September 30, 2019

Mobility Needs More Than Blockchain. Here’s Why. Part 1 of 3.

The Big Bang Behind Blockchain: Decentralized Systems

In the world of computer science, distributed systems theory has been hard at work attempting to model complex systems in algorithms.  These are difficult problems to solve–issues such as time synchronization across the system, the avoidance of the creation of many fake accounts that mimic real participants, addressing the slowness of system communication that occurs when many thousands of participants are interacting with the system, and establishing the authoritative truth of the state of the system despite diverse participants–all of these, and more, have been studied for half a century. 

Within the realm of distributed systems, is a term called “decentralization”.  This term is used, even abused, among tech circles today. But what do we mean when we say it? 

Fundamentally, decentralization means that a system is not centrally controlled, pushing the maximum amount of power and autonomy to the participants themselves. 

The benefits of decentralization are that the system can self-adjust, and self-organize in a way that lends itself to quick evolution of the needs of the participants, and without needing to pre-define the desired outcomes. Examples of these systems exist in nature today.  The means by which ants cooperate to find the shortest path to a food source, and the human brain itself are two. Decentralized is defined in this context where anyone can be a participant in a global network without needing special permission to do so and all participants are effectively equal in their capabilities. Decentralization does NOT mean that every participant must accept interaction with every other participant. This is a crucial point, and is often confused. 

Just as a person typically cannot be forced to enter an agreement they don’t agree too–such as a lease or a purchase–so too a participant in a decentralized system cannot be coerced into agreements.  Decentralization seeks to maximize the freedom and capabilities of the participants themselves, and to minimize the rules and requirements of interactions between them to meet the core requirements of the system.  In the example of the human brain, every neuron acts as a participant, and is free to connect to one or more other neurons to form synapses, or bonds, to build mental structures like memories and skills. But all neurons are bound to being nourished by a blood supply of the body.  The blood supply is a necessary requirement to enable the neuron to act in as adaptable a way as possible, but it is still necessary.

In order to introduce a DLT-based platform to an industry like mobility, it’s helpful  to understand the history of distributed systems theory from the earliest ARPANET researcher Paul Baran, to today, with the state-of-the-art DLT technology. A fantastic primer on Baran’s contributions in this space can be found here (PDF). Then, and only then, can we begin to discuss appropriate architecture that realizes the grand vision Filament shares with many in the mobility industry today, where vehicles and the people and infrastructure with which they interact, can be truly transactive in nature. 

Click here to read Part 2: Why Trust Took So Much Time to Scale. Click here to learn how Blocklet Mobility Platform leverages DLT.

– Allison Clift-Jennings

Allison Clift-Jennings

CEO at Filament
Allison is the CEO and co-founder of Filament. Her vision for bringing economic capability to connected physical machines used in business and industrial environments is the cornerstone of Filament’s technology solutions. Allison’s technical leadership and entrepreneurial mindset supported the creation of Filament’s Blocklet Chip™, the first secure hardware solution for the Internet of Things (IoT) blockchain technology space.
Allison Clift-Jennings