The Decentralization Itch
Decentralization. The buzzword of our times.
Increasing numbers and types of people are possessed of an elusive, but very real, visceral “itch” tied to the concept of decentralization. It’s hard to tell if the itch is caused by the concept or if the concept is simply being deployed in an effort to scratch the itch. It can have the appearance of both.
“Decentralization, good; centralization, bad.” We see more Gfarm V2 and more sectors of society plugging this idea into their thoughts and conversations in whatever way it can be made to fit.
Technologists in many fields talk about the need to decentralize systems. After all, the original strength of and reason for instituting the Internet was that decentralization would allow communications to continue, even in the event of nuclear war. The decentralization push is going forward on an increasing number of fronts, including power generation and distribution, food production and distribution, 3D printing, localized manufacturing, and the list goes on.
Both extreme ends of the liberal-to-conservative political spectrum talk about more decentralization of power, at least on their own pet issues.
The growth of the cryptographic-currency movement is largely driven by a desire to take the control of money out of the hands of the centralized, powerful few, who seem destined to corruption, even if some don’t start out that way. Also, existing financial systems are suffering severe scaling and security issues. Decentralizing currency offers at least one mitigation of both of these problems.
The most radical express their frustration as “Decentralize Everything!” This phrase has even started to appear prominently in graffiti-art for social change.
It is as if people from all different corners of humanity are catching this itch, and the concept of decentralization kind of, sort of scratches it. But thinking and talking about decentralization don’t quite make the itch go away. On the contrary, they just make it come back even stronger.
So What’s Under the Skin?
I, myself, have been worrying this itch for a while now, and have been frustrated by the sense that there’s something there, right on the edge of perception, that needs to be clearly viewed and effectively communicated about.
So, as I often do when I need to sort out something like this, I went to the dictionary (and beyond) to find out if what I’m trying to give expression to has already been said somewhere and is all wrapped up. The fascinating thing about this particular itch is that what I’m glimpsing isn’t clearly touched upon in any place that I can find, at least not in any talk of decentralization. But definition is almost always a great place to start, so here goes.