The Fraternal Triplets of Tech : Decentralized. Centralized. Distributed.

Andrey Didovskiy

Recently an onslaught of buzzwords materialized themselves in our social stratosphere: “Bitcoin.. Crypto… Decentralization!” Naturally, with these buzzwords, came a flood of obscure pundits; self proclaimed so called “experts, anarchists, and cypherpunks” each better than the last. Each trying to convey their (inaccurate and opaque) understanding of, this nascent technology.

While mass public awareness is an amazing (not to mention inevitable) thing for the propitiation of cryptocurrency and its underlying technology; it is vitally important that with this shift towards our economic future, those involved (everybody) have a clear understanding of what they (and the coming generations) will be exposed to.

It is no surprise that a new technology, which has even been referred to as “magical” could stir up some confusion from the crowds. While the masses were consumed by dreams of financial freedom, malicious actors jumped at the opportunity manipulate the ecosystem with an agenda of their own; ultimately souring the sweet fruit that is crypto.

Lets just make sure that we share an understanding of some basic concepts and how they will be used:

  • “Crypto / cryptocurrency / crypto asset” is the broad umbrella term for all digital technologies involved with blockchain and a digital financial ecosystem of value
  • Blockchain is the revolutionary software/ digital layer that allows for governance and a “pure/trustless” ecosystem to exist — the software layer that solves issues related to integrity in open source projects.
  • DLT — Distributed Ledger Technology
  • Trustless — Not having to rely on/ worry about the validity of transactions (essentially removing fraud and other moral “flaws” that exist in society today with automation and immutability)
  • Network — a collection of interlinking nodes that share information
  • Node — an endpoint of network data (the user)
  • Database — aggregated storage point of data, information, and files
  • Centralized / Decentralized / Distributed — the structure of a network (more on this below)

First, a Birds-eye-view of network structures topically and their variations:

Centralized / Decentralized / Distributed

From the Monarchies of King Arthur to your Internet Service Provider, Centralized structures have been a part of our existence almost as long as time itself; in order to mediate and improve our social lives of course (never for malicious self interest and gain). While on paper it may seem the most logical and rational approach to maintaining order of our species, it also directly violates the freedom that we so relentlessly & desperately seek. Granted, credit must be given where credit is due and it is only fair to say Centralized systems have proven effective thus far (as well as ludicrously profitable); and absurdly socially expensive. This structural design lead to the genesis of social inequality .

CENTRALIZED Network Structure

Centralized is a type of network where all users connect to a central/mother server, which is the acting agent for all communications. This server would house both the communications and the user account information.

Imagine, a building being built using only one beam for support (a very big beam [assuming the actors setting up the house care entirely and totally about the well being of future settlers]). The area experiences an earthquake, which compromises that beam. The entire building collapses, the damages can be catastrophic, not only to the inhabitants but to the entire neighborhood (in instances such as property devaluation).

*A single point of failure*

That is the most commonly addressed problem in political/ economic forums regarding the technological future. And (of course) by the Crypto-community at just about any debate.

Strong resemblance to Monarchies. One ruler over infinite peasants.

It may just be high time to highlight that in centralized structures, nodes are forced to trust the “mother node”- meaning that any and all discrepancies in the validity of data wouldn’t matter so long as the one in charge. Even if you were promised one thing (say 15% returns on an investment) and nobody but the company had the original documentation and proof; the company in question could hypothetically switch their entire structure (add an asterisk by the 15%*) and all that can be said to you and your whining is: THANK YOU, COME AGAIN.

A guarantee was made, but it was not substantiated by anything that is truly immutable. While, yes we have Government intervention to help protect the consumers, it purposes a question:

  • Q: How much longer will we have to rely on a middleman to mediate everything; aren’t we developed enough to operate fairly?

If centralization is the causes of social problems; then why don’t we just decentralize?

Here we begin to plunge down the rabbit hole that is crypto.

Cryptocurrency (the modern version; Bitcoin and beyond) was philosophically and morally constructed on the belief that no single entity should posses control over us. Sovereignty over our lies is something you, me, and your neighbor are born with… Not something we must spend a lifetime chasing.

Take a second. Imagine a life in which your voice would ACTUALLY make a difference and the voice of gluttonous self-interested actors (such as but not limited to politicians) didn’t have to effect you. A reality in which you are FREE to chose & create, not one in which you are FORCED to.

*Enter Decentralization*

Decentralization is a type of network structure in which the governance mechanism is split between multiple parties. Or to keep it simple, a system with multiple points of failure (ironic, how the former [centralized] structure’s biggest fallacy is the selling point of this one).

With multiple point of failure existing, the woes of losing the network and everything it has are reduced by magnitudes. Mix a little blockchain into the mix and viola, the social fabric of trust suddenly reaches a new standard. Pardon my french but, holy sh*t, maybe Utopia is right around the corner. Praise the cryptographer which saved us all!

It truly pains me to say that it is not so.

Corruption (in the form of greed) has already managed to circumvent any “discrepancies” that a decentralized network might bring to society and business today.

Decentralized Network Structure

The sovereignty that is offered through Decentralization (at least in its current state of development), my dear friends, is by no means pure.

Lets take one of the most prominent forces in cryptocurrency today: Ethereum. While it started as a “join one join all” platform, it trans-mutated into a secret underground community. To join the ecosystem as a mother node as an individual actor would cost amounts of money (given today’s mining conditions) that regular people simply cannot afford (many thousands for a home mining operation & trying to outsource managing the clunky operation to special services incurs monstrous operational costs). Ultimately, we have seemingly fell right back into the matrix we tried to resolve- the social inequality of financial positioning.

