We have been so habitual to the custom of centralized party developing an idea and evolving it to possible stages later that it reflects in every sphere of our life and we take that for granted. Knowing that we have been seeing this centralization from our early days everywhere, it has become so embedded in our mindset that anything else looks alien. This had been the case till Blockchain technology knocked on our door (and I will be grateful to Satoshi for it all my life!).
Blockchain technology is forcing us to look at same functions of our lives differently and forcing us to come out of this deeply rooted mindset of Decentralization. It’s not coming easily to our generation and I have been saying this for long, our generation at best will be able to put the foundation layer of the technology but it needs new mindset to take it to the potential it offers and this will shape up across atleast 1-2 next set of generations (every generation is 10-20 years apart).
However, I am looking at probably a very different aspect here around the Blockchain Technology. This is all about developing Blockchain Technology further from this point on to the stage where it can address tomorrow’s challenges. While I am quite excited with idea of Blockchain and what it is delivering as well as what it can deliver, I am concerned about how this technology is being grown in different corners. My concern comes from some of these observations:
There are many parallel efforts on developing different characteristics of blockchain (all these efforts are needed), these are mostly being managed in centralized model with very limited participation of anyone outside focused groups working on these.
Almost a monopolistic situation on implementation of blockchains for businesses with very few selected players building strong expertise and experience base.
While there are consortiums set up in many industries, strong players in these industries are driving all these efforts and poised to get benefits as well, replicating the challenges being seen in centralized models as well.
While projects like Hyperledger have been able to induce democratic ways around software development, have observed these to be smaller centralized pockets under broader democratic umbrella.
Overall centralized approach to shape up the decentralized technology
And this seems to be one of the major reason as well for us observing continuous increase in permissioned blockchain use cases being identified and implemented. The current process around grooming this technology is taking us towards that direction.
So, is there an alternate route worked out which helps us grow this decentralized technology in decentralized model? Probably No, however I can think of few gaps which must be consciously plugged by all the organizations engaged in uplifting this technology. There are some ideas developed in the process which I believe if implemented well can help us address some of the mentioned challenges. The key ones among these are:
Engage – Decentralization needs distribution of decisioning power. This is the most difficult bit for us considering our love for control as an individual or as business.
Blockchain projects must engage broader players, primarily users. Must be done as part of their approach and not as an afterthought. Additionally, this must be sincere effort and not the PR exercise which sadly is the case for many projects in this space.
Educate – Blockchain is not proving to be an easy technology when you go a level down in terms of details. Resistance to participate and contribute is also coming from lack of understanding among users or potential users.
Projects cannot engage broader community till they are educated. And we are talking about mostly non-technical members which require a very simplified approach towards education. I am yet to see this being done effectively anywhere
Enable – The current technology development tools, methods etc. are again not designed to promote decentralization beyond certain extent. While there have been initiatives like Hyperledger promoting democratic design and development for the technology based projects, such efforts are still isolated and effective in pockets.
We do need to adopt extensive open source philosophy against limited attempts. This would need better investments and innovations to come from the software tools industry as well though.
Establish – One of the key risks with disruptive technology is that everyone gets excited and look at reasons to implement the technology instead of other way around. There is a better need for establishing strong framework to qualify any use case for blockchain implementation and looking at making it decentralized as much as possible.
Current such assessments are too transactional in my observation and look at mostly current or immediate dimensions ignoring the dimension of what a business can be in future or the potential of the business. They don’t guide much on how business model itself can be directed towards decentralization while revenue streams are protected or expanded. I don’t think that a scientific model would work here but bit of maths, bit of science and lot of experience is not a bad combination to try.
These are just few ideas and possibly there are many more. There is a definite need of democratizing the blockchain technology and all the design/development happening around it to steer it to offer better decentralization benefits to us. We do run the risk of changing it to a tool for better efficiency within centralized systems and that won’t be a right thing to do, we will probably not see such disrupting technology coming our way soon. As a technology community, we do need to take up this additional responsibility and groom the blockchain technology to serve the purpose of its existence effectively!