What is Decentralization? – Hacker Noon

Decentralization is like making pizza.

Okay but, what does everyone mean by “decentralization?”

My sister, a young millennial who like most millennials spends more time focused on school, work, and her pet bunny than she does the tech industry, asked me this question over a glass of rosé. I know many people, myself included, just gloss over some of the popular “buzz” words that writers pack articles full of and never really dive into the meaning of them. I wanted to help her understand in terms that didn’t sound like they were pulled from a white paper.

So, what is decentralization?

If you do a quick search you’ll find some dense reading about the differences between political, fiscal, market, and administrative decentralization. However, reading those articles will make your eyes gloss over. So, I’m not about to read an excerpt from an article to my sister who is probably already looking at pictures of her bunny and has lost interest in decentralization.

So Instead, lets describe decentralization in a different way. Lets look at everyones favorite food (or at least mine) pizza:

You work at a pizza place and it’s a busy Friday night. Your boss is too busy to talk but you just finished your break and need to get back to work. You look around to see that no one is running the cash register, so you jump behind the counter and start helping.

Since your boss is too busy to manage the team, your team is working as a decentralized system of pizza artists. Each artist is making a decision to help where they see fit and as a result, pizza is made.

“Okay, but that just sounds like people working together.” Thats exactly it. Decentralization is simply a group of people, computers, etc all making decisions that lead to the best result for the group.

Like I said, there are a lot of articles online that will make your eyes gloss over. There are also just as many definitions that will make you do the same thing. Here’s my favorite non-wordy one by Rohit Khare:

A decentralized system is one which requires multiple parties to make their own independent decisions

In our pizza example, everyone is making their own decision to run the cash register, roll out the dough, sprinkle topping, etc. As a result of each person doing their own job a pizza is made.

Now, that example is very bare bones and doesn’t address the more complicated features of decentralization. However, it does give you enough information to ask some more questions, such as:

What does everyone mean by decentralization and technology?

Most commonly, you’ll hear people discussing decentralization when they’re talking about the internet or blockchain technology. While they might use a lot of terminology that doesn’t matter, what they really mean is a decentralized network.

A decentralized network is very simple since we now understand what decentralization look like. Decentralized networks are networks of devices that work together, much like our pizza artists. However, decentralized networks rely on devices instead of people.

In decentralized networks, each device that is connected can work as a a pathway or node for the app. That means that if your phone is apart of a decentralized network, that network can use some of the resources from your phone to help the network. By linking multiple devices together, decentralized networks can work faster and more efficiently than centralized networks.

Now, I don’t blame anyone who would rather look at pictures of bunnies or start dreaming of ordering a pizza instead of reading about decentralization and decentralized networks. However, they are important topics that are gaining traction in all different industries.

If you’re interested in more information on decentralized networks, check out these resources:

The Meaning of Decentralization
Different Forms of Decentralization

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