Knowledge Transfer: The Gitcoin Hyperstructure 🏢


I was chatting with @annika about the concepts below and she mentioned it might be worth sharing on the gov forum, so here it goes. This post is meant to be a knowledge transfer and represents my limited vantage point. Please treat it as just a data point + part of the knowledge transfer.


  • Socialware - Mechanisms that create assurances through human relationships, incurring a high social coordination cost.
  • Trustware - Mechanisms that create assurances through technology, incurring a low social coordination cost.
  • Hyperstructure - crypto protocols that can run for free and forever, without maintenance, interruption or intermediaries

Credit for these definitions: Orca: socialware to trustware , Zora: Hyperstructures.


Gitcoin started as socialware (high social coordination cost) + more trustware (low social coordination cost) has evolved over time.
Once Trustware runs all of the core operations of Gitcoin’s products, then Gitcoin is a hyperstructure (a crypto protocol that can run for free and forever, without maintenance, interruption or intermediaries).

The four phases of this evolution of trust @ Gitcoin are:

  1. Socialware
  2. Modular socialware
  3. Trustware at the center with socialware at the edges (hyperstructure phase)
  4. Growth via network effects

As Gitcoin Progressively decentralizes over time, I believe it’ll move from centralization to a decentralized and modular set of protocol-based codebases.

The evolution of socialware => trustware of GitcoinDAO

The Gitcoin Hyperstructure

As noted above, Hyperstructures are crypto protocols that can run for free and forever, without maintenance, interruption or intermediaries.

Once Gitcoin Grants is run primarily on trustware, I believe that it has fully become a Hyperstructure.

Here is a more-artistic (and less technical) visualization of the Gitcoin Hyperstructure by IamJvck, created via this design bounty.


I did not cover this phase in the OP, but perhaps it’s worth reading this post about Network Effects to learn more about the fourth phase.

From that post:

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Thanks for the great post @owocki (and incredible visuals @octaviaan!)

Reflecting on our journey so far, even the fully socialware to modular socialware this year has been a massive change and we have a ways to go. IMO, we should work to start to weave in elements of trustware wherever we can, even as we continue on improving our ‘modular socialware’ structures in the interim.


Super excited to see you adopt the Socialware/Trustware model from Orca, I think it’s a great way of analyzing how a DAO operates :heart:

Also really love that you’re seeing a vision of Gitcoin moving into Trustware as much as technology allows. I think all DAOs need to be moving in this direction constantly to take advantage of the technology platform they’re built on to allow the organization to scale without compromising values/mission.

Big opportunity for GitcoinDAO to be a leader in showing the DAO space in general the way to the next level!


Very compelling!

My project enables organisations like Gitcoin to build and run decentralised off-chain Trustware which can be owned directly by the DAO. Just wanted to drop the idea here because it could be very useful for running things like fraud analysis and governance decisions autonomously. Here’s more info: – feel free to reach out if of interest!

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Very cool, been thinking a lot about data science trustware and I think there is a ton that could be done for Gitcoin specifically. Including socialware to find consensus on what data science is used/what trade offs you want → turn the chosen result of the socialware into trustware.

Given data science model drift, you may want iterative socialware where humans keep tuning the models and deploying them to trustware. EDIT: I think this may be what you mean by having fraud analyzers and governance continue as socialware?

I like to think of it as “Can we confirm that data scientists have access to the same data (not even gitcoin has an advantage of data proprietary to them)?” to enable reproducibility and observability. Then we might say “Does the protocol infrastructure have low barriers to swapping one properly formatted algo for another?”

I’d love to connect to hear more about how you think of this! Find me on discord and I’ll send you a calendly link!

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Two components to this post are topical for our current phase of Gitcoin:

  1. The migration from socialware to trustware as an orientation for how we think about the DAO post protocol stabilization. I think our focus on the next few months are clarifying, but is it time we think about the DAO post stabilization? What are the necessary components, what is the protocol governance structure, and what forms do the remaining supporting structures look like in order to deliver the hyperstructure?

  2. The importance of the network in the realization of the hyperstructure. This feels topical because I think we just defunded the “engage the community” surface. I think for the network effect to happen we can deliberately leverage a community of hard core fanatics, or buy eyeballs.

