Meet the DAO chief who wants artificial intelligence to take his job

Decentralized autonomous organizations are ripe for robot takeovers, says SingularityDAO’s Marcello Mari. After all, why do decentralized entities need leaders?

A recent US$40 million-plus bid for a rare copy of the U.S. Constitution by 17,437 virtual strangers may have failed to win the prized historical document, but it thrust the decentralized autonomous organization that united them into the spotlight. 

ConstitutionDAO’s audacious campaign, which raised the money for its auction bid within a week, catapulted not only itself but also the entire DAO phenomenon into the public consciousness. 

A DAO is like a virtual flash mob — a leaderless group of like-minded people working together toward a common interest. Governance is achieved through the use of smart contracts and votes among members who use tokens instead of ballot papers. 

If this novel fusion of a leaderless organizational structure with decentralized technology can work to get auction bids up and running, who’s to say it can’t be applied in the finance arena? 

Not Marcello Mari, the CEO of SingularityDAO — which is using SingularityNET’s artificial intelligence technology to handle the complex tasks of data processing and crypto asset management in decentralized finance

“Imagine an AI that can do price prediction for you, analyze the different market trends, and make suggestions for you on your crypto investments,” Mari told Forkast.News in a video interview. “People can just invest in this basket of tokens in these portfolios, and then the AI will do everything else for them.

Yet even in an organizational structure that appears as democratized as a DAOs, the issue of power concentration persists: the democratic principle of “one person, one vote” is critically compromised by the fact that those who hold large proportions of issued tokens command a commensurately large share of votes. 

“My vision is to have DAOs that are actually managed by artificial intelligence delegates,” Mari said. “What we want to see in the future is AIs that are able to make decisions based on the community vote.”

Despite this decentralized ideal, Mari’s position as a DAO chief remains a contradiction in terms. So SingularityDAO has its sights set on complete decentralization over the next five years to phase the leadership role out as its users become accustomed to its artificial design. 

“If this happens in five years’ time, I’m done. I’m out. I don’t need to be the CEO of the DAO anymore,” Mari said. 

Watch Mari’s full interview with Forkast.News Editor-in-Chief Angie Lau to learn more about how DAOs work, how AI will shape DAOs and DeFi and where ConstitutionDAO went wrong.

Highlights

  • How egalitarian are DAOs? “Currently the one who holds the majority of the tokens is also the one who has the main say in the DAO, which can be correct from a certain point of view. However, you have the fact that the wealthiest are the most powerful within the DAO, so we need to fix that layer of problem. And I think this could be fixed in the future by artificial intelligence.”
  • Should AI be developed behind closed doors? “A future where AI will become more independent, will make more decisions that are affecting human society, is almost inevitable. So the question is: ‘Do we want this artificial intelligence to be developed behind closed doors by Google, Facebook, Alibaba or Amazon?’ Or do we want this artificial intelligence to be developed by the people on a transparent and permissionless ledger where everybody can see what’s happening … I think everybody would agree that we would much rather have a decentralized approach to artificial intelligence development rather than a centralized one.”
  • When robots run finance: “I understand that a lot of people don’t have that knowledge to access the crypto economy yet. That’s why we want artificial intelligence to help them and support them through this process. There is a concept called ‘financial singularity,’ which is when the robots will actually take over and manage all financial activities, almost obtaining a perfect market balance. I think that this is what we’ll reach in probably 10 to 15 years’ time from now.”
  • AI in the metaverse: “We’re using our AI to decentralize social media in a project called MindPlex. And we’re also creating a new metaverse that will be launched next year, where artificial intelligence and humans will be able to act as avatars within the same metaverse. So we’ve heard a lot of talk about metaverse recently. It’s a very common and hot topic, and we’re going to do one around the character of Sophia, the humanoid robot, which we collaborated in building a few years ago.”
  • Where ConstitutionDAO went wrong: “There were mistakes in the design and the architecture of this project, because the amount that they would have spent to buy the Constitution was actually declared in advance. They give you an opportunity for this person to outbid them very easily. So it was a mistake in their design. It was also a mistake to use ETH, which is very expensive to use.”

Transcript

Angie Lau: Do organizations still need people? How will DAOs disrupt corporate structures? We’re about to dive into AI, DAOs and DeFi, all in this one conversation. So if you like technology, you’re going to love this.

