Decentralization Fever: The Path To Utopia, Or Just Another Fundamentalist Ideological Mindf^ck...?

in philosophy •  2 years ago

This post began with a comment on @cryptogee's Is Not The Decentralized Platform You Think It Is, evolving into a viewpoint of its own that I felt was worth expanding into a piece of its own...

As cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, the idea of "decentralization" has been growing in popularity. Many arguments have been made painting the decentralization movement as the potential solution to nearly all mankind's problems, as though centralization is the core source of all evil itself. Of course, to phrase it like this might be an intentional over-dramatization - though such a magnification may be required to emphasize the point...

Yes, well-designed, effective decentralized systems may hold the potential to increase efficiencies and weed out corruption possible in the current centralized versions.

Yes, the movement towards increased decentralization in many aspects of government, economic & financial infrastructure, and other societal institutions might bring countless innovations with positive benefits.

Though, have some people become too overly-enthusiastic about the topic of decentralization, such that it has become an idealized ideology, itself an extreme?

Inherent in @cryptogee's entire story, are the indicators of preexisting criticism amongst a subculture of decentralization-believers of anything failing to live up to a fully-complete, infallible definition of "decentralized..."

It doesn't even need to be said, that his expose of Steemit as not a truly decentralized platform would be well-expected to elicit the resistance of the die-hard decentralists with the crypto world.

Before a single comment rolls in, we already know there will be those jumping to judge Steemit, painting it as some sort of "sellout" betraying the core principles of decentralization at heart of the crypto movement - which really, may only be their own beliefs inherented from a select subset of the larger crypto-tribe.

To many, crypto was supposed to be a movement against centralized controlling powers.

And in some of their eyes, "decentralization" may appear to be the end-all-be-all - the holy grail, to which all projects in the space must remain loyal to in order to maintain their street cred and integrity.

Of course, few might admit it, were this perspective presented in such a fashion - and resistance could be predictable, with defenses for their stance flung out in attempts of discrediting any contrasting viewpoints threatening the ideology of decentralization as the ultimate path to nirvana.

A bit silly, it might seem framed in this manner, yes. Though, cultural dynamics such as this - which play themselves out time and time again in group dynamics, nearly equally-applicable to any ideological movement - can often play out incredibly subtly. Hence, the value of magnification through a slightly extreme viewpoint to emphasize particulars that might otherwise be easily overlooked, should one not be tuned into to the finer subtleties.

Overlooked often, in dialogue about the miraculous potential of decentralization, may be the paradox: true decentralization - that is, true to the absolute extreme of the word - is an impossibility. Rather, it may merely be one side of a coin - half of the equation...

Bitcoin may be "decentralized" in the sense that it exist on a distributed network of nodes. Yet, the global distribution of processing power and participants maintaining the system does not negate the fact there is some degree of centralization in the ONE shared ledger.

Looked at another way, as that alone is not enough to explain the point being worked towards...

Let's take the example of blockchain technology used within the music industry.

As it stands, metadata and usage data is split amongst numerous organizations' databases. Some might call this system centralized, with the major labels and PROs being the centralized power repositories. Yet, in the context of the industry ecosystem - it might more fit the definition of "decentralization" (though a horribly inefficient system), with data actually not existing in a centralized location...

The use proposed for implementing blockchain as a solution to the industry's challenges: the creation of a "decentralized" system through which all data may be easily stored and referenced to ensure quick access to metadata - ultimately, to the benefit of artists so they can timely get paid for their work, as various component platforms integrate into the system.

Yet, in essence, what is being proposed is a centralized system. Not in the context of one entity centralizing power control, but in a consolidation of data within a single, integrated system.

If one is defining "decentralized" by the absence of a sole controlling corporate power-center and a hosting of the system on a distributed network of computers, sure, it would be "decentralized." But unless there is concrete agreement upon the absolute terms of the definition and context - and even then, the belief of a group doesn't convert a truth into a falsehood based on their desires to frame a context to their ideological liking - such a system could still effectively fall into the "centralized" category, as per the dynamics of its constituent information being consolidated into a single system - even if the system were split into separate yet interoperable components.

And here, we can already foresee the reaction of idealists, as though the suggestion such a system could never be fully, truly "decentralized" is a problem. Even though if such an innovation - part decentralized, part centralized - would be a huge leap forward in solving the industry's inefficiencies.

