Blockchain is finally being unchained from crypto, and many now see its potential as a foundation of support and validation for another emerging technology -- AI. Blockchain -- and other distributed ledger technologies -- could even help solve AI's black box problem "by providing a transparent, immutable ledger to monitor model training and trace decision-making processes," according to the authors of a new report. "This gives organizations the ability to audit the data and algorithms used, enabling greater security and trust in AI systems."
The survey of 608 global IT decision makers, published by Casper Labs, finds growing awareness of blockchain's capabilities to bring transparency to AI systems. In a similar survey a year ago, more than half of business leaders equated blockchain with crypto, but now 84% say they have a broader understanding of blockchain. Three in four even say they "feel positive and interested" in adopting blockchain to support their business -- and AI.
Tellingly, 71% of executives now view blockchain and AI as "complementary technologies." More than half, 51%, are pursuing blockchain to enable their employees or partners to work more efficiently with AI. Database automation, which aligns more closely with its original mission of managing data flows, comes in second at 44%.
These were identified as the top blockchain use cases:
Working more efficiently with AI, 51%
Database automation, 44%
Ensuring security, compliance, or regulatory reporting, 41%
Supply chain management/optimization, 38%
Managing copy protection, 36%
"By leveraging AI's data-driven insights and automation capabilities alongside blockchain's transparent and secure ledger, businesses can enhance efficiency, reduce operating costs, and fortify trust," the survey report's authors state. AI is now the most popular application for blockchain among enterprises. At least 70% associate blockchain with either improved data operability or greater transparency in data sets.
Blockchain is starting to be recognized particularly as a vital tool for solving AI's black box problem and driving more responsible AI innovation. Nearly 50% of executives say they would be more likely to adopt blockchain if it ensured increased trustworthiness and reliability of their AI systems. "Ensuring trustworthiness and reliability of their AI tools is a top priority for businesses, and blockchain is the turnkey solution for addressing the risks that come with AI implementation," the Casper researchers state.
Nearly half (48%) of executives agree that having robust data privacy and security protocols is the most important measure to increase AI-blockchain integration, with a close second being transparent and auditable AI algorithms to ensure accountability and prevent biases.
"As AI operations go mainstream -- and as people raise concerns about the technology -- leaders are recognizing the need for a more responsible AI that prioritizes data security and transparency," the survey's authors point out. "Ensuring trustworthiness and reliability of their AI tools is a top priority for businesses, and blockchain is the turnkey solution for addressing the risks that come with AI implementation."
Executives have developed a greater level of understanding of blockchain. Seventy-seven percent say they fully understand blockchain and can explain the value of it to their teams -- up five percentage points over last year's survey. In last year's survey, conducted in December 2022, more than half of respondents saw "blockchain" and "cryptocurrency" as interchangeable terms.
Major obstacles to greater blockchain adoption include a lack of developers with sufficient knowledge of blockchain technology (cited by 35%), and regulatory roadblocks to adopting blockchain technology (28%).
Enhanced accountability features (46%) and industry-wide standards (45%) are the top factors that would give business leaders more confidence in using blockchain. In addition, blockchain solutions are increasingly adopting the WebAssembly (WASM) standard to make their technology more open, accessible, and easier to use for developers who aren't necessarily specialized in blockchain.