Welcome to Word on the Block, the series that takes a deeper dive into blockchain and all the emerging technologies at the intersection of business, politics and economy. It’s what we cover right here on Forkast.News. I’m Editor-in-Chief Angie Lau.

So what is a DAO? A decentralized autonomous organization — what is that? And is a rule-based, non-centralized organization — which essentially is what a DAO is — that oftentimes is leaderless, going to change how we all do things in the future? Well, let’s find out.

SingularityDAO is a decentralized finance project powered by SingularityNET’s AI technology, merging machine learning with token markets to offload the hard work of crypto asset management in DeFi to artificial intelligence. So yes, the robots are taking over.

Today, we’re joined by its very human CEO, Marcello Mari. Marcello, welcome to the show.

Marcello Mari: Thank you very much, Angie. Wonderful introduction. Never trust anybody who claims to be a human. It’s actually an android. Because that’s what an android would say.

Lau: All right. I think maybe you outed us. That’s down another rabbit hole. We’re very human here. But, of course, if we have to insist on it, that’s a question for the future. But still we’re populated by humans — except the fact that decentralized autonomous organizations that started in crypto, that started in blockchain, are really evolving. Can you share with us, first of all, what is this community? What is DAO? And how is it changing the face of potentially how we do everything, from finance all the way to buying assets in the future?

Mari: Yeah, absolutely. So, DAOs are essentially a governance model… a community-empowered governance model that really encourages the community of users of any products or a company to participate actively in the governance of that same project. The original DAO was made by Ethereum, which is the second-largest blockchain in the world. It got hacked right away. So that model failed and was put on pause for a few years. And now they’re revamping. We keep hearing about more and more DAOs.

I think it’s a very exciting concept. We need to empower people and encourage people to participate more. And, essentially, it’s a governance model empowered by technology. So we have blockchain smart contracts that can actually regulate the activities of this organization, so that there’s no need for a middleman anymore. So it’s just a pure democratic exercise.

Lau: So it’s a democratic exercise, though, but fueled by — obviously — your financial interests. I mean, I can’t participate in a DAO unless I’m a token holder, but by the function of owning that token, I have a vote, I have a say.

Mari: Yeah, that’s very correct. So the system of incentives needs to be there. And obviously these projects — including mine — we incentivize participation through our token model. So, the more people participate, the more they need to have our token. So this is something that DAOs haven’t yet figured out very well. Because currently the one who holds the majority of the tokens is also the one who has the main say in the DAO, which can be correct from a certain point of view. However, you have the fact that the wealthiest are the most powerful within the DAO, so we need to fix that layer of problem. And I think this could be fixed in the future by artificial intelligence.

Lau: Well, that’s your thesis. But you bring up a great point — and to bring everybody up to speed, there is this concept. We can talk about decentralization. Even with a basic understanding of Bitcoin, we always understood that if there was 51%, there could be a controlling figure. If you own 51%, you could potentially change code, change blockchain, change what should be an immutable record. Same with a DAO. It theoretically should be decentralized. Everybody should have equal say. But if you own 90% of the tokens, you have more of a say than the people who are owning 1% or 2%. So that’s an issue right now. But what you’re saying is that this could be solved by artificial intelligence?

Mari: Yeah, I believe so. You’re totally right. The problem that whoever holds the majority of the tokens can take control of the protocol is absolutely correct. However, my vision is to have DAOs that are actually managed by artificial intelligence delegates. So instead of having humans that have their own interests, their own bias, their own moral values, you could vote for artificial intelligence that will one day represent you within the DAO.

So, artificial intelligences are more able to process data than humans. They can process a way larger amount of data. And this, of course, gives them a strategic advantage compared to human beings. So what we want to see in the future is AIs that are able to make decisions based on the community vote. So this would eliminate the problem of the majority of votes because these delegates will automatically balance themselves.

So one of the ideas of Ben Goertzel, who is the CEO of SingularityNET, is to create artificial general intelligence that can actually think like a human brain. So if you use the blockchain as a fabric — let’s say the Ethereum blockchain — and you have different artificial intelligences rating each other and collaborating with each other, that’s already a DAO of artificial intelligence. If humans vote for these artificial intelligences, then you can have this AI DAO actually governing the whole DAO, eliminating the human factor from it. 

