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The importance of provenance in the AI era

Provenance, a concept deeply ingrained in human history, plays a pivotal role in verifying the origins of artifacts and the authenticity of precious items. Our concern and focus on provenance provides a framework for how we understand the world. Provenance has two important definitions:

1. the beginning of something's existence; something's origin.
"they try to understand the whole universe, its provenance and fate"

2. a record of ownership of a work of art or an antique, used as a guide to authenticity or quality.
"the manuscript has a distinguished provenance"
- Oxford Languages

From art forgeries to counterfeit luxury watches, misrepresentations pervade our world. Mislabeling of images and videos is not a new phenomenon. However, the advent of "deepfakes" – hyper-realistic yet entirely fabricated audio or video content – presents an unprecedented challenge. The accessibility of AI tools now allows even amateurs to create or modify content effortlessly. From the Pope in designer jackets to falsified audio impacting elections, generated content is now mainstream. Consequently, determining the authenticity of what we view has never been more complex.

New creation tools require new provenance tools

The increasing sophistication of content manipulation necessitates advanced tools for verifying authenticity. Enter blockchain technology, the bedrock of the latest provenance solutions. While a comprehensive exploration of blockchain is beyond the scope of this article, its fundamental traits include:

  • Decentralized data confirmation, with updates requiring consensus across numerous nodes
  • Public access to read and verify the blockchain data at all times
  • Robustness against shutdowns due to the widespread distribution of nodes
Why blockchain's role in provenance is critical

Employing blockchain for backing up provenance empowers media entities, journalists, and researchers to produce and cite content with heightened confidence in its veracity. Consumers can peruse content without the concern of misinformation. This also provides a golden opportunity for content creators to ensure the origins of their work. Considering the licensing of an event photograph by a media house, how can they be certain of the image's authenticity and rightful ownership? Blockchain-based provenance is the answer, fostering trust and transparency across the value chain – from creator to consumer.

Emerging tools in the provenance arena

While blockchain facilitates a trustless database, a regulated interface is imperative to verify the legitimacy of the content being added. This demands dedicated solutions.

An example of an image upload to Arweave, a blockchain-based permanent storage solution used by many tools including Momentous
An example of an image upload to Arweave, a blockchain-based permanent storage solution used by many tools including Momentous

For instance, Momentous, a platform currently under beta testing, emphasizes preserving cherished moments. It backs up every image as a blockchain-verified NFT, complete with detailed metadata. Not only does it offer individuals a platform for securing memories, but it also acts as a repository for verifiable, unaltered content. Such innovations are poised to redefine media trustworthiness in the AI age. We expect Momentous to continue to grow around this use case and become the go-to app for content capture.

New products in this space are being developed every day. If you have a great idea around provenance and need developer resources to help build it, please send us a message!

Jonah Kitay
Jonah Kitay

CEO & Co-Founder of NiftyLabs

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