The Rise of zkML and Decentralized AI

Mar 21, 2024

At Imperii Partners, we are at the forefront of the exciting convergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and blockchain, heralding a new chapter in digital innovation. Our exploration into this synergy focuses on key areas such as decentralized computing, zero-knowledge machine learning (zkML), Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), coprocessors, and AI agents. These technologies hold the promise of accelerating adoption and pioneering novel solutions. With AI’s capacity to enhance computation and revolutionize content delivery, combined with blockchain’s novel approach to transaction settlement and data integrity, Imperii Partners is optimistic about the transformative potential within the industry, eagerly embracing the role of driving innovation and pioneering change in the digital landscape.

In the current landscape, the confluence of blockchain and AI predominantly encompasses areas such as decentralized computing, AGI, ML training, AI agents, zero-knowledge machine learning (zkML), and coprocessors. Below, we provide a landscape overview of some of the most notable projects in the space.

Crypto / AI Market Landscape


Decentralized Compute Unlocks New Horizons

Emerging decentralized compute platforms such as Cudos, Nosana, Exabits, and Flux are redefining the landscape by democratizing access to high-performance computational resources for AI models. This shift towards a more accessible model of computing power is crucial for the development and execution of AI inferences, facilitating a significant advancement in the sophistication and application of AI technologies. By leveraging the distributed nature of these platforms, AI developers can now access the computational resources needed to drive innovation and enhance the capabilities of AI applications, marking a pivotal step in the evolution of digital technologies.

Artificial General Intelligence: Pioneering with Bittensor and Upshot

The quest for Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) stands at the confluence of blockchain and AI, symbolizing a future where machines possess understanding and cognitive abilities akin to humans. Bittensor, leveraging blockchain to decentralize AI model training and execution, exemplifies this pursuit by incentivizing the collaborative development of AI through its unique Proof of Intelligence mechanism. In parallel, Upshot is making significant strides in the realm of AI, focusing on specialized applications that enhance the accuracy and efficiency of predictions in various sectors. Together, these efforts suggest a future where AI can fluidly merge with blockchain technology, enabling a range of autonomous, efficient tasks and services.

Machine Learning Training: Powered by Gensyn and Akash Network

The evolution of Machine Learning (ML) training methodologies is being revolutionized through decentralized platforms such as Gensyn and Akash Network. Gensyn’s approach to decentralizing the training of AI models offers a novel pathway to harness underutilized computational resources, democratizing access to AI development. Akash Network’s decentralized cloud services provide a secure and scalable environment for ML training, reducing the barriers to entry for startups and individual developers. By integrating blockchain’s trustless architecture, these platforms not only facilitate access to computational resources but also ensure the integrity and privacy of the training data and processes.

AI Agents: Navigating the New Digital Frontier

AI agents embody a revolutionary methodology for streamlining and refining intricate tasks. Utilizing the power of blockchain technology, these agents function with unparalleled autonomy and efficiency, revolutionizing everything from the enhancement of smart contract capabilities to the broadening of user access and interaction. stands out by developing adaptive, autonomous agents designed for various environments, including financial markets and smart cities, leveraging blockchain to facilitate secure, direct communication and transactions between digital entities. On the other hand, SingularityNET offers a decentralized marketplace for AI services, enabling the creation, sharing, and monetization of AI technologies at scale. Through its platform, AI agents can offer a range of services from data analysis to algorithmic model training, making AI more accessible and customizable for diverse applications.

Innovating Blockchain’s Computational Frontier with Axiom, Risc Zero, and Ritual

Emerging “coprocessors” like Risc Zero, Axiom, and Ritual are transforming blockchain functionality. These platforms extend beyond traditional definitions, enabling off-chain computation verification on the blockchain. Their goal is to simplify zero-knowledge proof generation, creating virtual machines that operate externally but provide on-chain verification. Risc Zero and Axiom cater to a broad array of AI models as general-purpose coprocessors, while Ritual is specifically designed for AI applications.

Ritual’s debut feature, Infernet, includes an SDK that allows developers to send inference requests off-chain and receive verified results. This capability is particularly useful for DAOs to automate governance proposal evaluations against predefined criteria. Looking ahead, Ritual plans to introduce the Ritual Superchain, integrating services from similar initiatives and expanding its infrastructure to support a wide range of AI and machine learning tasks. This strategic direction positions Ritual as a comprehensive provider for AI infrastructure across various networks and computational needs.

zkML Infrastructure: Bridging AI and Blockchain with Privacy and Efficiency:

In the burgeoning field of zkML, the focus is on developing foundational infrastructure and tools that allow for the conversion of AI models into blockchain-verifiable proofs. This is pivotal for maintaining privacy while ensuring the integrity of machine learning applications in blockchain contexts. Projects like EZKL and Giza are spearheading this by offering verifiable execution of machine learning models, using the Open Neural Network Exchange (ONNX) to standardize model transformation and output zk-proofs. Particularly noteworthy is Modulus Labs, advancing the zkML domain with innovative zero-knowledge proof techniques tailored for AI, aiming to significantly lower the computational and economic barriers to integrating AI into blockchain. Their efforts underscore a strategic pivot towards making on-chain AI applications more viable and accessible, marking a crucial step towards widespread adoption of zkML technologies.


Revolutionizing DeFi with zkML

In the DeFi space, zkML is expanding the capabilities of smart contracts, allowing DeFi protocols to harness vast, verifiable data for creating advanced trading strategies, risk analysis, and enhancing user experience. Giza’s collaboration with Yearn Finance on an automated risk assessment engine for the v3 vaults exemplifies practical applications. Similarly, Modulus Labs’ partnerships with Lyra Finance and Ion Protocol demonstrate the potential for incorporating machine learning to refine automated market makers (AMMs) and validate risk in validator networks. These initiatives, leveraging the power of zkML, are paving the way for “De-Ai-Fi” solutions that combine decentralized finance with artificial intelligence, offering users innovative services like automated yield farming and on-chain credit scoring.

Transforming Gaming through AI and Blockchain

The intersection of AI and blockchain is dramatically reshaping the gaming industry, with AI Arena exemplifying this evolution. This innovative platform leverages zero-knowledge machine learning (zkML) to introduce a new dimension to on-chain gaming, allowing for sophisticated NPC actors and AI-driven gameplay that enriches user experience and game complexity. In AI Arena, players train their fighters using AI models, which are then deployed in battles reminiscent of popular titles like Super Smash Bros, but with a twist: every action and strategy is informed and executed by AI. This integration not only enhances the realism and unpredictability of in-game characters but also opens up avenues for gamers to engage in a deeper, more strategic level of play.

Advancing Identity Verification and Privacy

zkML is also making strides in identity verification and privacy, offering secure and private ways to manage digital identities and combat AI-generated content and deepfakes. Projects like WorldCoin demonstrate the potential for biometric verification systems that respect user privacy, providing a glimpse into future applications where personal data is protected yet verifiable. This technology holds promise for a wide range of applications, from healthcare diagnostics to secure online interactions, marking a significant step forward in ensuring privacy and security in the digital age.


The synergistic fusion between AI and blockchain technologies marks the dawn of a transformative era in digital innovation. By unlocking high-performance computational resources for AI, entities like Render Network and Akash Network are democratizing technology. Visionaries at Bittensor and Upshot are pushing the envelope towards achieving Artificial General Intelligence, a feat that would redefine our interaction with digital environments. With the advent of AI agents and the strategic application of zkML through companies like Modulus Labs, we are setting the stage for a future that promises not only enhanced digital interactions but also a leap towards ensuring privacy, efficiency, and trust in the digital realm.

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