In March 2015 Mike Hearn proposed one of the most revolutionary ideas applicable to Bitcoin: Autonomous Agents. The term refers to semi-cognitive software which is capable of making decisions on its own. This software is transferable into any system with smart capabilities (car, phones, storage servers, etc) and it will become self-sufficient. Using existing technology, this capability can spawn a new, entirely automated machine economy. And Bitcoin will be the currency that will make it all possible. With the help of the Lighting Network, this vision may soon become reality.
Mike Hearn is a former security software engineer at Google. He inferred the creation of software that will allow machines to act independently, interact with each other, or with humans. Smart systems such as those emerging in vehicles can allow for subroutines to govern their functions. For example, the car can become a driver-less taxi and get paid in Bitcoin, which he can then spend on managing its maintenance (fuel, tire pressure, coolant levels, etc). In addition, it can remotely post an ad online and hire a programmer who can update the car’s code as necessary.
Furthermore, it can contract with a car manufacturing company to build additional vehicles which will become subcontractor vehicles. These in turn will not only pay for their own production cost but also offer themselves as taxis. Through their work they will also generate profits for the originator vehicle, and continue the cycle. The technology is achieving the proof-of-concept stage in two different places: Satoshi Tweets and Cloudsight.
SatoshisTweet.com is an app that allows users to send alphabetical characters via tweets through the Lightning Network. Each character costs 10 Satoshis or $.00006 at current USD prices ($6,328). Cloudsight is a company that specializes in image recognition using a visual API and uses artificial intelligence to describe it. For example, a customer sends a picture of a chair to Cloudsight. The AI system then adds the caption “Navy-blue Wingstack Chair.” The company also started accepting micropayments using the Lighting Network. CEO Brad Folkens believes the technology will allow for machines to make “small, instant payments to each other.” He cited autonomous cars paying each other for traffic or fuel prices data as a use case.
The concept of an economy of machines is widely associated in the envisioned Internet-of-Things ecosystem. A marketplace where a myriad of interacting devices will evolve creating the need for micro payments. Though the process of using the Lighting Network to make micro payments is laborious to say the least, the first steps are taken and the adoption set in motion. Only time will tell the number of directions the evolution and application of this technology will take. Nevertheless, the notion of machines paying humans is an example of the far reaching potential of Bitcoin. And the Lighting Network is showing results that will transform Bitcoin into a multi-use platform of the future.