Why decentralization? – Part I

The full article was originally published on IOTA Untangled. Read the full article here.

Why is decentralization so important? It’s what cryptocurrency seems to be all about.1 Yet I couldn’t really put my finger on what it means exactly, or why it is important. Neither could anyone I asked. Most agree it intuitively feels better, but to say why proved to be much harder.

The scope

In three posts, I’m trying to get a grip on why decentralization feels intuitively correct, while at the same time being hard to characterize. It starts with defining decentralization and highlighting its importance. Then I also want see if it is possible to think of a model that balances centralization and decentralization, instead of having to strictly choose between them. To finish we’ll have a cursory look at where decentralization could beneficial, or even essential.

  • The first post asks Why decentralization?
  • The second post presents A model for harmonic decentralization.
  • And the third post looks into Decentralization as an answer to Life, the Planet and Everything.

The main objective

Decentralization is currently a hot item. But before we choose to go all-in on this potentially disruptive innovation, I think we first have to realize exactly what it is we’re choosing for. These 3 posts are not intended as a comprehensive answer. Instead they intend to make us think about what adding decentralization means for us and our lives. And if we are willing to take the bad with the good.

A secondary objective

Besides its meaning for humans, an additional emphasis is put on the importance of decentralization for autonomous machines. Since this is a blog that looks into the implications of a machine economy.

What is decentralization exactly?

Although “decentralization” is considered the gold standard in cryptocurrency, the exact definition or even its distinction from distributed networks is not always made clear.2 The most basic and neutral definition of decentralization is “the dispersion or distribution of functions and powers.” But what does this mean? And why is it important? And is there a point where further decentralization has reduced benefits or even severe disadvantages?

Visualization of Centralized, Decentralized and Distributed Networks, based on Paul Baran’s “On distributed communications networks” – September 1962.

Before looking deeper into the why, how and what of decentralization, let’s have a look at centralization first. What is so bad about centralization that we want to change it? Or even get rid of it?

Disadvantages of centralized services

Centralized services tend to be very comfortable to use. Somebody more competent than you takes care of all the thinking, engineering, testing, safety features, updates, plus the upfront costs. And you can even get all this for free! What’s not to love?

More and more people are waking up to the problems the tech giants’ core business model present. If you’re not aware yet, read Surveillance Giants by Amnesty International.

Read the full Article

The full article was originally published on IOTA Untangled, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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