Blockchain , Smart Contract and Artificial Intelligence
What is blockchain, a simple explanation
The definition of blockchain is now well known: it is a distributed database (a sort of transaction log where data is not stored on a single computer, but on multiple machines connected together via the Internet, through a dedicated application that allows you to interface with the "chain") made of blocks of data that store transactions; to be consolidated within a block, any data, and then each block before being inserted in the "chain", undergoes a validation process.
How blockchain works and what validation processes are
Before proceeding we need to familiarize ourselves with two terms: blockchain nodes and miners. The first are the computers on the network that downloaded the blockchain to their memory; anyone can become a knot, through the appropriate program (Bitcoin Core for example for Blockchain Bitcoin). Miners are those who carry out the control of transactions, thanks to very powerful computers and through a rather complex validation protocol (explained later), and whose work is rewarded with a prize (the term now accepted for this operation is "to undermine", Italianizing the English term to mine or to extract).
The validation protocol (which defines the validating algorithms and who can be a miner) it therefore represents the main vital element of the blockchain because it is precisely on this that the speed of the chain and its security depend substantially (the algorithms that govern this process not only validate that each new entry meets certain criteria, but they also prevent data already present in the chain from being tampered with). It is therefore in this area that the main evolutions are seen and that they differ, from a technological point of view, the diverse blockchain. However, it is important to stress that one protocol is not necessarily better than another: the use of one or the other also depends on the type of application for which the blockchain is used.
The main validation protocols are:
Proof of Work - It is the primal validation protocol, on which the first blockchain was based, Bitcoin, and still today the most widespread. Every 10 minutes a new block, containing thousands of transactions, is placed on the blockchain. The criticality of this mechanism lies in the speed to undermine a block because it is a protocol that, as the blockchain grows, requires more and more processing power in the computers of miners. The validation time of a transaction (10 minutes) it is one of the reasons from which the greatest criticalities in terms of technology scalability derive.
Proof of Stake - It was born to face the scalability problem of the previous protocol, simplifying the mining process. The protocol also provides that when a new block is added the creator of the next block is automatically chosen; different methods are used to carry out this selection operation.
What are Smart Contracts
The literal meaning of smart contract is "smart contracts". In concrete terms, they are software based on blockchain technology.
They define rules and penalties for an agreement, in the same way as a traditional contract. The main difference consists in the presence in the software of the if / then functions, which make the payment automatic when a certain condition occurs.
More generally, smart contracts help people exchange money, transfer property and anything else of value transparently and without resorting to the services of an intermediary.
Smart Contract and notaries
On paper, they therefore allow the execution of credible transactions without the presence of notaries or lawyers. However, their figure does not seem to be at risk, despite the introduction of contracts created and written on the blockchain.
Smart Contract e Ethereum
Ethereum is the reference blockchain for creating smart contracts, for this reason we find the two terms often associated together.
Vitalik Buterin, inventor of Ethereum, went beyond the concept of simple cryptocurrency. Inside the platform he created, "smart contracts" represent a fundamental component.
Indeed, Ethereum's main purpose is to allow network participants to create and publish blockchain-based contracts. As evidence of this, just remember that Ether (the cryptovalue) it is used to make smart contracts work.
How Smart Contracts work
The first step is entering into a contract. The two sides then transcribe the clauses into a smart contract
subsequently, the "smart contract" is inserted into the blockchain. The participants (the nodes of the block chain) verify the accuracy of the information reported, so the digital agreement becomes part of a block.
At this point, blockchain users validate the block through the Proof of Work mechanism (PoW). Those in charge of block validation in turn receive the Ether cryptocurrency as a reward.
After the operation, the block containing the smart contract is added to the blockchain. From here on, the responsibility for monitoring that the conditions of the contract actually occur is entrusted to a third party agent (such as a smartphone application).
As soon as the app sends the signal to the blockchain that one or more conditions have been fulfilled, the latter automates the execution of the smart contract.
Artificial intelligence is a recent discipline that over the years has made an important contribution to the progress of the whole computer science. It has also been influenced by numerous disciplines including philosophy, mathematics, psychology, cybernetics, cognitive sciences. Artificial intelligence studies the theoretical foundations, the methodologies and techniques that allow you to design hardware systems and software program systems designed to provide the electronic processor with performance that, to a common observer, they would seem to be of exclusive relevance to human intelligence.
Its purpose is not to replicate that intelligence, an objective which for some is even ineligible, but to reproduce or emulate some of its functions. There is no reason that a priori prevents certain (but not all) performance of human intelligence - for example the ability to solve problems through inferential processes - can also be provided by a machine. In the case of emulation, intelligent performance is obtained using the machine's own mechanisms, in order to provide qualitatively equivalent and quantitatively superior to human performances.
By carefully considering the history and nature of the results obtained from research in artificial intelligence, it can be said that scholars have evaluated different models of human rationality from time to time, choosing the most appropriate one. In many cases we prefer to speak of rationality as an ideal concept of intelligence, precisely to avoid the anthropomorphic references implicit in the latter term. The rationality models adopted were both anthropomorphic (that is, models that allow not only to obtain performance similar to that of man but also to adopt the same methods used by man), is non-anthropomorphic type, with the aim of ensuring the best possible results. In general, the models of the second type have demonstrated characteristics of greater adaptation and integration with the models, artificial intelligence techniques and systems already available.
Artificial intelligence deals with open and frontier research problems, constantly extending the limits of his interest and action. Therefore, a performance that today could appear as exclusive to human intelligence, and therefore be of relevance to artificial intelligence, in the future it could be commonly provided by an artificial system and thus not fall within artificial intelligence.
Finally, it should be noted that artificial intelligence is both a science and an engineering. It is a science in that it emulates, with certain artificial systems some intelligent behaviors, man achieves the objectives of formulating objective and rigorous models, to obtain experimental confirmations and to make unquestionable progress in the scientific study of the human intellect. Artificial intelligence is an engineering because, when machines are obtained that emulate behaviors mistakenly considered inaccessible to the artificial environment, objective progress is provided to the contribution that engineering itself offers to improving human life.