Bitcoin, blockchain and the rest

Even though Mastodon has made it into the international press, rarely decentralized software has penetrated as deeply into the general consciousness as the blockchain. In its original form, bitcoin. Few decentralized software is also discussed as controversially and ideologically as the Blockchain. The reasons for the almost religious rejection or homage are manifold.

bitcoin user symbol image

For one, blockchain is almost always associated with bitcoin, and bitcoin with scam. And there is no denying that. With BC, huge profits (or huge losses) could (and can … perhaps) be made in capitalist market logic. Around BC gather scammers, spammers, fortune hunters and people who until recently lived from the „grandson trick“. Every blackmailer expects BC (at the latest when the German government has sold your health data, everyone will know how to trade BC). In short, you get into bad company. Company in which you probably really do not want to be.

Furthermore, daily! Billions of volumes are traded in BC. A shadow industry with several 100 billion $ turnovers per year. Compared to the $ and € trade this is ridiculous and also poverty, hunger and despair are still paid with fiat currency. But it triggers a reaction from those whose power is based on the current system. These are waging an enormous propaganda battle.

In this battle, they claim, among other things, that blockchain consumes an extremely large amount of energy. Blockchain itself is just a complex database for now. The Ethereum network has only recently switched from proof-of-work to proof-of-stake. A transaction thus consumes hardly any more energy than calling up an ad-supported website. However, at the expense of decentralization. Bitcoin, on the other hand, is actually designed to require „work“ to validate contracts, and that „work“ consumes energy, lots of energy. How much more or less that is compared to futures trading on exchanges or even to a Google query is difficult to evaluate in the ideologically charged situation.

Probably the most uncomfortable part is that everyone is doing something with „blockchain“ today. Every marketing fuzzy, every startup, and all companies need blockchain … blockchain, blockchain, blockchain a pathetic buzzword with billions in sales without anyone needing it. Why would a centralized system, like a traditional company or a centralized government need a decentralized database? If they needed it, the world would already be a better place.

But what does this mean for us? Should political digital civil society, while yes it has spawned it, abandon BC and blockchain?

The enormous success of Mastodon and the structure called Fediverse, not only generates an enormous amount of freedom and entirely new possibilities, it also poses new questions. Is it even desirable in the long run for a pseudo-decentralized structure to emerge? Does it make sense to move from Zuckerberg or Musk to local sysadmin?

Personally, I’m a big fan of the Fediverse, but the question of whether we’re not halfway there or simply driving down a dead-end road also arises for me. Projects like nostr or urbit try a radical decentralized approach, where there are no servers at all. Both systems write the profile data to a blockchain (as far as I know, it’s Ethereum in both) and validate access via tokens. Since the database is completely distributed in a decentralized manner, there are no instances at all anymore. nostr binds directly to the chain and writes the content to it as well. Urbit makes every client a server (so your data is always local to your end device) and only the validation of whether you are is done via blockchain.

I think we should think further. Ideologies are of no use to us. Decentralization is not a trivial technical problem. Decentralization is a radical change that will go very deep into the lower layers of thinking. It would be stupid and fatal to be satisfied now with the foundation of a few new allotment garden associations. decentral * illegal * don’t give a damn