Decentralization in all its shapes and colors has long been a cornerstone of this space. Yet going into my 6th year in web3 I’m still struggling to see how we can uphold decentralization with an ever larger group of mainstream degens flooding the space and overtaking our narrative.
I think the core problem with decentralization is that it’s simply not sexy. No one, and I really mean no one, except for a small group of technical or highly intellectual "nerds" that call themselves stewards, or alignment officers really care about it. It’s one of these buzzwords that gets thrown around all the time but is often misunderstood and highly under appreciated.
The reason for this is simple - just like privacy, self custody or self sufficiency, which all sound great on paper - no one really knows how it benefits them.
Now you might say well big tech bad, decentralization gud. But really it’s not as simple as that. If we want to make sure that decentralization remains a cornerstone of this space and hence make crypto a disruptive technology not a sustaining one, we need to rethink our efforts around communicating the benefits of decentralization.
So what are the benefits of decentralization exactly?
I’ve thought about this for a while and I’ve come up with the following.
Censorship resistance - ask anyone who’s ever been banned on a social platform of their choice how it feels - spoiler: it really sucks!
Objective Neutrality => decentralization to me is a constant process aiming to achieve the most objectively neutral / fair outcome by being independent from things like mass consensus, louder voices > right voices, ….
Permissionless=> if no one controls the thing, no one can determine who can use it or not
Trustless => if no one can corrupt, alter, or change the thing then I don’t need to trust that it will perform its predefined purpose - it just will!
There are some more benefits but they are beyond the scope of this article. But the most important thing I want you to remember when you read the above is:
If I were to show this to a random person outside of our little crypto bubble they would be like:
Cool bro and what does that have to do with me?
Let's face it – decentralization can be a bit like reading an instruction manual in a foreign language. Some argue it's a luxury problem, too technical, and just not cool.
So you may ask: How can we make decentralization sexy (again) ?
Hear me out anon.
I believe the first thing we need to do is work on both the message and the messenger.
Don’t get me wrong I’m a sucker for Vitalik and his mind bending blog posts. But try to get one of these GenZ kids with a 10 second attention span to read on of his articles. They’d rather kill themselves than do it.
We need people who are more relatable, more down to earth and who speak a language that normal people can understand not revel in technical jargon and wild fantasies about a cypherpunk future.
It's time for a change of pace. GenZ isn't vibing with the traditional conversations, so let's bring in new perspectives and heroes. Say hello to Boysclub, Gossip Protocol, FWB and the influencers reshaping the narrative.
However, no shade here I’m a big fan of all of the above, it’s not enough and we still don’t have a single web3 TikTok personality with 500k+ followers which is a shame ngl. If we want to reach new audiences and teach them about our ways we need to meet them where they are!
Secondly we need to start working on our messaging. Censorship resistance, permissionlessness, trustlessness all sound like they are straight from some old ass high school book about some topic no one cares about.
No matter how many twitter spaces about "alignment” we hold people aren’t gonna start caring unless we start using words they can understand.
The best example I have for this is money vs finance. Everyone wants to make money. But start bringing up finance and most people will tune out. We need to strike a balance between things people care about and language that makes them fall asleep.
I think two great examples of this happening is the Chipped campaign by Gossip Protocol
And some (not all) of the newer Coinbase campaigns around “Updating the system"
Both of those are meeting their respective target groups where they are, talk about real life problems that everyone has encountered at some point, instead of boring them with endless terminus and "alignment".
In a world that’s increasingly dominated by western values likes individualism, anti-group think and chronically online people, crypto should have an easy time to fit right in there.
Decentralization means more power to the individual, more self custody, more protection against group think and it’s always, yes always online.
To sum this up I think we still have a lot of work ahead of us if we want to keep upholding decentralization as a core piece of our shared ethos. With ever more people entering the space we need to adapt our message and our messengers to speak to this new generation of crypto users directly.
If we don’t meet them where they are, less aligned people and proponents of centralized systems will. This is not a conflict about alignment to some roadmap or another. It’s a question about wether we want to build something better for everyone this time around or if we just want to rebuild the same crap we’ve built over and over again.
*This article is a work in progress and merely reflects my thoughts around decentralization as a whole. This topic is much more nuanced than can be described in a little 8 paragraph blog article. If you want to jam on this more reach the out to me @watcher2nd on X ✌️