How To Understand Shinkai: A Decentralized AI Platform Inside a Simple App

How To Understand Shinkai: A Decentralized AI Platform Inside a Simple App
How to Understand Shinkai: A Decentralized AI Platform Inside a Simple App

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the new hype, and unlike other trends that have overshot their potential, the AI industry has been moving at great speed and is very likely here to stay. If that happens, most industries will evolve, and on a personal level, we will be much more capable as humans with the help of AI.

An AI looking out for us would be extremely helpful in organizing our lives, making better financial decisions, keeping up and better communicating with friends and close ones, and much more. However, for an AI to reach that degree of integration, it needs access to our lives, conversations, apps, financial services, etc. There is always the option to give all that information to one single company like OpenAI, and many people might be okay with that. But for those who value privacy and ownership of their data, Shinkai aims to cover that need. And also, completely free and open-source is a great add-on.

So what exactly is Shinkai? Shinkai is an advanced platform that runs on your computer and can locally use the best available open-source AI models to answer general questions, access almost any file on your computer, navigate the web with you, take audio notes, generate graphics, analyze videos or files, analyze your crypto holdings, help you understanding medical records before a visit with your doctor, easily navigate new medical research, give you updates of your financial holdings, help you plan trips and dates, perform periodic tasks, and much more. You can even share your screen with your local AI without sending any data to anyone; everything happens locally. We believe that a platform like this will be extremely helpful for many people. By making it free and easy to install, like a two-click install for Mac, Windows, and Linux, it will be easily accessible to anyone.

As we know, AI models are trained with specific data that’s up-to-date until the AI finishes its training, but after that, they can become outdated. Additionally, AI models can be quite accurate for common topics but might "hallucinate" for more technical or long-tail topics. That’s why we are empowering every Shinkai App with access to a decentralized network, where you can subscribe to different channels to automatically download and update your AI models for extended knowledge. For users concerned about the authenticity of the information, we are implementing cryptographic proofs (zk-MPC protocol based on TLS Notary) that streamers can make available with their subscriptions.

And finally, perhaps the most interesting aspect of Shinkai: we are working towards agentic capabilities. This means that we orchestrate (locally) your AI with all the necessary tools and flows so you can teach and command your AI to do tasks for you. Initially, the level of reasoning will be low, but as AI models improve, Shinkai will automatically get better because its infrastructure is made compatible with upgrades. We are also working towards offering a decentralized network of agents that can perform tasks or even specific sub-tasks for you or your AI while providing proofs of computation.

You might wonder if AI models could exceed common computer specifications, but that is already changing. It's not surprising that NVIDIA has grown substantially in value because AI requires specific types of chips that only NVIDIA is currently designing. However, competitors and new entrants see this as extremely profitable. Companies like Intel, AMD, and others focused on hardware for mobile devices, such as Qualcomm, are rushing to provide AI capabilities to every single device.

We are working towards making Shinkai the most powerful fully local AI platform that looks as simple as your average app.

The Shinkai Network

As a user, you can start locally via the Shinkai Desktop application and get a taste of how it works quickly. In a few clicks, you’ll be able to use the Shinkai Network to subscribe to up-to-date content to use with your AI. No registration process required, simply boot and connect to see how it all feels in practice.

To fully take part in the Shinkai Network past this initial setup/test, the next step is to register an on-chain identity. Registering an identity requires staking Shinkai tokens, which allows you to choose a name based on how many tokens you stake. In other words, the shorter a name is, the more total number of tokens you must stake in order to acquire it. This naturally prevents name squatting, and makes it easier for users to always be able to find a great name from initial launch to 5 years after. During the testnet these tokens will be available via a funnel for anyone to try for themselves.

Shinkai identities follow a standard of “@@identity_name.shinaki” (ie. “@@alice.shinaki”), and allow any other user on the network to find your port-forwarded node by simply knowing its name. By registering an identity, your node (Shinkai Desktop application) will officially become a part of the Shinkai Network and take advantage of full p2p capabilities. Though your node is publicly known, your data is fully secured by the Shinkai OS’ permission system which only allows someone to read data with your consent (or in the coming future, having fulfilled a requirement such as paying you).

With a registered node on the network, you can subscribe to folders of AI-ready content from any other node on the network. Better yet, this will be a hands-off approach which will auto-update whenever new changes are made, thus making sure your AI will be acting based on fresh data.

Just like how on-chain dApps must make sure oracle data is fresh before allowing actions to happen, off-chain AI systems need a similar assurance once we begin trusting AI to take day-to-day actions for us in our digital/on-chain lives. This is a unique feature of Shinkai’s design, where all AI data (embeddings) are merkle tree-based and have multiple timestamps (attesting to date created, last date updated, date content was posted at original location such as website or blockchain block time, etc).