As you said, I’m still very human, obviously and evidently. But in the future, we might not need humans running organizations anymore. We can actually have AIs running DAOs, and that’s very exciting.

Lau: Well, yeah, I was going to say, you’re joining us today as the CEO of SingularityDAO. Can a DAO have a CEO? What’s your function?

Mari: Yeah, that’s a good question. I ask myself every day when I wake up. So in five years’ time, hopefully I won’t have a job anymore. I like what I’m doing, I like working, but I would much rather my job were a hobby than something that I need to stick to. So my vision for the future is that AGIs or AIs will actually take care of humans’ jobs and produce alpha for us, so that we can actually dedicate ourselves to what we like doing the most. I don’t want to see a future where people will have to drive trucks anymore or be taxi drivers. We’ll have AIs to do most of these jobs. And my job might also be taken over by an AI in 5-10 years’ time.

Our project SingularityDAO has a plan of decentralization over the next five years, in which we’re planning to educate our users to make independent decisions and to actually make proposals that benefit the DAO itself. If this happens in five years’ time, I’m done, I’m out. I don’t need to be the CEO of the DAO anymore. If this doesn’t happen, I’ll have to stick to my job a little bit longer.

Lau: So two things come to mind. Let’s talk about the artificial intelligence aspect of it first. It sounds good, it sounds democratic, it sounds very agnostic. But what we also know is that artificial intelligence requires programming, requires algorithms, which require human thinking, human influence and human touch. How does SingularityDAO balance that? Who’s going to be programming artificial intelligence? And at some point, are we going to feel comfortable that artificial intelligence is making decisions on behalf of the group? Do we have a say in how it will be programmed?

Mari: Yeah, that’s a very good point. So SingularityDAO will utilize SingularityNET agents that are completely open-source. So anybody can actually develop agents to AIs for SingularityNET and put them on the blockchain. I think a future where AI will become more independent, will make more decisions that are affecting human society, is almost inevitable. So the question is: ‘Do we want this artificial intelligence to be developed behind closed doors by Google, Facebook, Alibaba or Amazon? 

Lau: Sense time.

Mari: Correct. Exactly.

Or do we want this artificial intelligence to be developed by the people on a transparent and permissionless ledger where everybody can see what’s happening, which is what SingularityNET is doing, which is what SingularityDAO will utilize. So I think everybody would agree that we would much rather have a decentralized approach to artificial intelligence development rather than a centralized one. But these are different opinions.

Lau: That’s absolutely a value proposition right now. At least there’s a choice. And this DAO functionality — of introducing a democratic opportunity for anyone around the world to participate in directing what an algorithm in artificial intelligence looks like… What are the applications that you see in the future with AI-led DAOs?

Mari: Yeah, so applications are almost limitless. What we’re working on is obviously artificial intelligence for decentralized finance, which is the whole world of crypto. So in SingularityDAO, we’re developing artificial intelligence that will be able to advise people on their own investment in crypto. Imagine an AI that can do price prediction for you, analyze the different market trends, and make suggestions for you on your crypto investments. And this will come in the form of the one that we call DynaSets — which are baskets of tokens. People can just invest in this basket of tokens, in these portfolios, and then the AI will do everything else for them. 

And then we are working on AI for medical research, especially in longevity medical research. So anybody that wants to contribute with their data would be rewarded with tokens, and the AI will automatically analyze their data and advise them on the best longevity medical practices. So we are very focused on extending the human lifespan with some of our AI. 

We’re using our AI to decentralize social media in a project called MindPlex. And we’re also creating a new metaverse that’ll be launched next year, where artificial intelligence and humans will be able to act as avatars within the same metaverse. So we’ve heard a lot of talk about metaverse recently. It’s a very common and hot topic, and we’re going to do one around the character of Sophia, the humanoid robot, which we collaborated in building a few years ago.

Lau: I remember meeting Sophia many, many times. So this is a humanoid — I guess — robot. She engages based on all the incredible algorithms and AI functionality that you’ve built into her brain, and she can interact, which is really, really cool. And that was just a couple of years ago. I can only imagine how it’s evolved now.

But I want to ask you more about that metaverse concept that you’re building. So, conceivably, I could go into the metaverse that you’ve built and talk to somebody and not know that they were human and they are AIs.

