With the advent of Bitcoin in the last half-decade or so, there’s been an inspired groundswell towards decentralisation in every facet of our technological lives. The distributed consensus mechanism whereby every full nodei stores a complete record of every Bitcoin transaction that has ever taken place, thereby allowing individuals to act as clearing houses in confirming the validity of tokens of ownership, became a superficial model for social organisationii and technology in general.
In this euphoria, up sprouted “decentralised marketplaces,”iii “decentralised dance parties,”iv “decentralised apps,”v “decentralised internets,”vi and “decentralised funding”vii and all other manner of inane preconceptions stacked atop shallow misconstructions slathered with uneducated wishings and delusional unwashings beneath which, sadly, desolately lay otherwise perfectly sensible things – namely, markets, parties, software, the Internet, and business, respectively.
The net result of this zeitgeist, which appears to still be alive, if not particularly well, is that “centralisation” has become a Very Bad Word indeed. We particularly see this in criticisms of the USG and its spiritual predecessor, the Soviet Union, but we see it more broadly in anything that isn’t “fair” (including Bitcoin). And while I’ll be the first in line to rail against the inhumanities of centralised bureaucracy and non-market-based decision making - i.e. decision making without skin in the game. – we’d be remiss if we didn’t recognise some of the benefits of centralised economies. So what are some of said benefits ?
- Take the mathematical developments of the Soviet Union, which were positively unmatched in the 20th century : do you think they would’ve been possible had Stalin not diverted grain from orcish Ukrainians to the Academy of Sciences ?
- Take the distribution of bitcoins, which are really very highly concentratedviii : do you think we could’ve kept Bitcoin alive but by burying USGavin, USGarzik, et al. and their “community support” ?
- Take the Pyramids at Giza, those ageless monuments to the Pharaohs : do you think they would’ve been possible without an extraordinary degree of economic centralisation ?
- Take the crossbow technology of the first Chinese Empire, the Qin Dynasty, which stood unsurpassed for 1`500 yearsix and allowed a peasant army to unite a land : do you think such weaponryx could’ve been built without such a high degree of centralisation ?xi
- Take the USG, that most despicable contemporary cancer, and its Apollo space missions, or better yet, its microprocessor that allow you to watch YouTube, play videogames, and keep up with the blockchain : do you think that any of this would’ve been possible without massive economic centralisation ?xii
So while it’s true that centralised systems tend to be “cruel” and “corrupt” from the diminutive perspective of the “people” under their auspices,xiii they’re quite simply nothing of the sort. Contrary to the protestations of soi-dissant historians and social(ist) scientards presently polluting the rear-facing perspectives of men, hierarchy is a beautiful thing, particularly when you can actually see it ; for all benefit, not least of all by being given something to strive for and strive with, if not from the mythical “trickle-down effect.”
Centralisation isn’t without its attendant risks and inherent fragility, to be sure, but who wants to live in a world without blockchains and bullets ?
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- I.e. not the “headers first” Gavinotronic turd but rather therealbitcoin nodes. [↩]
- How terribly convenient that the Fed-backed “VCs” with their “funding” are all promoting teckmologees that diffuse and disperse power, isn’t it ? It’s almost like they don’t want you to organise and concentrate your efforts, lest you overwhelm their flimsy echafaudage of pretense ? Funny how that works. [↩]
- A contradiction in terms if ever there was one. Markets inherently centralise. That’s what they do. That’s the whole point. The farmer doesn’t go to market to sell his chicken every week because that’s the only place he can verify the validity of the buyers tokens, he goes because that’s where the buyers were! And if not there, then en route ! A decentralised market makes about as much sense as a cold coffee. No wait, that’s a thing isn’t it. Ok, a room-temp coffee then. Yea, that’s just gross. [↩]
- See dogederps. [↩]
- Correct me on this, but I’m pretty sure it was “DApps” that the alien-headed fucktard Buterin hurrdurr’d into additional non-existence (as a scammy pivot, naturally) after his “smart contracts” embarrassment crashed and burned. [↩]
- See The brokenness of Maidsafe. [↩]
- See Kickstarter is a waste. [↩]
- No one knows the exact distributions of Bitcoin wealth due to the pseudonymous nature of transactions and mining, but one might estimate that having a mere 100 BTC puts you in the top 1% of holders, a subset of the population that may control as much as 75% of all bitcoins extant. And you thought fiat was unfair. Pah ! [↩]
- The Qin crossbows were outfitted with deceptively complex bronze triggers, were unusually powerful (range estimated to be upwards of 800m) and quick to reload. [↩]
- Not to mention the Qin’s very nifty (and effective?) terra cotta army.
- And more than just centralisation, but brutality unknown in modern times. Under the Qin, it was a lethal offense to be incompetent at your trade. And for whatever “incompetent” may have meant to whoever had the authority for it to mean anything at all at the time, it resulted in beauty, precision, and longevity of unsurpassed quality. And you thought a tenner in the gulag for “wrecking” was harsh. Or a life of free room & board for building a Tor-based honeypot. Pah ! [↩]
ascii_field: The reason why the decay is at its most cartoon-coloured visible in computing, is that it is the most inherently centralized industry in existence. More so even than nuclear. There are literally one hand’s fingers’ worth of places on the planet where workstation CPU is made. And perhaps 2x that many where mobo is made. And two or three, where modern RAM is.
pete_dushenski: This is perhaps a better restatement of what i was getting at with the uniqueness of computing. The degree of centralisation is pretty unparalleled.
ascii_field: Notice how, e.g., France, made own hydrogen bomb. But it is powerless to make own ‘Pentium.’ Even if wanted.
pete_dushenski: That is actually a fascinating truth. Quite revelatory of the complexity involved.
ascii_field: It is not even about complexity. But economics.
pete_dushenski: We never had the nuclear-powered cars expected in the 1950’s (eg. Ford Nucleon), but computer-powered ? Entirely, now.
Enjoy a glass of wine, an ice cream bar, and a string of red licorice.
pete_dushenski: I’m now starting to appreciate alf’s earlier point about ISIS re: ‘Show me single Kalash bullet‘ as to how far and how improbably a culture and economy has to come to develop that which we take for granted.
ascii_field: Really the other thing, IMHO, is more interesting – that modern tech is far more of a centralized thing than anything in old SU ever was. SU actually had competing suppliers, and sometimes entire supply chains, for things. Whereas your CPU came from one of three buildings on the whole fucking planet. And your next one – from one of two.
- This “people” is really the “valley people” under the thumb of the state and this therefore precludes the “hill people” aka “barbarians” who live at the fringes of such top-down monoliths and find refuge in the peripheries thereof, eg. Cossacks, Jews, Indo-European gypsies, Orang laut and various other “uncivilised” non-state-subjects. See ‘The Art of Not Being Governed’ by James C. Scott. [↩]