Absolutely no one can say with certainty what artificial intelligence (AI) will do. It may be the boost to brain capacity humanity needs to solve its most intractable problems, or the tool that allows us to destroy ourselves. For now, however, concerns about AI are a little more prosaic. Should your crypto firm deploy AI to save costs? Can you trust this machine to audit a financial contract?
This article is excerpted from The Node newsletter, which will send two editions daily during the Consensus 2023 conference running down the biggest news from the event. You can subscribe to get the full newsletter here or get IRL or virtual tickets for Consensus 2023 here.
Mayur Kamat, the head of product at Binance, is a long-time veteran of the tech industry. He’s seen multiple trends take hold and transform the world: the rise of mobile, crypto and now AI. CoinDesk spoke to him during Consensus to get a sense of how the world’s largest crypto exchange plans to use AI and other “aha” moments in tech.
Why do you think crypto startups should start using AI in their operations?
What we are seeing with the recent pace of developments with generative AI, every company in the world will need to include it in their road map or else run the risk of being outclassed by their existing and upcoming competitors. Crypto startups are no exception. The good news is that crypto startups are usually small, nimble and hungry
Could you tell me about the product development cycle for Bicasso? When did you guys first get the idea, and how long did it take to develop?
It was pretty fast. The idea started around November 2022 and by December 2022 we had a working prototype. We launched a small MVP [minimum viable product] and the response from the community blew us away. So now we will keep expanding on the scope and reach. Bicasso is an experiment to explore the boundaries between Web3 and [generative] AI. If AI can create amazing artwork, how do we differentiate it from other gen AI and human artwork? How do we establish ownership and authenticity in this new world? NFTs can play a massive role in this space.
Regarding Binance product development cycle, we do not have a standard template. We have teams doing zero to one products like Bicasso or Binance Tax. Others do small improvements to the user experience. And a lot of teams are working on improving know-your-customer (KYC) and compliance. They all have different requirements and follow the process that allows us to be fast but also flexible.
Is AI a risk for crypto broadly, given that there are countless incentives to exploit cryptographic networks using AI and far less to use AI as a white-hat hacker?
AI is a transformative technology, similar to how the internet was. It will be used for both positive and negative. Will it provide new tools for people who might misuse this technology? Yes. Will it enable new scenarios for Web3? Absolutely. We need good actors to adopt the technology faster and stay ahead of the game.
Do you remember your first "aha" moment where you had an epiphany about the power/importance of tech?
I am old, so this goes back a while. [laughs] Growing up in India, buying music, especially English music, was very hard, and expensive. I remember the first time when I put a CD I got from a friend and used an Mp3 ripper to make [an] Mp3 out of it. The fact that music can now be digitized and sent to anyone over the world within minutes blew my mind.
I had a similar epiphany on Web3 recently. My helper sends a significant amount of her salary back home to the Philippines. Every month she stands in line for an hour at a local money exchange and pays 8% to send money back home to her daughter. I showed her how to do it via crypto and the fees associated with it. And she had the same expression I did when I made the Mp3. We live in magical times.
Growing up in Washington [state], how aware of or proud of Microsoft were people?
Microsoft was my first job. I joined as an Intern and loved it so much that I never interviewed with any other company in my last year and joined them straight out of grad school. Microsoft in 2003 was peak tech. My grandma in India knew about Bill Gates. As an intern, I got to go to his house and spend some time with him. I felt on top of the world when I got hired there as one of the first product managers (PM). It still is an amazing company to work for. Some of my friends who joined with me are still working there after 20 years.
I had a similar feeling when I joined Binance as the head of product. My grandma sadly passed away a few years ago, but if she was alive, she would have heard of CZ [CEO Changpeng Zhao].
As someone with a career in the field, would you say that crypto is part of the broader tech industry?
Crypto is as tech as it gets. It's a new platform for encapsulating wealth and enabling freedom of money. It utilizes the core cryptographical principles that enable modern security and commerce and expands on them to create new scenarios. Would you ask a similar question to someone working in AI?
What is the least-discussed, most-important technology of 2023?
I don't think stablecoins get their due worth of attention. Stablecoins at scale will have a similar impact as email did. It makes money cross-border like emails made communications cross-border.
Do you have a favorite Web3 app?
I am a big fan of PancakeSwap. It is a comprehensive decentralized exchange (DEX) but still so fun and playful.
What do you think of the Solana Phone or the idea of something like it?
I have worked on mobile for a while. I was involved in building early versions of Android and working with global phone manufacturers. Hardware is largely a low-margin business for anyone whose name does not start with Apple. It is also a very slow business. It takes two years from concept to seeing users use it. Two years is decades in the crypto world. That said, I am always curious when someone does something out of the ordinary. So excited to see how well [the Solana phone] does.
Do you think there is an end goal for technology?
To grow and push boundaries is what makes humans different from other species. We have evolved to have intelligence and are now pushing the boundaries of what intelligence means for machines. The world tomorrow will be different from yesterday. It may or may not be better, depending on whom you ask. It will make us uncomfortable, and that's where the best innovation happens
See also: Why Bitcoin Needs Philosophy
In three words or less, describe your outlook on crypto in the U.S.
Binance does not operate in the U.S. and it's been a while since I have left the U.S. so I really do not have much to say here than the average layman.
Anything you want to mention?
Would love your viewer’s feedback on Binance products. We are launching something new every day (#BinanceBuild on Twitter) and feedback makes us better!