Participating In Growing The Network

With a registered Shinkai identity, not only can you subscribe to any content on the network, but you can also upload and share your own AI-ready personal files, pdfs, favorite webpages, or other data you want to make public. It’s as easy as drag-dropping the file to upload it to Shinkai Desktop, clicking share folder, and you are good to go. As long as your node is online (and port forwarded) then your friends, family, or anyone else can subscribe and get all files & future updates that you add.

Just like how the internet started with users hosting personal websites with files they wanted to share with others, Shinkai’s p2p network takes after this same model. The current internet and users files/data are not AI-ready today (just like how physical documents were not digital/internet-ready) and by uploading them to your Shinkai node + sharing, you are taking part in the first steps towards helping build an AI-first future.

In future updates it will also be possible to gate content on the Shinkai Network behind payment or other on-chain requirements. This will provide many opportunities for content or data providers to offer their work in an AI-ready format, with all updates directly synced to every subscriber’s Shinkai node hands-free with no extra work required.

How AI Models Work With Shinkai

When starting the Shinkai Desktop application, you will be able to choose one of several state-of-the-art open source Large Language Models (AI) to download and run locally at the single click of a button. Optionally if you have a weak computer we also have a Shinkai Hosting service that you can get started using today for free.

Once the AI is connected you can create a chat to ask questions directly or include files which you want the AI to reference while answering. The AI model will run behind the scenes and be orchestrated by Shinkai’s AI Operating System. The OS will guide the AI through understanding the included files (using multiple flows + Vector Search) and provide everything the AI needs to most accurately respond.

In the coming future, Shinkai will be releasing a new update that will add “tools” which will enable your AI to perform tasks for you. This means your AI will be able to interact with the on-chain world, connect to your favorite services, or even post to social media for you. Eventually more advanced flows like tracking a social media profile for song recommendations which get automatically added to your spotify playlist, will be possible. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but with the strong foundations built underneath Shinkai a large number of use cases to improve your daily digital life (on-chain and off-chain) will be possible.Why Is Shinkai A Separate Off-Chain Network? Why Not A dApp Or A Rollup?

A number of AI projects focus on running Large Language Models (AI) on top of blockchains, so the question arises why isn’t Shinkai? The reality is that blockchains are a fabulous technology for many use cases, however transferring/storing gigabytes of data, running heavy LLMs models, or retaining full privacy of user data are not any of them.

Regarding the former, when we convert data into an AI-compatible format (embeddings) the size of the data grows substantially. When we consider a simple pdf packed with pages of content, we can see file sizes in the dozens of megabytes. Keeping all of this in blockchain history costs dozens to hundreds of dollars per file for popular chains like Ethereum, and these prices will only become more unsustainable with further adoption in the coming future.

Blockchains today are already focused on scalability (due to high transaction costs) even though most on-chain smart contracts merely require a few kilobytes of memory. As an example, to run a single state-of-the-art small Large Language Model today, you need at least a few gigabytes of memory which translates to over 100,000 times more memory at the minimum. This is completely unviable in practice for fully decentralized blockchains/rollups at scale, and though zero knowledge proofs will be able to cut down the cost quite a bit in the coming future, it will still likely cost multiple dollars at the minimum for a single call (unviable for a lot of use cases).

Privacy-wise, due to the public nature of blockchains, user data and requests would have to be fully exposed if run on-chain. Performing tasks on spreadsheets with important on/off-chain financial data, bills or documents with your personal name/address, medical records, or any other sensitive information becomes impossible. Even zero knowledge proofs do not fully fix this problem, as the user still must reveal their sensitive information to both the LLM provider + the Zk prover, thus offering a reduction in privacy nonetheless (with very long delays in practice as well).With Shinkai we believe AI should eventually integrate fully into our daily lives. Users should be able to run their AI on the personal machines, connected to a fully decentralized p2p network for AI data (and eventually services/task distributed across multiple AI), and with an array of privacy options available, all at low/no cost. 

As such it was vital for Shinkai to not be built as an on-chain project, but as an off-chain network where any node will still be able to interact with the on-chain world via transactions, thus getting the best benefits of both.


Shinkai stands as a strong solution for a decentralized AI future where user privacy is of utmost importance. Blockchain technology seamlessly integrates at both the Shinkai protocol level, and with Shinkai’s upcoming tooling system to enable AI to act as first-class on-chain citizens.

Without a strong focus on privacy, users will never be able to trust their AI with all of their personal information, let alone interact with crypto. No one wants to have their AI run by a megacorp which is one hack away from completely ruining/losing everything their AI is connected to.

Only with a focus on building a strong open-source protocol like Shinkai will we be able to get to a future where AI benefits us all, rather than being held captive by large corporations which hold all of the leverage. The open source community has made great strides in the realm of developing AI models and now is the time for infrastructure using those models, like Shinkai, to bloom just the same.

Useful Links:

Shinkai Webpage:
Shinkai Desktop Download:
Coinlist Campaign:
Shinkai Node Github:
Shinkai Apps Github:

Nico Arqueros

Nico Arqueros

crypto builder (code, research and product) working on @shinkai_network by @dcspark_io