Interview: David Palmer, CPO of PairPoint by Vodafone and Web3 Asia Alliance board member

May 9, 2024

  • David Palmer, CPO at PairPoint by Vodafone, discussed blockchain, Web3, and AI
  • Blockchain offers a trust architecture upon which we can build decentralized AI
  • Web3 and the metaverse catalyze deeper connections with next-gen technology
AI David Palmer

Blockchain, the metaverse, Web3, and AI – this constellation of technologies will shape the future. 

But how practically do they combine and work together? And what applications and benefits can this ecosystem create?

Sam Jeans from DailyAI spoke with David Palmer, the CPO of PairPoint by Vodafone, a board member of the Web3 Asia Alliance, and the author of “The Business of the Metaverse: How Organizations Can Optimize the Opportunities of Web3 and AI,” to explore how these technologies converge. 

Palmer explains how these technologies are poised to transform numerous industries, democratize AI, and redefine our perception of time and human interaction.

Q: How are blockchain, AI, and the metaverse converging to reshape the future? 

David Palmer: “Blockchain is emerging as the trust infrastructure, providing trust as a service. It offers a secure foundation for business and consumer experiences. At the same time, the Metaverse, or spatial computing, is starting to provide immersive environments and interaction points for AI to engage with people and businesses in meaningful ways.”

“So you’ve got two key elements at play here: firstly, the trust infrastructure from blockchain, which allows people and businesses to move seamlessly between different environments and applications, using technologies like decentralized digital identity and verifiable credentials, Web3 blockchain applications. Secondly, the Metaverse serves as the interaction point for AI, enabling realistic and engaging experiences. The Metaverse provides the avatars, environments, and interfaces necessary for AI to interact with people and businesses naturally and effectively.”

Q: What role do cellular networks and IoT play in this technological convergence? 

David Palmer: “Cellular networks and IoT are crucial because they connect vast numbers of devices and people. The processing speeds and power of these technologies will be essential to support the growth and functionality of AI, particularly as it becomes more ubiquitous and integrated into our daily lives.”

“However, it’s important to note that not all AI computation and processing can be handled by central databases or cloud data centers alone. A significant portion will need to happen at the edge, closer to the devices and users. This is where edge computing, confidential computing, and homomorphic encryption come into play. IoT devices and mobile phones will be key in generating and processing AI computations at the edge, reducing latency and enabling real-time interactions.”

Palmer further explains, “Blockchain becomes highly relevant in this context. Blockchain can provide the decentralized infrastructure necessary to support and facilitate edge computing for AI. By leveraging blockchain’s distributed nature, we can create secure and efficient systems for AI processing that extend beyond the limitations of centralized data centers. Blockchain enables the creation of decentralized networks where AI computations can be performed across a wide range of devices, ensuring scalability, security, and efficiency.”

Jeans asks, “So blockchain essentially enables a more decentralized and distributed approach to AI computation, particularly at the edge, overcoming the limitations of centralized systems?”

Palmer confirms, “Precisely. Blockchain provides the decentralized infrastructure and business models that make edge AI computing feasible and scalable. It allows for secure, distributed processing across a vast network of devices rather than relying solely on centralized cloud platforms. This decentralized approach is crucial for enabling the widespread adoption and seamless integration of AI in our lives, as it ensures that AI can function effectively and efficiently across various devices and contexts, without being constrained by the limitations of centralized systems.”

Decentralized AI has been gaining momentum in recent months, with Stability AI CEO Emad Mostaque announcing his shock departure from the company he founded, stating, “I believe strongly in Stability AI’s mission and feel the company is in capable hands. It is now time to ensure AI remains open and decentralised.”

Q: How can we ensure that AI’s benefits are accessible to everyone, not just big tech companies? 

David Palmer: “Without Web3 and blockchain decentralization of AI – AI storage, AI compute, and AI processing – you’re going to have an oligopoly of big tech, big cloud compute companies who will dominate the world of AI. And that is a very, very scary place to be.”

“The only way to level the playing field is to have decentralization, to have decentralized data models, to have decentralized storage and cloud, to have web3 providing incentives for people to share their data and rewarding them in a way that they couldn’t be rewarded with Web2 methods.”

Jeans asks, “So democratizing AI through blockchain and Web3 is crucial to prevent centralized AI controlled by Big Tech?”

Palmer agrees, “Absolutely. The democratization of AI is essential to ensure that its benefits are widely distributed and not concentrated in the hands of a few powerful corporations.”

Q: How do you envision the evolution of the metaverse and AI in the next decade and beyond, especially with devices like the Apple Vision Pro

David Palmer: “As headsets like the Apple Vision Pro evolve, they’ll become slimmer and more streamlined. Additionally, you’ll start to see connectivity built directly into these devices. So you’ll have glasses with integrated connectivity, making them more autonomous and capable.”

Palmer predicts a shift in user behavior like when the iPhone or PC transformed our interactions with computers, explaining, “You’ll start to see a movement away from certain tasks typically done on mobile phones, towards doing those same things on metaverse headsets. As the capabilities and convenience of these headsets grow, they’ll become the preferred device for a wide range of activities.”

Jeans queries, “Considering the advancements in computing power and the research in bio-inspired AI, particularly in constructing lightweight analog systems modeled after the brain, it’s fascinating to ponder the convergence of these technologies. Could it lead to digital immortality in the future, or is that merely speculative?”

Palmer discusses this mind-bending concept, explaining, “Have a whole new world being created? Right? Think about graveyards…rather than seeing a tombstone, you can go and interact with those people. You’ve got this digital world where essentially people can occupy forever.”

“And from a practical sense, there is no history; everything is part of the present. So yeah, that’s probably just the power of AI in theory. Now, I think in practice, obviously, training models are massive, massive in terms of cost. This is why the big players are doing it: because of the simple cost of the resources, the simple cost of the processing, and the cost of the equipment. And this is where you’re getting to the point where Web3 comes in because you need to distribute those costs.”

Digital immortality projects are already in progress, with some speculating that projects like Elon Musk’s Neuralink lay the groundwork for collecting detailed data from the brain to ‘upload’ into a perpetual digital world. 

In 2013, Google engineer and computer scientist Ray Kurzweil claimed that humans will be able to upload their brains to a computer and unlock “digital immortality” by 2045, which perhaps might look even more likely with today’s general systems. 

However, as Palmer describes, we’ll have enough data to create convincing and lifelike digital copies of people long before that. 

Imagine leaving not just photos and videos behind for your grandchildren but a fully interactive digital clone of yourself capable of lifelike conversation in the metaverse? 

Q: What exciting projects are Vodafone working on that leverage these converging technologies? 

David Palmer: “We’re working on virtual car showrooms, which are staffed 24/7/365 by AI assistants. We have virtual reality technology where you can enter the showroom, interact with them, experience the cars, and so on. So that’s something we’re working on and extending that as well.”

Palmer later discussed this project with Yahoo Finance, explaining, “The VR and AI solutions create an environment where customers can experience the vehicle and optional extras, as well as select and pay for them before they physically collect the car from the showroom.”

“The Pairpoint platform builds on Vodafone’s 40m SIM footprint in connected cars by providing a vehicle digital identity passport and wallet that is set up during car onboarding and can be used for retail pay by car services.”

AI decentralization accelerated by blockchain and Web3 integration will integrate virtual worlds with real-world devices and machines.

Crucially, though, the smart integration of these technologies can ensure that AI systems serve end users fairly while balancing the power of Big Tech. 

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Sam Jeans

Sam is a science and technology writer who has worked in various AI startups. When he’s not writing, he can be found reading medical journals or digging through boxes of vinyl records.


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