Crypto News

In their report, “Crypto’s AI Mirage,” Coinbase Research has issued a nuanced examination of the intersection between artificial intelligence (AI) and crypto, revealing a landscape fraught with overvaluation and speculative fervor. David Han, an Institutional Research Analyst at Coinbase, spearheads this analysis, providing a critical lens through which the future of AI crypto tokens is scrutinized.

AI Crypto Tokens Lack ‘Persistent Demand Drivers’

At the heart of the report is the assertion that the crypto-AI domain, despite its rapid expansion and the enthrallment it enjoys from investors and the public alike, confronts substantial obstacles that might thwart its adoption in the foreseeable future. “AI tokens have been buoyed by the broader crypto and AI markets but may lack persistent demand drivers in the short to medium term,” Han states, underscoring the precarious foundation on which these tokens’ valuations might rest.

One of the report’s pivotal insights is the critique of decentralization as a standalone merit for AI products within the crypto sphere. “We generally think that decentralization is an insufficient competitive advantage for an AI product on its own – it must reach feature parity with centralized counterparts in certain other key areas as well,” the report elaborates. This perspective challenges the prevailing narrative that decentralization inherently confers superiority, arguing instead for a balanced approach that considers other critical factors for success.

The analysis further articulates a “contrarian view” on the value potential of many AI tokens, suggesting that the market’s exuberance may be misaligned with the actual prospects of these ventures. “Our view is that the value potential for many AI tokens may be overstated… and that many AI tokens may lack sustainable demand side drivers in the short to medium term,” Han explains. This cautionary stance is informed by the rapid evolution of AI technology, which poses a double-edged sword—while advancing the field, it also raises the barrier for crypto-based innovations to disrupt existing markets.

Delving into the categorization of AI and crypto intersections, the report differentiates between AI applications that enhance the crypto industry and those aimed at disrupting traditional AI pipelines through decentralized methods. It acknowledges the clear benefits and potential for long-term promise in the former category. In contrast, it casts doubt on the latter’s value proposition, highlighting the formidable challenges posed by market competition and regulatory hurdles.

Just Speculative Gambles?

Despite these challenges, the report notes a paradox where AI tokens have outperformed benchmarks such as bitcoin, ether, and even major AI equities like Nvidia and Microsoft since the fourth quarter of 2023. “AI tokens generally benefit from strong associated performance in both the broader crypto market as well as related AI news headlines,” the report observes, suggesting that these tokens can act as proxies for AI progress, albeit potentially detached from their actual utility or adoption metrics.

However, the speculative nature of this market is not lost on Coinbase Research, which warns of the risks associated with memetic speculation absent clear adoption forecasts. “A lack of clear adoption forecasting and metrics have enabled a wide range of memetic speculation which may not be long-term sustainable,” Han remarks, highlighting the precarious balance between price and utility in the AI token market.

In its concluding remarks, the report emphasizes the need for a judicious approach to navigating the crypto-AI landscape. It cautions against overreliance on decentralization as a panacea and advocates for a realistic appraisal of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. “Crypto’s role in AI does not exist in a vacuum… Thus, supplanting centralized providers purely for the sake of ‘decentralization’ is insufficient,” the report concludes, advocating for a more nuanced and critical examination of how crypto can genuinely contribute to the AI domain.

Render And WorldCoin Under The Microscope

WorldCoin emerges as a case study in the report, illustrating how AI tokens’ valuations can be significantly influenced by market headlines and promotional activities, often detached from tangible developments within the project itself. “The fully diluted valuation of Worldcoin sits at $80B – similar to that of OpenAI’s $86B February 16 valuation…,” Han notes, pointing to the speculative dynamics that can inflate valuations irrespective of underlying fundamentals.

He details that WorldCoin is perhaps the clearest example of AI tokens tracking AI market headlines. “It released its World ID 2.0 upgrade on December 13, 2023 that went mostly unnoticed, yet made a 50% move upwards following Sam Altman’s promotion of Worldcoin on December 15,” Han remarked, adding that “OpenAI’s Sora release on February 15, 2024 led to a nearly threefold gain in price despite no related announcements on Worldcoin’s Twitter or blog.”

Regarding Render Network (RNDR), Han highlights that the decentralized computing (DeComp) sector of the crypto economy is meant to be an alternative to the centralized cloud computing model. He argues that crypto projects such as Render and Akash have benefited from the GPU supply crunch.

However, he questions the long-term viability:

For networks [like Render and Akash] where compute pricing can change based on supply and demand variations, it is unclear to us where persistent, usage-driven demand to native tokens will ultimately arise if supply-side growth outpaces that on the demand side. We think it’s likely that such tokenomic models may need to be revisited in the future.

At press time, RNDR traded at $9.925.