Frankly speaking, ever since my first encounter with blockchain, I kept playing the old 1997 movie The Matrix in my mind (since when a 1997 film has become an old movie). Every time I hear someone advocating decentralization, painting a future with no governments and enterprises, I get a feeling there is something wrong about the decentralized utopia.
So what exactly is wrong? Then, I have come to realize those who advocate decentralization may have ulterior motives and business services they are trying to market. Isn't that the opposite of decentralization? The advocates themselves are a center. Some people then came up with the modified concepts of multi-centralization and disintermediation. However, can people make decentralization a reality if they are all talk and no action?
As opposed to constantly advocating decentralization, I wish to realistically explore on how the world can come closer to decentralization, what a decentralized world will be like and what impact it will bring. At this point of the discussion, let's talk about the classic sci-fi film The Matrix.
The film is set in a "real world" that seems not so different from the one you and I are familiar with while actually people live in a digital world simulated by Matrix.
In such a simulated world, human physical existence is no longer so meaningful. Humans are even used as power sources for Matrix, running a digitally recreated world where people are born, grow up, fall in love and interact with each other every day. With the exception of Matrix, the world is decentralized from human governance.
Isn't that a perfect picture of so-called decentralization?
Another more recent film, Ready Player One, directed by Steven Spielberg, depicts a similar world to the one in The Matrix. Though without a centralized control like Matrix, in this film, there is a large company trying to take ownership of the Oasis and people engage in activities (mainly economic activities) in a digital world.
If we look into it in more detail, the world presented in The Matrix or Ready Player One is not far-fetched at all. The movie scenes can be thought of as a user interface or user experience (UI/UX). Technologies such as blockchain, IoT, Industry 4.0, AI and digital ID can be the infrastructure that allows the digital world to work while data economy is the enabler that makes the movie scenes a reality.
In the digital world of The Matrix or Ready Player One, if you want a house or all kinds of gadgets, you need infrastructure enabling ownership of digital asset so that the devices you have in the real world can be owned by you in the digital world. This is accomplished through blockchain and digital ID. Not only people but also devices need to have ID and this can be achieved after Internet of Everything (IoE) clicks into place.
You also need to do business with other people, paying them in digital currency which is also a form of digital asset you own, rather than data kept in some centralized services. People should be able to transfer and exchange the currency of their own free will like in the real world (money can go from my wallet directly to yours with my permission). Cryptocurrency can fulfill this purpose.
Data economy encompasses everything generated in the digital world, ranging from different types of original data to transaction data created by all kinds of deals including exchanges of money and data across objects and people. In essence, as long as there is some type of exchange (exchange of valuables), there is data economy (this could very well be the real future).
The above-mentioned two scenarios illustrate virtually what everyday life in a digital world would be like (don't bother asking me what about people's entertainment needs). Centralized services may be able to provide the kind of user experience or not so centralized but instead managed services (I won't use the word "controlled" here) can do so as well. You will find a valid reason no matter from which perspective you look at it. The future holds endless possibilities.
We can be certain about one thing - infrastructure should enable a lot more than user experience, whether the future may turn out to be wonderful or terrifying. Sometimes people simply say that blockchain has resolved the xxx problem. As a matter of fact, it is likely that the problem can be resolved with certain characteristics of blockchain but the solution to the problem does not necessarily require the use of blockchain. The fundamental consideration should be whether blockchain can deliver a better solution to the problem or whether blockchain can be the answer as the problem has grown in scale and entails a new solution.
Infrastructure that brings wonderful user experience requires deep devotion to research and development. As the world moves forward and the future quickly becomes now, innovators endeavoring toward research and creation of new technologies all wish they are on the right track and live to see the results of their work come to life.
Lman Chu, co-founder and CEO of BiiLabs