• by William Mougayar
    Venture advisor, 4x entrepreneur, marketer & strategist. I live in Toronto, curate a lot, blog a bit, and help startups.

The Race to Decentralize Everything and Give Power to the Edge of the Networks

The Peer-to-Peer revolution really started in 1999, inspired by the Napster technology for music file sharing. In 2001, I used to run a website called Peer Intelligence that chronicled and tracked over 100 P2P related technologies across a variety of application areas.

But it took at least another 10 years before we saw significant progress in the application of peer to peer technologies. With the recent advent of the blockchain, peer-to-peer is getting a boost in popularity under the “decentralization” moniker. What started as an anomaly could become a solution to many ailments we have in business, society, technology and politics.

The blockchain also has peer-to-peer distributed technology characteristics. Today, we have the perfect storm forming between these 4 trends:

  • Decentralization of power
  • Distributed technologies
  • Peer-to-peer interactions
  • Unbundling of everything

I’m going to focus on Decentralization as the most significant concept among the above list of four trends.

Decentralization is a powerful concept, because the role the center is being re-defined. The center controls less, but it facilitates more.

Decentralization is going to touch every corner of our world. But to understand it, we need to break it down into its various components and focus on where it’s going to be impactful. Think of the following areas that will be impacted by decentralization:

  • Markets and marketplaces

  • Currency and the monetary system

  • Information and data

  • Provisioning and discovery of Services

  • Technology innovation

  • Industry players

  • Countries and their governments

The network that was the main attraction and a linkage to everything is now self-effacing itself in favor of being an enabler of a multiplicity of one-to-one relationships, instead of a controlling choke point. That (new) center isn’t as visible. Its rules and rituals of engagement and participation are changing.

But it’s not just the network. Society itself is being reconfigured, because control is eroding central organizations, in favor of edge power.

The “network is attacking itself” – its central pieces are getting de-fragmented and re-purposed autonomously.

Unbundling is rising. The more internal pieces are unbundled, the more the center gets weakened, and some of its intrinsic pieces become new enablers on their own.

Devices, processes and people that needed a center to interact are now communicating and connecting with each other directly.

Old paradigms are being shattered. Central trust is shifting to distributed trust, i.e. trustless transactions, contracts, interactions.

This means that:

  • Centers are changing their roles
  • Edges have more power

Collectively, more can be done, and collectively more is enabled, and more is re-configured. The participants are at the edges, but not only do they participate, they also reap the benefits.

In conclusion, I realize that I’ve dumped a lot of (unfinished) thoughts in this post, and not provided examples. But this was my first attempt to articulate what’s been in my head in the past 6 months.

  • What are you seeing in decentralization?
  • Is it a fad or a reality?
  • What will be the impact?
  • What additional areas are being impacted?
  • Why should we care about this?
  • Is this one of the more significant trends of this decade?
  • What are the risks and perils?
  • What are the obstacles?
  • What are the opportunities and benefits?

 

So many questions. I welcome a discussion on this topic.

  • Some really interesting ideas around the unbundling of trust specifically on http://two-bit-idiot.tumblr.com/post/102625187514/the-unbundling-of-trust

    • Yes. Thanks Ashish. I saw it this afternoon after publishing this post which I had actually written 5 months ago. Ryan and I are on the same two-bit wavelength :)

      • Any time. Always a funny feeling when that happens.

  • What are you seeing in decentralization? <co-operative organisational structure/"the new cooperative movement"
    Is it a fad or a reality? <real to us here in Manchester
    What will be the impact? <degrowth economics; sustainability goes mainstream; branded currency to usurp/hedge the dollar
    What additional areas are being impacted? <business, govt, civil society
    Why should we care about this? <because the demand is there but the supply is not
    Is this one of the more significant trends of this decade? <yup
    What are the risks and perils? <revolution is a risk – evolution isn't. Need transition to new economy.
    What are the obstacles? <trust; the status quo
    What are the opportunities and benefits? <new markets; a fairer and more just society where contribution is linked to entitlement

    • Oh, that cut and paste hasn’t worked then…

      • Can you redo it? ;)

        • Taking your questions in order:

          1. the new cooperative movement”

          2. real to us here in manchester (birthplace of the old cooperative movement)

          3. degrowth economics; sustainability goes mainstream; branded currency to usurp / hedge the dollar

          4. business, govt, civil society

          5. because the demand is there but the supply is not

          6. yup

          7. revolution is a risk evolution isn’t. need transition to new economy.

          8. trust; the status quo

          9. new markets; a fairer and more just society where contribution is linked to entitlement

  • GiselleBrazil

    Hi William. Is Peer Intelligence still around? I’d love to check it out

    • Sadly not. I closed it around 2012.

      • GiselleBrazil

        Ok thx

        • Sorry meant 2002.

          • GiselleBrazil

            Hi William. Will you join me for a coffee on Fri 16th at 3pm? I’m Co-Founder of a decentralized marketplace … we’re very excited to be releasing version 3 of our private Beta in a few weeks … would like to share and hear your thoughts and criticisms on how we’re shaking things up. I’m sending you a linkedin connection request.

          • Do u mind emailing me directly? Wmougayar@gmail.com Thx

  • GiselleBrazil

    And William … we’re both located in Toronto … lets meet for a coffee and chat. I was thrilled to find someone in the city with similar views about decentralization … especially as it pertains to the idea that the (new) center isn’t as visible. Its rules and rituals of engagement and participation are changing. In addition, I’d like to explore some possible business synergies. Ciao for now

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