Babbitt Column | An interesting perspective, distinguishing between true and false decentralization

I. Decentralization of "excessive gas"

With the entry of traditional Internet giants, distributed accounting and alliance chain projects seem to suddenly become the mainstream of the blockchain industry. Coupled with the country's crackdown on coin issuance and virtual currency financing, the traditional public chain has been squeezed Edge strip.

While the public chain was squeezed to the marginal zone, some words followed the public chain to the marginal zone, such as the word: decentralization.

The term decentralization was very hot at one time. A few years ago, it was considered to be the core feature of the blockchain, and even considered the first principle of the blockchain. At that time, people generally thought that the decentralization feature was lacking. , Then the blockchain is not much different from ordinary distributed ledgers and traditional Internet projects.

But I did not expect that just a few years later, the word decentralization has rarely been mentioned by everyone, and I haven't seen much in the media or in news reports, just like a "passive Internet celebrity."

It is also when we are about to be forgotten. Rethinking the word decentralization is more meaningful.

What exactly is decentralization

Strictly speaking, the term decentralization is not unique to the blockchain. In fact, even without the blockchain, the world is still developing towards decentralization, which is a big trend.

Kevin Kelly said in The Inevitable:

The transformation of a centralized leadership mechanism to a decentralized network mechanism, and a shift from a hierarchical structure to a network architecture. This is the main cultural process of the past 30 years, and this process has not stopped. This bottom-up force will Take us further.

Since there is no blockchain, we are also in the process of decentralization; now that there is a blockchain, how is the decentralization of the blockchain different from the original?

I understand this problem so much: the original decentralization was more of a passive evolutionary process, but in the era of the blockchain, people have discovered that through the blockchain, we can actively design a decentralized system And, this decentralized system can achieve a lot of centralized incompetent tasks. This system does not require excessive human involvement, does not rely on the operation of a specific center, and can fully code the rules. This is a decentralization created by people's conscious initiative, and it has a practical effect. From passive to active, this is a major breakthrough.

I have seen a lot of explanations about what is decentralized. There are graphical explanations. For example, three pictures are listed, one for centralization, one for polycentricity, and one for decentralization.

At present, Chang's explanation on decentralization is more adopted:

Decentralization is not a word describing a state, but a word describing a process. Decentralization of a state does not mean decentralization of a process. The original meaning of decentralization refers to the freedom of everyone to participate in consensus. He has the right to participate and he has the right to quit. Under the premise of open source code and symmetrical information, the freedom of participation and decision-making means fairness.

These explanations are already very good, but they are still a bit technical and not conducive to the understanding of ordinary people. My personal requirements for concept understanding are very high. I want every concept in my brain to be as clear as possible. I hope that when I think of decentralization, it is as clear as I think of apples and bananas, so I still hope to be able to There is a simpler, clearer and more vivid explanation of decentralization.

In order to achieve the purpose of clarity and vividness, I used to simply and rudely understand decentralization from the perspective of proof-of-work: Any project that uses proof-of-work has a strong decentralization characteristic; if proof-of-work is not used, Then its degree of decentralization will be weaker. Later, this simple and crude understanding was rejected by myself because there are many problems with this understanding. On the one hand, we just said that even without proof of work and blockchain, the world's trend is decentralized. On the other hand, even if proof of work is used, the computing power is very concentrated, or there is a strong leader, it is difficult to achieve true decentralization, so this understanding is one-sided.

3. Satoshi Nakamoto and the God of V

But it doesn't matter, cognition can iterate slowly, and this problem has remained in my heart until recently.

Recently, I revisited classic articles from previous collections. I saw the early forum of Satoshi Nakamoto responded to netizens' questions: What happens if the Bitcoin network is split for a long time (such as network congestion and artificial control between countries) and then reconnects?

Satoshi Nakamoto responded at the time:

If the split lasts long enough (more than 100 blocks), those Bitcoin transactions generated on the short chain will be invalidated during the merger. In fact, division may be asymmetric. It is difficult to separate the real world from the middle. It is more likely that a single country is separated from other countries, such as 1:10. In that case, the minority fork took 10 times to generate 100 blocks, which is almost 7 days. In addition, because the client received too few blocks, it was easy to realize that there was a problem.

