How Decentralization Can Help Manage the Complexity of Modern Technology

By Steven Maxwell

Handling the complexity of modern technology and its growing inter-connectivity in our daily life is emerging as one of the greatest challenges that consumers and businesses now face. Anyone who has been disrupted by the seemingly increased amount of Windows 10 updates, password authentication, website IP verification, and the many other changes to service seen on a daily basis has fallen prey to the inherent complexities that have erupted by interwoven and dependent systems.

This can have a troubling impact to businesses which already deal with economic and social complexities without adding external interference from technological disruptions. Even our own website has fallen prey to the array of updates that occur across the many disparate systems that make an online presence function optimally.  Self-service integration solutions is a burgeoning area designed to address this very issue by reducing the vast understanding needed by end-users like ourselves when encountering the foreign language of Information Technology (IT).

For businesses, these IT issues might lead to inefficiencies through downtime or user error based on misunderstanding new functionalities. However, when it comes to data storage and transmission, things get even more complex as data is being collected and stored both on-device and off-site in the cloud. This is the area where the average user is likely to be put most at risk of having their security and privacy violated by an assortment of governments, corporations and third-party entities of every stripe. The minefield of security gaps and traps in privacy and commerce has led to the inevitable consumer blowback when stories such as the Cambridge Analytica scandal come to light, for example.

Modern communication has added yet another layer to this by literally making our data mobile as we move throughout the world and interact with gadgets that are often explicitly designed to track and analyze us in the supposed mission to provide better service.  The Internet of Things is already a part of most people’s everyday experience whether or not we have chosen to purchase any of the specific consumer products.  Our neighbors might have a Ring doorbell as part of a de facto neighborhood watch — or a real one that is connected directly to police departments. We might soon encounter having to say “Alexa pay for gas” at one of the 11,500 stations slated to offer this function.

All of this is happening despite estimates by many security experts that the Internet of Things is not nearly secure enough to be rolled out through every walk of life — one estimate showed up to a 75% failure rate. And, of course, we all have read the horror stories of homes being virtually invaded by hackers who have gained access to in-home devices like nanny cams. Yet, even with these warnings, businesses and consumers continue to grapple with the pros and cons.  At this point, the pros are fantastic, but the cons could be catastrophic. A Microsoft survey of 3,000 IT professionals showed that 88% of respondents said IoT would be essential to their business, 30% of projects fail in the proof-of-concept stage and 97% of respondents were worried about the security of IoT devices and infrastructure. Nuvais Group called it a “security time bomb.”

The term decentralization appears most often when referring to applications based on the blockchain where some of the best proposals might lie for general security and technology management systems. Essentially, this is a way to organize data transmission in such a way that the user retains full control over what they would like to share. Some experts believe that this approach is becoming essential in our “Post-Digital World,” as cited by Forbes.

As described by Nicholas West writing for Counter Markets:

The Post-Digital World is the stage at which technology has become so pervasive that the digital realm becomes inextricable from real-world personal and business activity.

It is also a point where almost every business and government has integrated data collection and analytics in nearly real-time. In such a world, the focus intensifies even further upon the individual – for a business it is identifying what a customer wants in order to offer customized experiences based on their expressed interests; in the case of government it is to identify compliance to rules and laws. Both aspects put the trend into a space that will be more personal than ever.

However, the security and privacy concerns that currently exist are only being amplified under the current architecture of business and government technology. As corporations and governments continue drilling down deeper and deeper into our personal information to “get to know us better,” most of us have the feeling that we are losing something every time we make a transaction with the modern world.

As West goes on to discuss, others such as the inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, refer to the necessary trend toward decentralization simply as “Web 3.0.,” which he sees as a restoration of user-directed participation and ownership rather than something brand new.  Lee’s own projects aim to provide a framework for locally stored data that is managed through personalized apps or cooperatively shared applications that a user must self-direct through explicit permission.

Other projects in the decentralization movement stress the additional utility for businesses to form around very specific voluntarily provided data that has been determined by end-users to be useful, rather than the current system of mass data collection that is analyzed and given significance by algorithms.

Below is a great overview with Professor Derek McAuley here who details the mechanics behind a system that can cure many of the ills that are being revealed with the Internet of Things.

As we continue to experience the consequences of the vast race for supremacy in our techno-centric world, it’s clear that there is no time to waste in developing solutions that will protect, enhance and maybe even simplify our experience as we navigate its complexity.

Image: IT Channel


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