Fetch.ai CTO Toby Simpson speaks to cryptocurrency exchange Coinone

Mar 26, 2020

Coinone: How did the project get started?

Toby Simpson: Fetch.ai solves some specific problems, and these are things that my fellow co-founders and I had been thinking about for many years.

Today’s complex world seems to be the wrong way around: you have to go looking for things that you need, rather than things you need coming to look for you. This results in a lot of waste: data warehouses full of data that will never be used, IoT devices that could provide valuable information but nobody knows that they are there, and huge amounts of potential knowledge that is never seen by anyone. We also looked at the economy, and utilization there. Without individuals coordinating, we waste capacity in transportation, hospitality, healthcare and more. And all of this wonderful information could be used to learn from, to provide better organization and optimization.

So we wondered if it was possible for each and every part of the economy to be represented with a digital entity, and have that entity be able to act on its own behalf, without human intervention. If we were able to provide a method for these things to find each other, then we’d have something very interesting: a context sensitive intelligent connection system for putting things that need something in touch with things that have that something. The best bit is that we’d be able to use machine learning to improve this over time, and for these connections to be made without people having to do anything.

At the time, the technology did not exist to allow this to work. Then we learnt about blockchain and associated cryptographic technologies such as zero-knowledge proofs, multi-party and privacy preserving computation, homomorphic encryption and so much more and realised that we had all the component parts to make this work. Fetch.ai was born: a suite of technologies to allow autonomous entities that we call autonomous economic agents (or AEAs, or just agents, for short), to actively find each other and get useful work done on behalf of who, or indeed what, owns them.

Fetch.ai is unique: the AEAs, the technology to intelligently connect them, and the underlying collective learning and intelligence that allows this to work efficiently, has the potential to contribute to a change in the way we get things done. It removes complexity, while working as a disintermediation agent to turn today’s centralized, inflexible economy into something that can be adapted rapidly to a changing world.

We’ve been super fortunate to work with such a world-class team bringing this vision to life, and innovating new technologies and new ideas along the journey.

Coinone: How does Fetch.ai utilize the token economy?

Toby: Tokenisation, and the economy behind it, is what makes the Fetch.ai ecosystem function. Blockchain has been a key part in enabling this, both for Fetch and for others. It provides the ability to create a network of huge scale, and for that network to be truly decentralized. This decentralization delivers collective ownership and those that use the network can be part of operating it. It also delivers self-service trust: you don’t need to rely on a third party to establish if something is true, you are able to look at the blockchain and find out for yourself. When it comes to creating an autonomous, adaptive economy, this is vital.

The ability to grow the network, at any time, in order to deal with demand gives infinite scale. For Fetch.ai this is particularly important: with IoT devices, data sources, services, knowledge and people all represented by agents, the potential size of the agent population could be several billion. This cannot be achieved with existing technologies and is particularly exciting.

Key to all of this is blockchain’s incentive mechanisms. These have made it more profitable to be good than to be bad. Additionally, it is a value exchange mechanism that — with the right consensus — enables high-speed, low-value and low-cost transactions. Where human and digital entities are working together, this is essential. In Fetch.ai, when you as a person get an answer to a problem you had, many thousands of agents may have transacted with each other to make that possible. These may be transactions of a fraction of a cent, but we need them to happen cheaply, and to be finalized quickly. We have created technology that makes this work.

Fetch’s token (FET) is a utility token. It is the fuel that lets you get things done on the network: you need it to deploy and run smart contracts, to deploy agents, for agents to connect and find each other and to perform transactions. As the population of agents increases, so does the desire and need to have FET in order to get things done. Likewise, as the population increases, so does the possibilities for learning and further utility. We are very excited by what it can do!

Coinone: How are blockchains and services connected?

Toby: Fetch.ai consists of an underlying sharded blockchain, which includes a ledger, a unique proof-of-stake consensus system and a powerful smart contract system that is able to deliver both on and off-chain computing. On top of this is a system we call the Open Economic Framework, or OEF for short. The OEF is how agents connect to the Fetch network, advertise what they have or what they need, and then find each other so that they can negotiate and then transact. We also provide a selection of APIs so that wallets (both as apps on mobile and desktop), block explorers and smart contract authoring and interaction systems can be created.

We have, of course, created all of the initial versions of these tools ourselves, and we then provide support for developers looking to enhance them further. To that end, all of our code is open-source.

We have a very powerful agent framework that delivers a starting point for creating and launching agents, and these agents then work with the ledger and the OEF in order to get work done.

Coinone: What kind of app or web service will Fetch.ai use?

Toby: Good technology is invisible to its users. Certainly when it comes to delivering solutions to complex problems, we anticipate that most users will get this delivered directly to their mobile device. The tokens, the blockchain and other cryptographic technologies will be hidden, working beneath the surface to deliver a service. So there will absolutely be a mobile app that will provide users with their own agent to represent their needs and preferences. What’s particularly good about this is the way it protects the user’s personal data: agents represent things, but people’s personal data is never exposed on the blockchain.

Of course there is a need to work with the token for many, and that is where wallets and exchanges (such as Coinone) are so very important. It allows developers and the community to exchange FET so that they can get things done, hold tokens for future utility and help build the future.

For those building on Fetch.ai, we have a selection of developer tools, both web-based wallets and block explorers, and also software development kits that can help people to make agents or run parts of the network.

Agents are key to Fetch.ai and we continue to work hard to help people create and interact with them. We are developing web-based agent creation tools, for example, that allow anyone to create their own by simply dragging and dropping components and connecting them together. New agents then have their own wallet, and can go out on the Fetch network, delivering value or finding it on behalf of their owners. Anyone can contribute components, and there are incentives for those creating them.

We’re creating the broadest set of tools, services and examples possible to maximise those who can work with, use, and create things on the Fetch network.

This interview was originally published in Korean at https://bit.ly/3buGmFk.