A thread of threads about centralization, decentralization, and recentralization
"That just sounds like centralization with extra steps."
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Jan 5, 2022 · 10:47 PM UTC

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The decentralized to intertwingled pipeline
Coevolution loves to make decentralized systems into intertwingled ecosystems.
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Collapse is a kind of decentralization
Replying to @gordonbrander
You find this dialectic throughout The Collapse of Complex Societies: Complexity :: centralization :: carrying capacity up Collapse :: decentralization :: carrying capacity down 😤
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Dilemmas
Replying to @gordonbrander
From a systems perspective, decentralization increases both resilience AND inequality.
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Tyrannies
Replying to @gordonbrander
It is possible to accidentally replace tyrannies of centralization with tyrannies of decentralization. How to evolve an ecology of institutions?
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Owning the problem
Replying to @interstar @rosano
In practice, if the system doesn’t own the problem, then some corporation will emerge to solve it. This most often becomes a point of centralization. Identity in particular has network effects.
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"Outside of"
Centralization is emergent, and tends to emerge around a bottleneck that is outside the boundaries of what the designer considers to be “the system”.
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Keystone species
Mature systems trend toward centralization over time. Hub species emerge at ecosystem bottlenecks, increasing ecosystem efficiency, but brittleness too. Every once in a while, a shock knocks out a hub species...
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The Red Queen Race
The centralizing power of the Red Queen Race.
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Aggregation
Replying to @gordonbrander
Decentralized systems typically re-centralize around the problem of discovery (and its evil twin, spam).
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"A system is an abstraction. It is not a special kind of thing, but a special way of looking at a thing." (Christopher Alexander) More than one way to look at a thing.
Blockchains are technologically distributed, but socially centralizing.
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Recentralization
Some places to watch for recentralization risk in web3: Wallet apps Transaction fees Search/Discovery Spam/Abuse/Fraud Interface with law/regulation/taxation Sheer capital accumulation
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Flat frictionless networks consolidate quickly
Replying to @mattsclancy
Generally: flat, frictionless networks consolidate quickly. Without a mountainous competitive landscape, there are no defensible nooks, and power consolidates. Distributed dust inevitably forms into planets in the frictionless medium of space.
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Matthew Effects
Replying to @gordonbrander
Yes! Bootstrapping, sustainability, scaling… Network effect and Matthew Effect are forever on the side of centralization. This will tilt even successful decentralized systems toward recentralization as they mature.
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Making multipolar outcomes possible
Replying to @gordonbrander
I think decentralization is still a good North Star. 1. Because it makes a multipolar outcome possible. 2. Because it also accidentally optimizes for open-ended evolvability, since decentralization enables permissionless innovation.
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Reach
Replying to @gordonbrander
“Anything that promotes ease of travel and communications has a positive effect on state growth and expansion, and vice versa, anything that creates barriers to movement has a negative effect.” This feels like a fundamental tension embedded within the p2p and DeFi projects.
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