The Pros and Cons of Decentralisation | Hacker Noon

@benjaminbatemanBenjamin Bateman

Over-opinionated hyphen-abuser, lover of words, and magical-internet-money-community-management-busy-body.

When Satoshi unleashed Bitcoin unto the world some 11 years ago, he awoke the anarchic beast of decentralisation inside of utopian daydreamers everywhere. The industry fetish for eliminating centralised authority figures may have toned down somewhat since the early cypherpunk days of the Bitcointalk forums, yet, decentralisation as a buzzword seems to bumble around more freely than Bill Cosby nowadays.

I mean, when the third largest cryptocurrency by marketcap, BNB, boasting only 21 validators, uses the D word, you have to imagine Satoshi rolling in his grave, right?

There is no doubting though, that BNB is faster and cheaper to use than Ethereum (with it’s 90k+ validators). So is this centralisation on Binance smart chain justified? Do the means give weight to the ends? There are advocates for either side of the debate, however, I’m not here to swing my personal opinion around on which is better.

I work closely with the Free TON community, a project described by more than a few people as ‘painfully decentralised’. While everything is a sliding scale (at ~500 validators we trail Eth in this department), I’m here to offer my insights into which parts of decentralisation have brought joy to our processes, and which have made me want to tear my luscious hippy hair out.

Is Decentralisation a New Idea?

In short, no. Co-operatives and credit unions have been around since the early 1800’s, and there are numerous other examples you can pluck from the air. The basic model of distributing authority and responsibility most likely predates our earliest civilisations.

So why did it take one anonymous programmer creating a trust-less form of internet money for the notion to popularise again?

One view, is that decentralisation is an antidote to the dreaded modern plague of “Oh Dear-ism”.

"Oh Dear-ism - the natural inclination to say 
'oh dear'
 when faced with news or events which otherwise might seem shocking and/or outrageous. Usually caused by an overload of conflicting information, and more often than not, intentionally propagated by agenda makers." 

Put another way, the powers that be are often controlling both sides of the debate. And when we don’t know who or what to trust, we seek alternative methods of verifying things for ourselves (for more on ‘oh dear-ism’, check out this genius video from Adam Curtis and Charlie Brooker, with part two here).

In some extremes, this leads mindsets seen in such cult phenomena as flat earthers.

On a more modest scale, however, it seems it is leading more of us down the path of decentralisation.

What can you Decentralise?

Given the simplicity of the concept, pretty much anything. If there is someone or something making decisions, then these decision makers can be enumerated, and thus the system decentralised.

Verifying transactions, such as payments, is one obvious candidate for this. But expanding the definition of a transaction, you could include elections, supply-chain tracking, oracle data services, even web servers and data storage solutions.

But, just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should!

Decentralised Governance

Free TON had this whacky idea when they launched their network. Rather than sell any coins (TON Crystals), or give them away for free, they set-up a system of meritocracy.

If you’ve read my interview with the Godfather of EMV, Phillipe Eduardo Andreae, you’ll know that meritocracy could be considered a form of representative government. As opposed to democratically elected trusted representatives though, as in a standard modern government, these representatives gain authority of voice through their actions and the value they bring to the community. Those with the knowledge and enthusiasm then become responsible for subgovernance groups in their specialist fields.

And leading nicely to the meat of our article here, some of these groups have achieved amazing things. Others have struggled to adapt standard practises they are familiar with into an efficient way of decentralised working.

The Pros

Technical developments

The contests we’ve seen for development of technical solutions have achieved impressive results. These contests bring multiple answers to the questions they pose, and judging processes (for the most part!) are smooth and efficient affairs. Criteria are quantitively assessed, leading to consistent and clear decentralised decisions.

Partnerships

Barring a couple of minor exceptions, a decentralised partnership model drives established use-case models and talented teams into the Free TON ecosystem. Hackernoon, Cointelegraph, WorldChess.com, and many other top an already impressive bill.

Rewards

At a glance, some of the contest rewards on Free TON might seem large. But, if you want to attract the best apes, you offer top bananas. Those who do the work are handsomely rewarded, and thus are incentivised to contribute more in the long term. Team work makes the dream work, right?

The Cons

Communication

If I had a TON for every time I’ve found out breaking news as it happens, well, it’d be a lot of TON. With so many thinktanks, with various languages and technical jargon, no one man can keep up with it all.

Qualitative Metrics

Technical contests, with their technical requirements and cold-hard criteria, great. But what about contests for us creative types? How do you measure flair, style, quality of content? Sure, there are some yard-sticks which can be put into place, but there will inevitably be disagreements when the results roll in.

Efficiency

The most efficient tool have the fewest moving parts and people. Increased decentralisation is almost diametrically opposed to increased efficiency. Let us not forget the tale of the tortoise and the hare though…

But, Sir, wen new world order?

While crypto might seem an anarchist movement on the surface, dig a little deeper and you’ll realise the majority of rational thinkers understand this is a marathon, not a sprint. To rehash the Matrix cliché we’ve heard a thousand times, most people, normal people, aren’t ready to have the wool pulled from their eyes. They’ll actively stand up to fight for and protect the systems while oppress their freedoms.

So while we can’t simply unplug everyone all in one go, we can slowly but surely gives them glimpses into the world beyond the manipulation. By making decentralisation work for people, and not the other way around, we might just be on to something with this movement.

Like Infotainment?

If this is the first one of my articles you’ve come across, you might find my style a bit bizarre, but hopefully you enjoyed it.

And if you’re familiar with my previous ramblings, you’re either a fan, or a glutton for punishment.

Either which way, I’d love for you to check out my new project. It’s a podcast, and I call it NeverMind the Sh*tcoins. Available on all good podcasting platforms, episode one records and airs the w/c 12/7/21 (all being well!).

I’m pretty freaking excited about it, and to try and get you guys to share in my excitement I’m giving away $100 worth of Ethereum to someone who follows our Twitter account (winner will be chosen at random when we reach 100 followers).

What have you got to lose? Free prize draw, and a few chuckles.

And if you think you know your crypto, and are game for a laugh, then contact me about becoming a guest on the show?

by Benjamin Bateman @benjaminbateman. Over-opinionated hyphen-abuser, lover of words, and magical-internet-money-community-management-busy-body. Read my stories

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