T'is a common pattern in human psychology, as extracted and projected through group dynamics fighting for any ideology.

Yes, we've all become familiar with several weaknesses in centralized systems - inefficiency and corruptability being the two broadest over-arching categories.

So, as per predictable psychological patterns, we can expect a swing to the perceived opposite end of the spectrum: decentralization as the solution to all of the problems "caused by" centralization.

Thing is, the logic is flawed.

Centralization itself was never the cause. Complex systems can't be broken down to be accurately assessed to come up with such a vague, detail-lacking generalization. Though, with limited knowledge of complex ecosystems and the processing capability to see and understand the indefinite amount of moving, interoperable parts, cognitive bias serves as a highly-effective means for simplifying the unknown into an ideology rationalizing belief systems validating reactionary behavior towards that whose complexity overwhelms. The need to discover truth is exchanged for some fleeting sense of hope for control - i.e. the promise of removing control from "centralized" powers, to be put put back into the hands of "the people."

Keep in mind - this is but one perspective, not being stated as truth, but half of a story, the amount of truth within may change based upon a larger context clarified with contrasting viewpoints.

I'm posing no argument for or against decentralization itself - merely presenting some reflections in which there might potentially be some value to expand awareness of certain social & psychological dynamics behind the phenomena of people subscribing to ideologies, be it decentralization, capitalism, creationism, the putting of science on a pedestal, spiritual mumbo-jumbo, communism, or any other 'ism.'

What is the consequence of ideological inflexibility?

See for yourself, as it may exist in this blockchain space...

Take last year's Ethereum hard fork drama. Who, really, was behind the creation of ETC? Inflexible ideologists clinging to the "code is law" dogma, refusing to adapt as seen fit by the majority to advance for the benefit of the whole. Time will prove just how well that inflexibility to adapt serves the ETC community.

Meanwhile - while hardcore crypto-heads rally for "decentralization," look at what Ethereum's flexibility to embrace the paradoxical duality has resulted in: the Enterprise Ethereum Alliance, Consensys' partnership with Dubai, (growing adoption in China](, and a thriving ecosystem of developers building decentralized applications on the platform. Yes, they have partnering with "centralized powers" and have been building models with elements of centralization, which hardcore decentralists might be quick to condemn. Yet, it is precisely because of the ideological adaptability allowing them to integrate effectively into "the system," that advancements can be made that are enabling the most fundamental values and principles of the decentralization movement to be actualized.

Likewise, some might criticize Steemit for not being 100% "decentralized," measuring it up against their ideologies. Though as @cryptogee wrote, attempting full-decentralization would in all likelihood not have worked to get the platform this far. Meanwhile, Dan & Ned's flexibility to abandon the extremist decentralization stance for the benefit of the project, balancing degrees of centralization and decentralization in order to design a business model structured to withstand the realities of the regulatory jurisdictions it had to operate within has allowed Steemit's development to the benefit of many - and many more to come.

"You can't please all people all the time..."

Perhaps there will always be sections of the population subscribing to ideologies, who shall predictably revolt against that which conflicts with their belief systems - whether those beliefs are based in sound principles and values clarified through a holistic, 360 degree view encapsulating all contrasting sides of a story, or fragmented perceptions distorted with ignorance and cognitive bias.

Nonetheless, life carries on.

Maybe sometimes we need an extremist ideology to come along and slingshot is in a new direction, abandoning it at the next step in order to recalibrate to the conditions we couldn't foresee at the first.

Maybe sometimes we still need certain cultural subsets holding strong to outdated ideologies in order to provide the contrasting perspective for extracting the wisdom needed to advance beyond such one-sided perspectives.

Any way it goes, we march forward.

And the decentralization movement continues.

And even its most passionate, inflexible soldiers have something to teach us and contribute to this shared journey in which - hopefully - we're advancing towards outcomes reflecting the core principles and values we all can deeply agree upon.

Or to conclude as my wise, high-priestess soul-sister often sums up:

Or some shit. :-p

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This is a case of Hegel and Marx's disagreement over the Dialectic. Once we have a decentralised world, the same people who created it, would end up resenting it. The same process repeats itself again.

Thesis ➡ Antithesis ➡Synthesis ➡ Ad Infinitum.

The world will never be perfect and upvote for you....

