Even the most casual technology-user can recognize the inescapable role that the Internet plays in modern life. Its services drive our lives, yet as users, we’re completely disconnected from their governance.
The disconnect is a motivating force for the decentralization movement, which includes Bitcoin, Ethereum, Freenet, Secure Scuttlebutt, IPFS, Dat, Blockstack, and the Beaker Browser among others. Their motivations vary from the assertion of personal liberties to economic empowerment, but they all aim to somehow distribute political authority within a technical system.
Authority defines a network’s behavior and the powers of its participants. To change the distribution of authority, we should study how authority works. We should ask: When is authority within a computer network appropriate? How should it be assigned? Once assigned, how can it be constrained?