Mari: Yes, exactly. I think for the next 10 years, you’ll be able to see the difference, actually, between humans and AIs. But in the future, I don’t think you’ll be able to do so. In the future, we’re going to be interacting with AI and robots on a daily basis. And we’re just responding based on a metaverse. And the more we’re going to be using the metaverse, the more the AI will learn to know us, to know our habits and get data from our habits and feed into Sophia’s artificial intelligence until she becomes totally awake and aware. So that’s the mission of the metaverse.

Lau: For all of those who remember those science movies, the apocalyptic movies — what is the benefit of having AI behave in a human-like way?

Mari: I think the Hollywood narrative was obviously biased in order to attract and entertain the audience. I don’t think it’s a realistic outcome of an AGI or AI future. I believe AIs are much more likely to take care of us humans, as their creator, rather than try to destroy us. In the same way you take care of your dog — you love your dog… it’s nice and cute… why would you ever be rude to your dog? In the same way, artificial intelligence would take care of us … we are cute, and yet we are the creators. Why (should) they ever be mean or rude to us? So it’s going to be a similar relationship. In the same way — as Ben (Goertzel) says many times — your dog doesn’t really understand what you’re doing when you’re at your laptop. Maybe you’re just fingering your fingers on a random device. It doesn’t understand that you are communicating with the world at the same time to an internet of connections, of servers around the world. In the same way, we won’t be able to understand what the AI will do for us, but AI will take care of our species, I believe. So it’s more likely to be a benevolent and beneficial outcome.

Lau: But you’re really disrupting systems. You’re disrupting systems and you’re disrupting humans from roles that we’re participating in now, in which we have an economic role. We get paid to do a job. What does that future look like when those economic relationships sever or are changed? And what are the social benefits you think can come out of AI-led thinking, decision-making and leadership?

Mari: Yeah, that’s a good question. Humans have made some very bad decisions over the last few centuries. And probably AIs would have avoided making these bad decisions. They will be able to process way more data than we can, and probably make better decisions for us and for them.

Disrupting economic relationships, you’re absolutely right. However, when an AI does the same job as a human, it will produce the same effect at the end, the same income. This income would be equally distributed across the society. So probably the relationship of power will change. Probably we would reduce the gap between the top 1% and the bottom rest of the world, basically, thanks to artificial intelligence. So I see this as a positive outcome of AI’s work.

Lau: I’m only bringing this up because this is what’s going to happen, and so if we don’t talk about it now — or at least start to think about it — these are issues that we can start considering as technology moves fast and forward. But it goes back to the DAO, which is a decentralized autonomous organization in which anyone can participate. And so the votes do matter when we have the opportunity at this moment to define what our goals are. With technology, I think that that’s a powerful thing.

Mari: Yeah, that’s very correct. I was going to say the same thing. So we have this decentralized governance model. That’s why we encourage people to participate. We want more people to actually take part in the DAO, to join our community and join our discussion to get informed about these incredible technologies, because this could be our last chance to influence the future of artificial intelligence. DAOs are there for this reason. More and more people should watch your show and learn about new technologies so that they can participate and be more active in DAOs that will define the future of humanity.

What we’re doing, for example, in SingularityDAO, is using these powerful tools in order to help people generate passive income through cryptocurrency and take advantage of the great revolution that the decentralized economy is bringing to everybody. I understand that a lot of people don’t have that knowledge to access the crypto economy yet. That’s why we want artificial intelligence to help them and support them through this process.

There’s a concept called ‘financial singularity,’ which is when the robots will actually take over and manage all financial activities, almost obtaining a perfect market balance. I think that this is what we’ll reach in probably 10 to 15 years’ time from now, and I think the SingularityDAO is actually the first one laying the base for this financial singularity future.

Lau: It’s actually not out of the realm of possibility. If you think about what a central bank’s function is at the moment, it’s just a really large group of powerful, smart individuals with well-versed economic and monetary policy theory trying to balance a real-life, real-time economy and smoothing out the volatility so that society can kind of function with some semblance of financial stability.

Currently, that’s not the case. Currently, we have inflation pressure that’s a real concern. Currently, the solution seems to be a $2 trillion at least from the U.S. side — infrastructure bill. Currently, it also feels like there’s quantitative easing in the works… the printing of money. So, all of these things are actually already happening and part of the formula of trying to achieve — as you said — economic stability.