We are all walking contradictions. That's why I call myself an anarcho-Marxist. I understand that individualist anarchy can't work alone, nor can socialist tribal democracy, no matter how grassroots or up the bottom up. (Exploitative capitalism doesn't need my membership.)

The average person is stupider than average, or very close.

I think it's always important to pay more attention to how things are playing out, rather than always get stuck on theory and ideology. That's why, as much as I probably could identify myself as anarchist, I don't feel attached to that word or the label and never hold on to the philosophies as an answer to everything because things are never play out as simply as they do in theory and if there are staunch capitalists moving in a positive direction, I don't want to negate their efforts by getting into arguments over political philosophy. Even if later down the line, we run into some headaches, so what? Who knows how everyone's perspective will change once the current situations changes.

That being said, I really don't know enough about crypto and the gritty details of what decentralization looks like. There are things I like about it here and things I don't like, but overall it seems to be moving in a positive direction from the big names in social media like facebook and twitter and crypto, at the very least still has great potential even though there are variety of scenarios I could imagine it all going sour. Like I said, I need to learn more.

I wasn't shitting today when I read your post. Sign of the times

Great article -thank you for sharing your thoughts on this.

I think you make a good point about decentralization. I am as big of a fan of decentralization as probably any person here; nevertheless, I don't think that it cannot be stressed enough that decentralization is not the end, freedom from coercion and surveillance is likely the real goal that most supporters of decentralization are genuinely aiming for. There are tools/services that will support those aims that may not meet one's definition of perfect decentralization. That said, they ought to be supported and used because they are step towards the aim.



Every semblance of common sense within me tells me it is the latter, a carefully orchestrated, Ponzi mind ___ for the mindless masses (thus I will play but with zero skin in the game).

Very good article. Upvote and followed!

Very good article, bro. I love it. I have been stuck on idealizing many things, many times in life. Then in some point I see how they set me back, make me inflexible and hard-headed, and also selfish and arrogant. If decentralization is not the way to go, we will find out in the way, and change and evolve better paths. The real beauty comes when we sit back, relax and let things unfold naturally.


Cool. Totally forgot about this one, it’s been so long!

Indeed, evolution moves on... hybrid of centralized and decentralized, quite likely the most functional outcome, in my opinion.

The real beauty comes when we sit back, relax, and let things unfold naturally.

Beautifully said. Timely guidance. 🙏💖

Great post, words for the wise!

This was great, really brought to light alot of underlying features of human consciousness, and pointed out alot of inevitable expectations from these new blockchain based technologies. Thanks!

I still think how it is messed up that all of this technology concern the people is made with materials from Africa and other third world areas who sell it at cheap rates to have it sold back to them via other companies and countries at higher prices? I feel like a 'decentralized socio-geopolitical' (<-- is that even a word?) which i.e means people grow their own, source materials and build technology might help reduce the powers that be. Smaller, compact towns that work efficiently rather than massive consuming cities. Anywho, just some 2c. Thanks for the good read.


I agree with you, my friend. This is where I believe permaculture can make a difference. We need more farming and community design ;) The bananas bought around the world cost about 20 bananas for 1USD here in Honduras (Banana Republic). I've heard people paying like 20 times that in other countries. I mean, of course you can't grow bananas everywhere.. but I think you know where I'm going.

If you live way up north, you could go for peaches or apples instead of bananas. So you would probably design apple orchards instead of banana plantations :D I really love plants, this is why I give the example with farming, but permaculture is way more than just growing food.

[Here's an article] I wrote about how I came to the permaculture world if you wanna check that out.

Disintermediation is where real value lay, decentralization is just a method of handling the lack of an intermediary. However in a sense a block-chain is an intermediary itself, so where we see crypto projects removing a centralized intermediary and replacing it with a decentralized intermediary, this does very little to add value or reduce the costs in a system or process.
The reason the currency application of block-chain works so incredibly well, is that banking has so many intermediaries; if I want to send you money, I have to ask my bank to send your bank some money, so we already have 2 intermediaries involved. If those banks dont have accounts with one-another, they may use a 3rd correspondant bank to execute the transaction. That is for a simple domestic transfer, now if we need to add an international dimension, the number of intermediaries starts to explode, fx brokers, central banks multiple correspondant banks and so forth; every intermediary needs paying, is slow, error prone and able to be corrupted.

Other useful scenarios are supply-chain, energy-supply and any other application where multiple intermediaries are blocking efficient processes.

Very interesting article. Crypto for all