Therefore, Decentralized as of today’s definition and implication, is just fragmented centralization.

Fanfuckingtastic…

We once again have managed to stunt our collective intelligence, praise the feeling of being “taken care of” and destroy the hope of a free future.


Before we begin putting the last piece of the puzzle together; it feels as though now would be a prime moment to thank Blockchain for giving people a chance to dream of a Utopian future… As well as spank it silly! It’s brilliant design gave us immutability and anonymity/ pseudo-anonymity (among other things) which, unfortunately can (and already was) still be leveraged by the dark side.

Because we cannot truly know WHO or what Entity actually owns the nodes that operate on crypto networks today, the integrity of such systems has compromised itself.


— — — — — — — — — — — WAIT— — — — — — — — — — —

Why the hell does a fallacy in decentralized network structures dim the light we once saw from cryptocurrency?

It doesn’t or at the logical least, shouldn’t.

This is the crux of malicious actors and uneducated “professionals”; presenting SKEWED and ultimately WRONG information to the masses.

Why, One might wonder, would anybody try to mis-educate others? Maybe to make the project that they are heavily involved in supersede others, or try to direct the price of the market in their favor, the list goes on and on. The financial incentive alone can be measured in denominations easily breaching Billions (other incentive such as reputation exist in parallel with each other).

A moment of relief:

Crypto, my dear friends, always was (and still is) a DLT.

DISTRIBUTED Ledger Technology


Shall we venture down the road less traveled by; Distributed Networks?

Whenever you imagine a perfect world (one in which crypto replaces its outdated and inefficient counterpart)— you are likely utilizing a distributed system to mediate social interface.

This type of network “has no point of failure”. The node to node linkage without the forced communication to a “relay point” (mother node) creates a fabric that can only be compromised if abandoned by the users (think of it like earth becoming uninhabitable because all humans left the surface). The nodes involved each carry their own data & resources which can be freely transferred to any other node on that network with (not to mention that most of the actors involved in these environments tend to just grant access to their resources).

Distributed Network Structure

While from a standpoint of anarchist logic, this seems like a no brain-er option, it makes one wonder, Why then is this kind of structure not utilized? There are actually many reasons; some of which you have likely to concluded to on your own:

  • It is not optimal for monetary policies {which almost entirely exists only with middlemen like government (fiat currency & finances as a whole by their design cannot and will not survive forever).
  • Entrepreneurs and people of high social status do not tread down this road because it is the most unprofitable -if profitable all- model.
  • There is far too much negative intent from anonymous actors that might compromise there networks in their earliest stages.

It should not shock anyone that distributed structures are already part of our everyday lives… From small fields of Airline reservation systems to the world wide web to email and the like.

But wait a minute, shouldn’t something like a Airline Company run its operations through a centralized structure?

Put simply: No.

Certain functions can just be outsourced to different variants; it is definitely more cost efficient to let users host their own ecosystems than to house yet another data center, especially for something so minute. Plus, it actually creates an even environment for the bidding consumers that is FAIR!

So… If a centralized system can utilize a distributed system within it, wouldn’t that neutralize the very essence of distributed?

Once again: No.

Even if a centralized company were to be a part of a distributed ecosystem, it wouldn’t have any influence on the networks integrity. Just because an elephant is bigger than a mouse, doesn’t mean the elephant will have the entire animal kingdom do its bidding.

Being the least loved of the trio, this model is far from being optimized, yet it already solves so many problems (theoretically). The biggest issue in current distributes systems is the function of information transfer. Known as Tunneling, node on the network send information through a funnel of peers, rather than directly. This, as you can imagine, costs time and computational resources. But hey, with a little effort (by a little i mean a lot) and some developer skills, Distributed structure adoption could be right around the corner.

As it is said:

“The best ideas,companies, and inventions of mankind are those that never were” -unknown


So, three different structures of networks. Thee different philosophies. Three different identities.

Not everything can be centralized, not everything should be decentralized, not everything is meant to be distributed. At least for now.

This is not to say that decentralized or distributed is an answer to our woes today. If i must be totally honest, the eldest (centralization) still has too much steam to forfeit its role in society. In all actuality, decentralized systems come equipped with their own smorgasbord of problems (much slower system updates due to consensus mechanisms, just to name one). Distributed systems lack innovation and exploration (not even going to mention the inexplicable reasons for certain data never making to the requesting node)


Quick Recap

-Centralized = you don’t own sh*t

-Decentralized = you don’t know weather you own your own sh*t or not

-Distributed = owned by you & available to whomever else you want

Congratulations, you cypherpunk, computer scientist anarchist. You are now likely to possess more information about networks in computer science than the vast majority of the world (and probably 99.9% of today’s crypto- enthusiasts).


This piece was written with the help my crypto colleague, and fellow trust ninja David Alekperov.


P.S.

Sometimes network structures are going to be referred to by different names. Keep in mind, that it is just a matter of semantics; there are 3 actual main variants. Some popular ways that networks are referred to as are: Peer-To-Peer & Federated. If for some reason you are locked in a conversation or debate about network structures — just try to get some clarification :)

P.P.S.

Some food for thought though- how big do we really think as a species/ how developed is our social consciousness to acknowledged the universal truth of structural design? Our solar system can be classified as centralized (big thought) The vast entirety of the universe contains multiple solar systems… So; is centralization the be all end all or perhaps just the limit of our conscious development and a whole?

Andrey Didovskiy

Written by

🐱‍👤*Trust Ninja*🐱‍👤 🌹 Met Bitcoin in the summer of 2014 — the rest is history 💎 🌟 Crypto, Blockchain, DLT & being digitally Free 🌟

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