A Short Take on Decentralization

Published on: Aug 13, 2018 Last edited: Jan 8, 2023

How much compromise is too much?

This is a very short take on something I’ve been thinking about for quite a while. “Why do I give a shit about decentralization? Should I compromise?” Here’s why I come down emphatically on the side of “Yes, I give a shit, and no you should never compromise!”.

Blockchain-like technologies (that is, decentralizing, trustless technologies) bring to the world, for the first time in human history, a way to help us solve the prisoner’s dilemma.

With this technology, we can now remove the need to trust the other party. The “need to trust“’” is why, in the prisoner’s dilemma, each individual is forced to choose her own self interest. The fact that each individual is aware that they have to trust the other party, but is also aware that they themselves can cheat, leads them to conclude that the only rational choice is to cheat.

If the system is able to remove the need to trust, humans will (eventually) learn that the better choice in any given situation is cooperative action — which, in an odd way, has always been recognized as the better solution. Both prisoners know that they are better off if they cooperate, but they are unable to do it because they have to trust the other person.

So — why do I give a shit about decentralization? Why will I never compromise? Two reasons:

(1) We can make the world a better place — because we can now trust each other — because the system has removed the need for us to trust each other.

(2) If we build a hybrid system in which even minor parts of the system require trust, we will have built something worse than we already have.

If humans think we’re building a system that requires less trust, they will tend to reveal increasingly intimate details about themselves (requiring less trust equates to the system being more trustworthy in their minds). The trouble is that a system that accumulates more and more deeply intimate information about us becomes increasingly enticing to people who want to take advantage. We will have built a system that is easier for them to do that.

My Point

Here’s the point I’m making: Every time we compromise on the issue of decentralization, and allow the need to trust to creep back in to the system, we ruin the possibility of realizing the collective benefit and we put ourselves in deeper danger of being taken advantage of.

Stop compromising. Write 100% decentralized solutions or don’t write anything at all. If something doesn’t work in a fully-decentralized way, stop doing what you’re doing and fix it.

No centralization is the only acceptable amount of centralization! Period.

Support My Work

I’m interested in your thoughts. Please clap for this article and post your comments below. Consider supporting our work. Send us a small (or large) contribution to 0xf503017d7baf7fbc0fff7492b751025c6a78179b.

Thomas Jay Rush owns the software company QBlocks whose primary project is also called QBlocks, a collection of software libraries and applications enabling real-time, per-block smart contract monitoring and analytics to the Ethereum blockchain. Contact him through the website.

Edit this page on GitHub