The mainstream push for artificial intelligence has prompted many investors to shift their focus away from cryptocurrency and instead invest in generative AI startups, hoping to find the next Google Bard or OpenAI’s ChatGPT.
While speculators bet on the next big thing, however, Google Cloud’s Engineering Director of Web3, James Tromans, says the global tech giant aims to bridge the gap between AI and Web3 with an eye toward the future and digital ownership.
“Web3 is not so much about keeping your data private,” Tromans said. “[It’s] about owning your data and having more choice in what to do [with it], not necessarily never letting anyone touch your data.” He added that the technology can ensure the provenance and immutability of data and add an extra layer of security and traceability.
While bullish on Web3, Tromans said he sees the main value of the technology is solving for business outcomes, not speculating on the value of a token.
“We have a horizontal strategy and a vertical strategy,” Tromans told Decrypt at Google Cloud Next in San Francisco. “The horizontal strategy is to make sure that we can meet our customers where they are, Web3 natives, as well people that know the [tech] industry.”
Tromans said Google made it a point to hire people who have worked natively in Web3, but said the tech giant also has a vertical strategy around what products they build, not necessarily targeting Web3 natives but also traditional enterprises.
Google Cloud has taken several steps into Web3, including becoming a transaction validator on several blockchains.
Google formed its first Web3 team in May of last year, aiming to tap the industry’s potential and make Google Cloud the preferred choice among developers. In September, Google Cloud became a validator for transactions on Axie Infinity’s Ethereum side-chain Ronin network. Later that year, Google Cloud became a validator on the Solana network.
Trojans said he is optimistic about blockchain technology’s ability to solve economic problems, but that he is also skeptical of applications that don’t require Web3 tools, are not a good fit, or are trying to shoehorn the technology in where it’s not needed.
While powerful, Tromans also said that AI would not be a one-stop solution for investors and businesses looking to leverage the technology to separate the best projects in Web3 from marketing vaporware.
“I don’t think AI is going to be the silver bullet,” Tromans said, noting that companies making promises in marketing to raise money is not new or strictly something that happens in crypto.
What AI will do, Troman said, is improve company and project time to market, pointing to productivity tools, including AI that can write and audit smart contracts.
“It’s not unreasonable to think that AI is going to help the startups time to market shrink significantly, because they’re going to have these additional tools at their fingertips to help them be more productive,” he said.
But while Google is delving deeper into Web3, some in crypto scoff at hosting Web3 projects on “legacy” platforms like Google Cloud and Amazon’s AWS. Tromans says this is unfounded.
“I understand that people have their own perspectives,” Tromans continued. “Google has its own [fiber optic lines]; we lay our own undersea cables that are helping decentralize networks.”
He said that having access to Google’s fiber network is additive to decentralization.
Tromans added that developers need to think about Web3 technologies as being ubiquitously and equitably adopted. “Not just the tip of the spear,” he said. “The tip of the spear is critical for getting us moving, but if we want everybody to benefit from this technology, it can’t just be one small cohort of people. It needs to be everybody.”