Blockchain Isn’t Enough to Get Me Excited About AGI-ICOs
by Adrian Bowles, PhD
Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is the holy grail of AI. The G (for general) is the key, as AGI refers to technology that is domain and task-independent. Like a child, a system with true AGI can learn to solve problems across domains without supervision (although, like a child, a little supervision can speed up the process).
I have heard claims from firms that have proprietary AGI algorithms for years, and their deployment is always just around the corner or on the horizon. I can’t wait to see it, but I can wait to invest in it.
Classifying Digital Assets
An initial coin offering (ICO) is an alternative to conventional debt or equity financing in which a firm offers its own tokens based on a cryptocurrency that is typically built using blockchain technology. Although some of these tokens are meant to be used within an ecosystem, markets are emerging to facilitate the exchange of tokens and of course, where there are markets, there is speculation. So, is an ICO a thinly disguised security offering?
Technically, you are not buying equity in any conventional sense of the word. While the SEC has made it clear that cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are not securities (they are alternative currencies), they are making it just as clear that tokens tied to a specific venture will be treated as securities and regulated as such.
“A token, a digital asset, where I give you my money and you go off and make a venture, you have some company you want to start or something and in return for me giving you my money you say, ‘Know what? I’m going to give you a return.’ Or you can get a return in a secondary market by selling your token to somebody, that is a security and we regulate that. We regulate the offering of that security and we regulate the trading of that security.”
– Jay Clayton, SEC Chairman, on CNBC June 6th, 2018
SingularityNET and Ethereum
Last year, SingularityNET—a firm with an impressive plan for a platform to promote interoperability between AI services that could conceptually support AGI by enabling services/bots to negotiate with each other to collaboratively expand their problem-solving functionality—announced that they would have an ICO to raise $36M in tokens tied to Ethereum to fund development. After qualifying prospective buyers, the firm raised the full amount in 60 seconds.
Note: While we are aware that the AGI token is currently being traded on some exchanges, we do not encourage or facilitate this exchange trading in any manner. Speculative secondary trading is against the spirit of the AGI token and SingularityNET project. We strongly discourage speculative secondary trading and officially ask AGI token holders to act accordingly. (SingularityNET.io September 4th, 2018)
Right now, there are at least two AGI technology firms actively marketing their ICOs. Effectively, you can buy their tokens but not their product. Both claim to have AGI sorted out, but they just need to scale their solutions.
AGI-ICOs: Investments and Alternatives
I’ve made and lost money trading equities and been an active participant in an IPO. As an analyst, I don’t invest in technology equities anyway, but these offerings concern me. The uncertainty of AGI technology, coupled with the uncertainty of the ICO financing model, makes it as hard to evaluate the risks of the offerings as it is to explain the workings of a very deep learning model. If they fail, it may be hard to separate technology deficiencies from financing model challenges, and either way, it will be bad for AGI.
If I spend $2 on a Powerball ticket tonight, I will do it with no expectation that I will win the estimated jackpot of $80M on Wednesday. I will do it to get $2 worth of entertainment, pondering ways to make the world better with my newfound riches, or thinking about how much of that $2 will actually make it to the education fund in my state, or reassuring myself that it was a better investment than a PayDay candy bar. If you invest in an AGI-ICO, I hope you do so because you believe in the mission and the team.
If you just want to dream, I’ll offer another AGI-ICO alternative. I call it Adrian’s Great Idea—just send me real money and when I get enough—I’ll Cash Out. It isn’t an investment. I won’t create a new token or send you a t-shirt, but I’ll just let you share the dream. Vicariously. From a distance.
Please Note: Adrian is neither an attorney nor an investment advisor. We advise you to consult one of each before investing in any technology security.