But if the smart people in the room can’t get it right, and the theorists aren’t getting it right at the moment, how do we know that the very same humans, the very same influencers and the very same economic theorists are going to be able to program artificial intelligence to be able to do what we haven’t figured out yet?

Mari: Yeah, that’s very true. So, I think the humans in the room are currently serving very specific economic interests that they need to be accountable for. So, these interests are the ones of the nations that they represent or the people that they have been voted in by. This won’t happen in artificial intelligence because artificial intelligence doesn’t have this specific bias. So, the creator of the artificial intelligence on the decentralized fabric would only be able to start programming, but then the data that will actually feed and create and train the artificial intelligence will come from the community that will vote from the DAO itself, so the influence of the programmer is somewhat marginal. It’s more like the influence of whomever participated in the democratic process. So, I’m not entirely sure. The humans in the room, the central banks are actually doing their best to serve their own nations’ best interest, but I think AI will be able to do a better job.

Lau: We recently spoke to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and they’re taking a look at the DeFi space. And one of the huge obstacles currently in DeFi, from a regulator’s point of view, is that there’s nobody to speak to, in a central role, if something goes wrong. And things have gone wrong. Things have gone very wrong in the DeFi world, from pump-and-dumps to hacks, etc, etc, etc. We’ve also seen, as DAOs have evolved, things happen that have not been ideal and not worked based on the principles that it originally centered around. So where do you think this is going to go? If people can’t trust that they’re going to get the best outcome from this structure, do you think that people are going to want to participate in a DAO?

Mari: Yeah, that’s a good point. I think eventually, when this market will become more stable and more participated in, then we are going to eliminate the layer of bad actors that we’ve seen in recent years. It’s undeniable that, as you said, we’ve seen everything happen from hacks to rug-pulls, which is basically when people run away with the money. 

So, of course, regulation will help get more clarity. Of course, generalized know-your-customer will also help. However, I think the system will clean itself. Most of these projects will disappear. We’ll have more reputable leaders in the DeFi ecosystem that people can trust — very similar to the traditional economy, where you have banks that you trust more and banks that are less trustworthy, the same would happen in DeFi. Some of these players are consolidating and the malicious ones are slowly disappearing.

Lau: I hear you on this.

Mari: There’s a risk associated… it’s almost inevitable at this stage. It’s still a very nascent ecosystem that we’ve been around for… DeFi has been around for a couple of years only, so…

Lau: It’s still a baby. It’s still a tablet compared to Bitcoin. Bitcoin and blockchain is a teenager — DeFi is still a toddler.

What has SingularityDAO’s experience been? You raised a lot of money, actually, recently, in just a minute-and-a-half. Tell us a little bit about that.

Mari: Yeah. What we want to do is to really have a one-stop solution for everybody that wants to generate alpha income from the crypto economy. So one of the solutions is a platform that helps other projects launch their own cryptocurrency. And it’s almost like a traditional exchange, where companies do initial public offerings. On our platform, they can do IDOs, which are initial decentralized offerings, and anybody can participate in these IDOs. So normally, this is like a pre-IPO opportunity, so anybody has the opportunity to buy into this project very early and take advantage of the alpha generated.

So, one of these projects that we launched raised US$6 million in 90 seconds, meaning that there was a lot of interest in this project. We’re going to launch more and more projects in the future, and we’re going to have AI helping us screening these projects, to make sure that these are reliable and actually good economic opportunities for our DAO.

This is the future for us. This is what we’ve seen as the best possible economic opportunity for anybody wanting to join the crypto economy. We’ve been around since 2017. We’re putting our face (about) so that everybody knows us. So there’s very few ways that this has any risk associated. So, we want to be the gatekeeper of the crypto economy for everybody that wants to join our DAO.

Lau: But there are always risks, at the end of the day, when it comes to where we hope the product is and where it wants to go. And before we achieve that, there are always obstacles, challenges and risks.

Even just take a look at ConstitutionDAO. This is something that we’ve covered. And, audience, if you’re unfamiliar, this is a project — a DAO, if you will — that brought together more than 17,000 unique addresses in DeFi-land and pooled together US$45 million with the sole purpose of buying the first edition of the U.S. Constitution. The problem was that they got edged out by a human, a real-life billionaire. So, the single function of ConstitutionDAO — which was to buy the first edition of the U.S. Constitution — failed.

