sub-discipline concerns itself with the generation, acquisition, storage and retrieval of information within the human brain.

Formal Sciences

This third branch studies formal systems. Formal systems include disciplines such as computer science, robotics and systems theory. This category is similar to the previous two since it relies on the systematic study and research within a particular area. This branch always offers resources to help improve other fields. For instance, Calculus was invented to help calculate motion in Physics (Stigum, n.d.). The Information Science equivalent of formal sciences is Wisdom. Experts in the field of Information Science often invoke this branch to catalogue and utilize all the information the human brain can conjure.

Argument

The use of AI and Blockchain in Information Systems will result in fair, more transparent administration policies. These technologies promise to achieve for attractive characteristics in the world of public administration: decentralized access, openness, and fair access. This section discusses the framework that helps apply action-motivating values that exemplify these characteristics.

Reasons in Support of the Thesis

Greatest Overall Good – Decentralized Access

AI and Blockchain technologies offer advantages individually. Blockchains offer decentralization; it is durable and consistent and supplies accurate information. AI technology offers reduced error rates, the ability to operate in harsh conditions and improved data analytics. Used together, the two technologies promise unprecedented benefits in the Information Systems application. AI learns from gathering data on human interaction (Hunt, Carterette & Friedman, 2015). Blockchains work on decentralized encryption. A combination of these two creates a highly secure Information System for sensitive data such as financial or medical records. These records will be available for various stakeholders to see, but with every transaction recorded, it is easier to trace the sources of certain actions.

Self-Interest (Opposition) – Unrestricted Access

One of the greatest challenges in modern Information Management Systems involves authorization of users who access information. Advances in the field of AI also result from the availability of data from various sources. While large corporations host large amounts of data on their clients, this data rarely reaches people in the market. Blockchain technology helps resolve this issue by creating peer-to-peer connections. The open ledger means that anyone on the network gains access to data (Marine, 2016). Therefore, implementation of Blockchains and AI in Information Systems will usher in the era of free and open data.

Self Determination – Openness

For future Information Systems to remain credible, they must be trustworthy. Closed AI systems lack the transparency to win public trust. Integrating Blockchains into AI based Information Systems ensures the data is protected through encryption (Shermin, 2017). This way, only authorized users can gain access into the data. For instance, patients’ medical information in health records is only available to the practitioners and the patient themselves. Keeping patient information on a Blockchain allows other medical practitioners to easily access the patients’ information and act accordingly during medical emergencies, all while conforming to the regulations of The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

Fairness – Sharing Data Properly

Decentralized AI Information Systems promise to lower market barriers to entry. These networks help you secure your data, only making it available to those with whom you have agreed to trade. The blockchain first allows users to create cleaner, more organized data. The new technologies will also foster the creation of various new market places. The technology shall also facilitate easy data-sharing (Breu, 2017). Combine these attractive traits with data encryption, verification and proper integration, Blockchains will grant new entrants the competitive advantage enjoyed by large often unmatched corporations.

Thesis Objections

Although extremely powerful, the technologies have their own limitations. Some limitations are related to the technology while others are ephemeral demerits put forward by purist factions. Some limitations include: High consumption of energy as the act of Blockchain hashing requires plenty of time and money to complete. The networks also face the challenge of scalability as the network is growing actively. The issue of owning and distributing data raises concerns by the network users. The final objection deals with the availability of data. Blockchains have not created the proper bridge between network users and infrastructure, thus granting access becomes difficult (Evans, 1985). Some individuals are also florid to the adoption of AI and Blockchain technologies in financial Information Management Systems since current systems work perfect.

Response To Thesis Objections

Blockchain technology seeks to empower a larger portion of the global individualistic mass as compared to old centralized banking models. The decentralized ledger coupled with an integrated AI system helps grant access to anyone looking for information. Blockchains also open up new markets for user data, ensuring fair representation and easy data-sharing. Adopting AI into current business systems improves the system’s’ accuracy, efficiency and energy-saving capability due to proper planning of resource utilization (David Edgerton, 2010). The upgrade of complex Information Systems could help improve quality products through full disclosure while running on lightweight and open source Linux based operating systems which offer the use of inexpensive kernels, ensuring accessibility to a global market.

Society From The STS Perspective

In Science, Technology and Society, the final ‘S’ ofthe STS acronym is in reference to the implications of Society. Society consists of a group of individuals persistently interacting. Some societies exist within the same social territory. Individual patterns, culture and institutions determine the kind of relationships and hierarchy within the group. Technology defines every aspect of modern human life. The challenge is to develop these technologies ethically in public interest. This section explores the philosophical, economical, social and political effects of AI and Blockchain technology when applied to modern Information Systems.

One of the key questions surrounding the adoption of AI and Blockchain technology is how they impact people’s lives over the next decade. So great are the impacts that entire governments are looking to implement policy changes that will ease the adoption of the technologies. One of the most crucial themes is that of employment. Modern Information Systems have grown to perform most office-related activities. Employment Unions and other organizations are in talks with policy makers to ensure employee rights are properly spelt out (Kertzer, 2009). These technologies promise to reduce strain on the human body, but corporates with large societal power could use this as an excuse to downsize. There should be measures in place to reduce the likelihood of such incidences.

Other positive impacts of adopting AI and Blockchain technology in modern systems include: Continued growth and productivity in the workplace. Technology makes work easier, increasing productivity, thereby leading to higher wages and improved living standards. Adoption of these technologies will also change the skills demanded in the employment sector. AI and Blockchain will increase the demand for those who are adept at Information and Communication Technology. One other issue that policy makers will have to tackle is the uneven distribution of impact (Shermin, 2017). People of different social strata will experience different benefits of the technologies depending on work sector, income levels, level of education and job types.

With the impacts being far-reaching, policy-makers ought to adopt policies that demonstrate a commitment to the adoption of AI. The role of policy cannot be overlooked when discussing technological progress. The policies take a three-pronged approach: Investing in the technology, Training Citizens for upcoming jobs and aid in the transition into AI. The government should invest in a decentralized ledger for critical fields such as energy, social welfare, transport and education. This technology also helps improve decision-making through increasingly complex algorithms and machine-learning technique. The policies should also ensure the citizens are trained and prepared for a new career line. This involves encouraging participation in STEM courses and elimination of economic barriers to education. The final stage of policy-making involves ensuring workers share in the vision of integrating technology into the company (Hunt, Carterette & Friedman, 2015). The administrators should ensure that workers can still access their retirement and other benefits that come with employment.

Case Study Conclusion – Cambridge Analytica

The political implications of AI and Blockchain technology cannot be overlooked. For instance, the data analytics company Cambridge Analytica was involved in a data mining scam where the company used facebook user data to develop targeted propaganda campaigns. The company used machine learning algorithms to get data about each voter’s preference, and other unscrupulous methods to sway votes in their clients’ favor during the Trump campaign. An integration of Blockchain and AI promises to help identify perpetrators of such crimes as soon as they commit them and to sustain a free and open society devoid of bias and prejudice.

Resources

Sponsor

Peter W. Ross, Ph.D. CUNY
Philosophy of Mind, Cognitive Science

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