Q1: Is someone working on these things already?
Q1: If not, should we consider these topics now?
Q2: If not now, when is the right time to consider these topics?
Q3: who do you think should take the lead for driving these conversations (org structure post stabilization, community engagement)


I think starting a trustware model for the hyperstructure is going to be impossible while we are too concerned about accidentally overpaying people. The hyperstructure only works (as far as we have seen so far) in a way were people are payed rewards or bounties which are irregular.

Gitcoin chose the path of salaries, but that was at the expense of decentralization and the potential to be a hyperstructure. The risk inherent in moving to a bounty or reward based system must be compensated to kickstart the value flywheel.

Here is my take on

I raised this in a different yet similar context: S17 Musing - Gitcoin's "Most important Thing" - #4 by tigress … with a little bit of a twist: less from the perspective of Community Engagement and more based on the craft of Token Engineering.

:point_right: As a protocol DAO with an impact arm, shouldn’t we look more at how the relationships between the 3 most important things outlined above are intended to develop: Which incentives (utility) drive which behaviours and how the protocols interact in order to enable a thriving ecosystem?

And interestingly, Shawn, your own personal reflection on refactoring Gitcoin makes me aware of what is stopping me from empowering myself, initiating and wanting to co-own this work and moving forward with accountability to make it happen:

I fear that this work “towards a hyperstructure”

  1. does not matter / is not valued
  2. fear this work is not inline with other ideas somewhere else
  3. fear my work is going to be torpedoed at the 11th hour by some last moment dismissal

From my empowered stance I can overcome #1 and #2 but the number 3 has continuously worsened throughout the past year(!) and is not under my control. Contributing factors are:

  • Wild-wild west (combative) style of managing expressed as e.g. hostile commenting on this forum
  • Changes in GTC delegations and therefore continuously discontinuous top-level leadership direction and alignment
  • Lack of meaningful feedback and inspection and adaption on the whole-system level

I highly encourage the reader to dig into this underlying, very human “wild wild west” drama and the very natural feelings of unworthiness, blaming and trying to compensate and protect (in times of scarcity). And to even further explore the concept of psychological safety at work.

If this does not speak to you, I can offer an alternative: Think about the leverage points in our system. Which one(s) would you tackle first? Where can we 10x?

:point_right: in increasing order of effectiveness!

9 Constants, parameters, numbers (subsidies, taxes, standards).
8 Regulating negative feedback loops.
7 Driving positive feedback loops.
6 Material flows and nodes of material intersection.
5 Information flows.
4 The rules of the system (incentives, punishments, constraints).
3 The distribution of power over the rules of the system.
2 The goals of the system.
1 The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, power structure, rules, its culture — arises.

My conclusion is: intervene in our system now and work on leverage point 8 as well as 4 to 1 and know that there are still human beings involved who need to feel a sense of safety in order to be able to problems of this complex and creative caliber! (watch video) … and if there is capacity shortages of people doing this work: Prioritise with System Thinking in mind.

The less fear, the less burdened we feel, the more effective and efficient we can deliver something outstanding! And the more support we can give to others!

Tagging here @kyle and @kevin.olsen for visibility.


Here is a take on the recent controversy vis a vis Shell and DEI rounds, and how Gitcoin’s transition from a company => DAO => ecosystem helps manage it.

Public Goods Funding should be on a credibly neutral substrate. Credible neutrality means that anyone can use the some coordination technology having full faith it is credibly implemented the same for everyone, giving everyone the same superpowers to help their communities fund what matters.

Communities do not agree on what are public goods. Public goods are relative to the values of the communities they serve.

Here are some examples from recent history:

  • some communities will want a DEI round. some will think that is woke BS.
  • some communities will want to fund open source software. some just won’t care.
  • some will want to fund local public goods. some digital.
  • some are okay with an oil company giving them money. some are not.

It is impossible to serve all of the memetic tribes at the same time. This is a fundamental tension in what Gitcoin is trying to do (to create a funding ecosystem that can scale to all of humanity one day), and why it has moved from company => DAO => ecosystem.

