Put down whatever you are holding and go read Maciej Cegłowski’s beyond doubt magnificent essay ‘our comrade the election’, and astonishing history of the moving Russian engineer Lev Sergeyevich Termen. Ensure you read its punchline, ‘the most badass answer possible’. However, if time is short, or your struggle to read English, please at least read its angry rant, from that I quote –
Technology concentrates power
Within the 90’s ,it looked like the internet may be an exception which it could be a decentralizing ,democratizing force but those days are gone, what upsets me, what exactly gets my goat is that we did it since it was the easiest thing to do making things short-lived is hard. Getting things spread is tough. Getting things anonymous is tough. Coming up with a sane business model is truly tough; I get exhausted just thinking about it.
We put so much security into making the internet resilient from technical hitches, but make no effort to get it resilient to political turmoil. We treat freedom and rule of law like tiresome organic resources, instead of the fragile and precious treasures that they are. But,now, apparently ,it is time to make the internet of things where we will link everything to everything else and create cool applications on top and nothing can possibly mistaken.
He is right. And so the internet has, for most intents as well as purposes, evolved into a landscape dominated by centralized systems, epitomized through what Bruce Sterling calls the Stacks.
They do not want much, those stacks. Just your identity, allegiance and all of your data. Merely to be your sole provider of messaging, media, products, and metadata. Just to take part in as much of your online existence as they maybe can, and maybe to one day intercede your every interaction with the world around you, online and off.
The stacks subsist in part since less centralized systems are very difficult to erect. Consider, for example, Google plus architect Yonatan Zunger’s definition of distributed consensus, for instance the means by which data can be safely preserved in distributed systems with several editors. It is quite brilliant but none of its 8,000 words go wasted. The gold standard paxos algorithm is actually complex that a pair of Stanford engineers lately published a paper entitled in search of an understable consensus algorithm (PDF); the title of which summaries the state of the art properly in which they present a new choice, ‘propel’.
Distributed algorithms ,spread data, systems and security – messy, tricky, difficult , a maze of vibrating tightropes stretched across an N-dimensional pit full of hungry hitch modes with sharp teeth. Hard thing.
But not difficult
Just ask Satoshi Nakamoto.
Over the hype and the greed, Bitcoin is powered by a real technical breakthrough, to a degree I didn’t exactly appreciate when I first began writing about it. The blockchain ;the engine on which virtual currency is built; is a new type of distributed consensus system which allows transactions ,other data ,to be securely stored and verified without any centralized authority at all ,because they are validated by the whole network. Those transactions never have to be financial; that data does not have to be money. The engine that powers bitcoin can be employed for a whole series of the applications.