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Got a problem with trust in AI? Just add blockchain, Forrester urges. Then bust out the holographic meetings. Welcome to the future

It takes 'grit' to send in a holograph to meetings instead of struggling with mute buttons yourself...

Forrester has offered its contribution to the pantheon of failed predictions gathering smart-dust in the broom cupboard of IT history with its assertion that blockchain is coming to polish up AI's tarnished image.

That immutable ledger of no fixed abode is set to find a purpose in providing the data provenance that "will begin to repair AI's trust problem," or so the international analyst house said.

According to its report, Predictions 2021: Artificial Intelligence, "Anchoring data to a blockchain to prove its authenticity and integrity isn't new, but there’s been little take-up of the software and services on offer.

"This will change in 2021: Companies face increasing pressure consumer interest groups and regulators to prove data's lineage for AI, including data audit trails to prove that companies are using data in a compliant and ethical manner."

This all sounds sensible enough until you wonder why you need such a costly, resource-intensive and complex system as blockchain to understand data provenance. At the same time, the debate in AI ethics is moving on. While bias in data used to build machine learning models is a problem, it is not the whole problem.

As professor Marnie Hughes-Warrington of the University of South Australia pointed out: "It's not just an AI ethics problem. It's also a history problem. Because you don't know which groups have been under or misrepresented in the data if you don't know the history."

Whether you subscribe to that view or not, the debate about AI and ethics is not going away because someone has tagged blockchain onto data provenance.

Continuing to lick the hallucinogenic toad that constitutes IT futurism, Forrester ploughed on to predict that also in 2021: "The grittiest of companies will push AI to new frontiers, such as holographic meetings for remote work and on-demand personalized manufacturing."

We're unsure what is "gritty" about companies throwing away their hard-earned cash on holographic technology and personalised manufacturing when board members still struggle to unmute their own Zoom-mutterings and a nation spent the early part of the pandemic wondering where it would find its next toilet roll.

But Forrester insisted AI leaders will next "gamify strategic planning, build simulations in the boardroom, and move into intelligent edge experiences." It encouraged businesses not to "shy away from AI" and instead "plan to quadruple investment next year."

"Build your internal AI team, engage consultancies to implement domain-specific solutions, and upgrade your data, analytics, and machine learning (ML) platforms to rethink how you use AI," the report urged.

Whether going from one account to four constitutes quadrupling investment in a moot point, but we suspect that whatever analysts and consultants use to captivate board members looking for their next strategic fashion accessory, someone will be left trying to stitch it all together and make it work. Good luck with that. ®

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