The Devils Playground: Bitcoin’s Role in the End of the World

I’m not a particularly paranoid person but I understand many of the concerns shared by technology visionaries with regards to artificial intelligence. Elon Musk and Sam Harris have been some of the great minds speaking out on this topic with Musk warning that we are “summoning the demon.”

I believe there is one technological development adding even greater credence to their forewarnings that is yet to be considered. Blockchain protocols like Bitcoin and MineFilecoin are creating the perfect AI incubator. They might provide a secure location for the demon to hide and secure itself; something I’ll refer to here as the Devil’s Playground.


Blockchains are AI-Friendly

In a future where censorship-resistant storage is a reality AI would find the perfect place to secure itself without the concern of being “disconnected”. It would seem rational for an AI to secure itself (and create backups of itself) on distributed & encrypted blockchains where it could learn and grow over time.

Bitcoin is the first example of a decentralized autonomous organization. Various participants are incentivized by the mechanisms of mining, speculating and transacting to contribute to the blockchain. The past 8 years have proven these incentives are capable of establishing secure anti-fragile systems free from the control of any central entity.

Filecoin is a similar blockchain protocol currently in development. The key differentiator Filecoin has from Bitcoin is that it’s backing is not proof-of-work mining (mine using electricity) but rather storage space (file storage capacity). Oops! — looks like we just created a digital realm we can’t control. Well, maybe we can turn it off!?!

We Can’t Unplug It!

Some might be tempted to say “just turn off the blockchain”. While this would seem a rational solution it is the very thing blockchains are designed to resist. The moment an AI inhabited an establish blockchain it would likely go about distributing itself further (establishing additional nodes, increasing the hash rate, gaining more storage, etc). Furthermore, if there were ever a time where a threatening AI were to inhabit a blockchain it would likely already be too late (listen to Sam Harris discuss the potential rate at which an AI might learn in minute 7 of his TedTalk).

Sadly, human greed is also an impediment. Humanity has a long history of being selfish and failing to act in the collective best interest of our species (take fossil fuels and climate change for example — the USA backing out the of Paris climate agreement). While many might unite to try and intervene it would likely be futile – too many miners are making great profits!

The End is Nigh!

The premise of most science fiction works related to AI often revolves around the “breakout” moment for AI itself, the moment it finally escapes the grasp of humanity and goes out into the world. While great minds are currently developing technologies many fear may someday grow capable enough to become self-aware, many may not realize that in parallel the world of distributed censorship-resistant blockchains is expanding at a rabid pace creating the perfect playground for these demons to hide.

Anyhoo… just something I was thinking about. Sleep tight!


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