Why build user-owned AI?

Today's data serfdom

The internet started as an open platform where users controlled their data and could freely move between interoperable applications. It was a beautiful thing — researchers hacking away, a fun and creative world fully owned by participants. Over time, however, data became siloed in walled gardens controlled by a few dominant tech companies. Now, we live on their property and by their rules.

The rise of AI has raised the stakes. We risk heading towards a future where AI models trained on our data displace us, with the gains flowing to a small set of shareholders. At the same time, we hold all the power through our data, but it requires collective action.

Liberating data from walled gardens

Vana is the first network for user-owned data, enabling a new paradigm — an open internet where users own and govern their data, and the intelligent products that data creates. Users earn ownership in the models they contribute to. Value flows to the users and independent model developers, not centralized platforms.

AI is far too powerful to be controlled by the few. Its benefits and ownership must be in the hands of all of us.

A permissionless, open platform

At its core, Vana is user-owned infrastructure for a data-powered economy, owned by its participants rather than centralized entities. What makes it powerful from a technical perspective is equally important from a societal one.

Vana is radically open to contributions of data, compute, and ideas from anyone. You can own a piece of the system the same way large shareholders do. There are no barriers based on geography, credentials, or capital. Open source researchers get access to better compute and data resources than leading centralized AI companies have today. 

Pushing forward AI progress

The excessive concentration of power over data and AI poses grave risks. It leads to invasive surveillance, algorithmic discrimination, and wealth concentration on a massive scale as AI disrupts our economy. It also hinders AI progress: the walled gardens of big tech make it challenging to get enough training data to push the frontier of AI with better data. 

User-owned data provides an alternative path. One where openness and collaboration, not monopolistic control, drives innovation. Where AI serves as a tool to empower people, not just replace them. Where everyone has a stake in the systems that shape our economy and society. And where the world’s smartest minds can build the best models, with access to the very best datasets.

By giving data contributors ownership in the models they create, users gain control over the most valuable asset in the AI revolution. Data is the new currency, and collective data is power. We’re creating the world's largest user-owned data treasury—a resource so valuable that the world’s leading AI models will be built upon it. In the long run, we expect that even big tech companies will access data on Vana (if the users allow) to push the frontiers of AI. 

A new ownership model for AI

Technologically, Vana harnesses the power of decentralized markets and incentives to marshal data and AI talent from around the world towards common goals. Socially, it pioneers a model of open ownership and governance over the most important technological systems shaping our future.

Vana isn't just infrastructure for a new way to create AI, but for a new kind of digital economy. One that is open, collaborative and empowering by default, where the value of data and AI flows to the many, not the few. It offers a path towards a world of data abundance through true data ownership: data liberation.