So, what do you do with this money? Well, they had to give it all back. That was the decision, at least. And now people are experiencing high gas fees when it comes to ETH, and it’s a big headache. That project is now closed. These things are going to continue to happen as this industry evolves and matures.

Mari: First of all, I really like the idea of ConstitutionDAO — a single-purpose DAO with their objective to buy the Constitution, in this case. So, a very clear goal. However, there were mistakes in the design and the architecture of this project, because the amount that they would have spent to buy the Constitution was actually declared in advance. They give you an opportunity for this person to outbid them very easily. So it was a mistake in their design. It was also a mistake to use ETH, which is very expensive to use.

Lau: Negotiation 101. Don’t get people your final number.

Mari: Yeah, exactly. They could have done a better job designing the whole idea. They could have used a less expensive blockchain. But I think the overall philosophy behind ConstitutionDAO was very good, and it was a benevolent intent that turns into something that’s ideal.

Lau: But look, it’s where your imagination can take you. And that’s what’s really exciting about this space, as we try to keep up with you guys innovating in real time. What are the future applications of DAOs — plus, now, AI, which is what we’re learning right now? Artificial intelligence application with blockchain in DeFi and DAOs — what does that actually look like? I think we’re getting a little taste of it, Marcello.

Final question for you: For 2022, for all of us who are watching how this space is quickly evolving, what’s on your radar? What do you think is going to be the one thing that we’re going to be talking about in three to six months?

Mari: So, as you were saying, keeping up with the innovation of the crypto ecosystem is difficult because it’s evolving so hard. And that’s what I’ve been talking about when I was talking to my 16-year-old cousin. How do I keep up with the new generation and the new evolution of their gaming, or new platforms where they meet online? It’s very hard for us. It’s evolving too rapidly.

So, talking to him, they’re all now playing play-to-earn games on the blockchain. So, kids in different regions of the world — in Southeast Asia or in emerging markets — they’re now playing video games and getting paid in non-fungible tokens to play these video games on the blockchain. So, this is a huge trend for the next three to six months. There are now people that are earning a living by playing video games on the blockchain, meaning that we will see more and more user engagement, meaning that we will see more and more games coming up, and more and more adoption of crypto, so this is a very exciting space to look at.

Another really exciting space is the merge between sports and crypto. With all these fan tokens that came out in Europe in relation to sports leagues in Europe, with Crypto.com investments into the Staples Center in (Los Angeles), the merge between sports and crypto is becoming real, and we are bringing millions of new users into the world of crypto. At least we’re making millions of new people aware of what’s going on in crypto, so I think we’re going to hear more about fan tokens in the next month. Sport-based tokens, the application of AI in blockchain in sports, later in metaverse. Metaverse is coming up. More NFTs and art, as well.

So, I’ll tell you a little anecdote. Sophia, the humanoid robot, six months ago painted my portrait, and we’ve been able to sell my portrait as an NFT on a decentralized marketplace for US$1.4 million, and now it’s on sale for US$12 million. Can you believe it? So NFT and art, play-to-earn, crypto in gaming, crypto in sports… this is what we’re going to be hearing about in 2022.

Lau: And, ultimately, I don’t think it’s unlike what we valued as humans 50 years ago or 100 years ago, or even 1,000 years ago — which is the things that interest us, how we can express it in economic value. I think this is what blockchain and DeFi and DAOs are actually accelerating with great speed, thanks to technology. But, at the end of the day, what are we talking about? We’re talking about the same things that we have valued all this time — which is human connection, human expression of culture, and a desire to earn and to be of benefit to a new society. 

That’s changing with what you guys are doing, and certainly in this space. But it was great to catch up, Marcelo. I find it fascinating, and I can’t wait to learn more  as to how AI is evolving and shaping our world through DAOs.

Mari: Thank you very much for having me. Angie. It was a wonderful conversation.

Lau: Absolutely enjoyed it. And I hope you guys did too. Thank you all for watching this latest episode of Word on the Block. I’m Angie Lau, Editor-in-Chief of Forkast.News. Until the next time. 

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