Throughout history, transformative social movements, from suffrage to civil rights, have risen organically, with leaders emerging from the people's collective voice. However, the current discourse among progressive circles seems to deviate from this pattern, as many allies undermine the concept of decentralization in technology. This shift in perspective raises questions about the progressive movement's stance on crypto and its comparison to the monopolistic practices of Big Tech and big banks.
The central issue for progressive advocates should be addressing the control exerted by legacy tech platforms over user data. In this context, the power of decentralization becomes paramount to prevent a scenario where a handful of unelected technocrats dictate the global technological landscape.
Paradoxically, numerous progressive voices have devalued the significance of decentralization, equating it to a distraction from more immediate political objectives. This has led to a misguided perception of crypto as a target, aligning them, oddly, with the interests of monopolistic big banks. Yet, the essence of the crypto movement resonates deeply with the ideals of progressivism by championing a world where power is dispersed among the people, precluding any single entity from imposing its will on matters of civil rights and liberties.
Despite this alignment in principles, the world is far from the decentralized utopia envisioned. Over the past few decades, global inequality has surged, with a notable impact domestically. A key contributor to this disparity is the concentration of technological power within a handful of massive corporations. The internet, once a realm of boundless opportunity, has dwindled into a collection of corporate walled gardens that trap users due to their monopolistic hold.
Critics of cryptocurrency argue that the issues posed by tech giants and big banks can be resolved through political intervention. However, this perspective misunderstands the compatibility of political action and decentralized technology, which are complementary rather than conflicting. Regulatory actions are essential to curb the dominance of corporate giants while emerging decentralized technologies can foster healthy competition that doesn't replicate the cycle of creating new monopolies.
The perplexity arises when considering the progressive aversion to tech decentralization and the apparent sympathy for established behemoths, despite their known drawbacks. One possible explanation is the lack of understanding about this technology, potentially due to a lack of practical explanation and communication from the crypto industry.
At its core, decentralization involves a public, permissionless ledger that any individual doesn't inherently own. Blockchain technology relies on a global network of computers to verify and add validated information, distinguishing it from traditional centralized platforms owned and controlled by a single entity. This distinction is evident in websites like banks, YouTube, and Reddit, where a central authority dictates site changes, user removals, and data utilization—a power evidenced by the trajectory of platforms like Twitter.
In contrast, blockchain empowers individuals to own and control their data, enabling its transfer across systems at their discretion. It also facilitates peer-to-peer exchange of data and funds, sidestepping the need for costly intermediaries with their cumbersome bureaucracies.
The real-world implications of this shift are profound. Consider the swift response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where crypto's role was pivotal in providing financial support through unseizable and unfreeze wallets. Blockchain technology also documents war crimes against Ukrainian civilians, ensuring tamper-proof evidence for future hearings. Additionally, in times of peace, secure communication channels are vital for progressive organizers who seek to avoid government or corporate interference.
In areas where risk-averse banks have withdrawn operations, millions have been marginalized from formal financial systems, nudged toward shadow banking or riskier options. Crypto, backed by blockchain, offers a transparent solution to creating fund flows without incurring exorbitant intermediary fees, especially in regions deemed high-risk by banks. The technology also facilitates migrants' remittances to their home countries, a critical factor as political and climate-driven migration continues to surge.
Acknowledging the hope that centralized actors might contribute to the common good, some progressives favor centralization. However, history warns against such concentration of power. Absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely, and efforts to steer governments without a decentralized movement often lead to tyranny.
The more effective approach is to embrace decentralization to prevent indispensability and promote collaboration among diverse economic actors. This path forward safeguards against the emergence of new tech monopolies. Instead of focusing on how a select few can instigate change for the masses, the focus should shift towards empowering the many to drive change collectively.
The Web3 movement epitomizes this ideology, striving for an equitable and decentralized framework. This path offers a genuine way forward for progressive ideals, advocating empowerment over suppression. To bridge the gap between the crypto industry and progressives, effective communication about the technology's benefits and its alignment with the movement's goals is essential. As the world evolves, embracing the power of decentralization could propel the progressive movement to new heights, fostering a society where collective influence prevails over concentrated control.