Decentralization in blockchain is a myth

Decentralization in blockchain is a myth.

By: Marquis Allen

It does not exist in the real world. Not really.

I wish it were not true and I invite you to change my mind, but the fact of the matter is Humans naturally do not have a decentralized bone in their body.

Oh sure, blockchain technology has the mechanisms to allow transaction rules to be enforced automatically in a smart contract when certain conditions are met. That’s really good when you want to stop folks from intervening In transactions with their own agendas or biases or propensity for errors, but the crucial characteristic about people that prevents blockchains from being truly decentralized is….

….you know in your heart that what I’m about to say is true….

…at our core, we are all shamefully selfish.

On top of that, humans generally are rather territorial and are completely self absorbed most of the time. It’s sad but true. It seems there’s something in our evolutionarily tribal makeup that screams from our lizard brain, “Me first!! GimmeGimmeGimme!! It’s mine you understand?? It’s all mine!!”.

This translates to, when it comes to access to resources, we don’t like to share. And so, even the pivotal granddaddy-of-them-all use case demonstrating decentralization-in-action using blockchain –e.g. Bitcoin— isn’t a truly decentralized platform anymore (for more information on that reality bomb, take a look at this report commissioned by DARPA about how centralized Bitcoin is). 

The best we can hope for, and the concept that I and my team are working hard to implement is, to coin a phrase, uncentralization. You heard it here first.

It occurs to me that blockchain technology can be used as part of an overarching architectural approach for a system that allows equitable, automated access to transaction audits. It could also be used to connect relevant microservices into a tamper-evident interface that is relevant to each participant. But let’s face it; when the average human gets their meat hooks on any asset of value, we tend to hoard it.

This is where the “centralization” of something that was meant to be “decentralized” occurs. 

Uncentralization can be accomplished, in my view, by stitching together connections between silos (hoards!) of assets and making the rules governing interactions between those silos automatic, secure, consented, validated and consistent.

This will take more than just implementing a blockchain, you gotta put more toppings on that technology burrito.  You have to add redundancies that do not put all of your data, transactions, computational power or analysis in a single choke point.  

You gotta get on the Edge, baby (and not the U2 guitar icon, either). 

That is, you gotta get to the ultimate consumer of that data at the edge of your network. THAT’S when you get to make the freedom magic of disintermediated data access, data ownership and personal data management. 

And it’s all personal.

So when it comes to all of my lovely blockchain developers, platform creators, educators and affectionate enthusiasts of the innovation who proclaim vehemently that their blockchain application is decentralized, y’all just gotta stop. Really. ’cause it ain’t strictly true. 

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