Maybe they will not be connected anymore. Instead, we actually have two currencies, which will lead to the birth of the East and West Bitcoin foreign exchange market. Although what he said here has nothing to do with decentralization, extending it from here can still leave us some inspiration: "Oh, the original Bitcoin was artificially divided into two, and it can still survive normally, but There are subtle changes that have little effect. "

Coincidentally, I saw that when God V specifically talked about decentralization in a previous long article, he also said such a paragraph:

When people are talking about software decentralization, they are actually discussing three independent dimensions. Generally, the three dimensions are independent of each other, but in some cases, there are also interdependencies. They are decentralization at the architecture level, decentralization at the control level, and decentralization at the logic level.

Among them, the decentralization at the logical level refers to: Does the interface and data structure presented and maintained by the system look more like a whole, or an amorphous group? A simple heuristic is: If the system is divided into two parts, provider and user, whether these two parts continue to operate normally as independent units.

Four, randomly divided into two

Satoshi Nakamoto and V God may be recognized as "gods" in the blockchain industry. Their explanation seems to contain some common ground.

I tried to synthesize their views, added some of my own conclusions, and put forward a perspective that I think is more interesting. From this perspective, the degree of decentralization of a project is simple and clear, and it can basically reflect the true decentralization Connotation, this perspective is:

Cut the existing structure of the blockchain project randomly and cut half of it to see if the remaining half can survive normally.

Any system, no matter what consensus mechanism you use, whether you are proof of work or POS or DPOS, you can use this method. We randomly cut the system in half. This half can be a large half or a small half. It can be cut with a straight line or an arc. No matter what shape you use to cut it, make sure that the remaining half contains certain producers and consumers at the same time. If the remaining part can still survive and grow independently, if a system has such characteristics, then we say that it is decentralized.

Or the word random is not enough, we can also modify it like this:

Cut the existing structure of the blockchain project at random. Half of this cut includes the original management, and see if the remaining half can survive normally.

The management here is just a collective name, and it can also have other names, such as the person in charge, spiritual leader, core development team, foundation, etc. Anyway, remove them all at once to see if the remaining part is still enough Vitality to survive. Some projects may be affected at the beginning, but the impact is not fatal. After a period of time, the vitality of the project will be restored, new leaders will emerge from the project, and new development teams will emerge. The entire ecosystem Will flourish again, then this project is strongly decentralized.

From this perspective, let's look at Bitcoin. Satoshi Nakamoto has disappeared, so you don't need to think about it. At present, it is generally recognized that Bitcoin's core development team and several large mines have the biggest influence on the Bitcoin world. Then we cross out the core development team and then Cut half of the mine randomly, do you think the Bitcoin system will collapse? Or will it be greatly affected? I don't think so, I think the Bitcoin system will regain its former vitality in the short term. I think it's not just that I think so, if you ask this question to 100 people, it is estimated that most people will think so too. From this perspective, Bitcoin's decentralization is relatively strong.

Let's take a look at Ethereum again. If we cut the Ethereum system in half, including the V God and the current core development team, will the Ethereum system collapse? I dare not guarantee this issue, maybe, maybe not. I estimate that this question will be asked to 100 people, and everyone will have a different opinion. Therefore, from this perspective, the degree of decentralization of Ethereum is far less than that of Bitcoin.

So let's extend it further, what about EOS? If you cut the EOS system in half, and remove BM and his Blockone company, and then remove all 21 existing super nodes, will the rest be affected? Will it break? I will not answer this question, and leave it to everyone to think.

In addition to EOS, there are many other public chain projects and many so-called decentralized projects. Let's take this ruler to measure it and see how strong their decentralization is .

Of course, we don't mean how decentralized the project must be. However, decentralization is only meaningful after the project has grown.

V. Enlightenment from the biological world

This phenomenon can actually be found in the biological world.

There are many such creatures in the biological world. They are as small as a bacterium and as large as the earthworms, grasshoppers, and slugs that I can see in my daily life. Both parts can survive independently.

Some people say that because they are low-level creatures, because they don't have a brain, if they have a brain, they are cut in half, and the half without the brain is dead. This statement may make sense, but I only know that the lower-level creatures, the simpler the creatures, the more tenacious the vitality; the higher-level creatures, the more complex creatures, the more they need to rely on the more external environment However, the vitality is not so tenacious. This seems to be the case with "regression for the weak" mentioned in Mr. Wang Dongyue's "General Theory of Physical Performance". Of course, this is not the topic we are going to talk about today, so skip it.

This angle may not be the most accurate one, but it is a very vivid one. Understanding decentralization through this angle is a very good starting point.