Credible neutrality means that if you want to fund DEI public goods, fortune-100 company public goods, libertarian public goods, nation-state public goods, environmentalist public goods, knitting public goods, global south public goods, furry public goods, any type of public goods, you get the same tech.

Here is a breakdown of where the Gitcoin ecosystem is trustware (eg credibly neutral smart contracts) vs where it is socialware (human coordination).

I’m proud to say that the foundation of this ecosystem is now credibly neutral protocols.

BUT there is still work to be done!.

The climate round for GG18 was driven by Gitcoin insiders.

IMO one move (to maximize for credible neutrality + ossification) is to one day move:

  1. as much from being Gitcoin-driven to Community-driven.
  2. as much from socialware-to-trustware as possible.

Here is what this matrix could look like one day:

I actually don’t think this second diagram is likely anytime soon.

It’s up to governance where to steer the ship, but if I was being consulted by them, I’d recommend Gitcoin focus on maturing the protocols/products before moving to ossify into something like this 2nd diagram.


@owocki thanks for the visionary work. When you stepped back from the DAO it left a hole in visionary thinking that I hope Gitcoin will consider when recruiting new leaders.

Couple things I suspect we agree on:

  • Centralization is likely appropriate for start ups with strong leadership but w/o PMF
  • The path from centralization to decentralization is a progressive spectrum
  • A decentralized state is still going to take iterations to get right
  • We need more thought leadership (like your post) about possible decentralized forms
  • Even if we are not sure exactly what the end state is, we should deliberately move towards it.

We might not agree on the following:

  • Gitcoin (like most of web3) has a highly centralized decision making structure
  • The current centralization at Gitcoin does not seem to be serving Gitcoin particularly well
  • Gitcoin should take deliberate (and low risk) steps to continue the journey towards decentralization

To that end - here are a couple low risk steps the DAO can take to deliberately move towards decentralization:

  • Articulate a plan to move “approval” away from CSDO & the foundation according to the DACI
  • Reduce individual voting influence (delegation) to no more than 2.5% of a typical vote
  • Default to quadratic voting on snapshot, limit non-QV to exceptions

I suspect larger delegates may not be crazy about these ideas - but as an investor and steward, if I look at ETH/GTC price action, Gitcoin is not winning. And it might be time to do something about it.


I think vision x legitimacy is where the real value lies. In a company, a CEO can impose their vision and thats what makes it legitimate. In a DAO, anyone can present a vision and achieve legitimacy by creating consensus around it (and where they can’t get consensus, they can ask people to disagree and commit). In theory at least. It seems that if people lean out/disengage/dont believe it possible/dont have the muscles/trust/time to do it, this doesnt happen.

So vision needs reach consensus from contributors before anyone will be rowing in the same direction. That is the stage it provides real utility to people.


I appreciate you highlighting this!

I think there is a decentralization layer cake: legal, governance, product, computation, data.

IMO the legal, product, computation, data, layers have gained a lot of decentralization (decentralization up only since May 2021). The governance layer has ebbed and flowed. It is more decentralized than it was before the DAO launched (Kevin was in charge), but not as decentralized as it can be (per tally, there are 13 ppl with 500k+ GTC voting power, and they are in charge).

As Gitcoin enters its endgame phase (imo its more in its mid-game phase now not in its endgame yet), it should trend towards ossification at the core (perhaps complexity will be pushed out to an ecosystem of sideDAOs/subDAOs/friendDAOs, and governance will be more a matter of tuning knobs on the protocols than doing things that need deep context) + Gitcoin should align on a metric to track that. Perhaps its maximize the the number of people whose votes are needed to reach a majority in governance.

Where do we disagree?

My POV is that Gitcoin has had 9 seasons since DAO launch in May 2021 (1 season/quarter).

  1. The first 3 seasons in 2021, Gitcoin was accomplishing almost no major forward progress (except that the DAO started taking a more prominent place in running the rounds).
    • There are more smaller exceptions around the edges: Moonshot Bots raising $3m, AKITA raising a few $$millions.
  2. The next 4 seasons in 2022, it started to establish its purpose & essential intents and to get more serious about laying tracks for the decentralized products.
  3. The next 3 seasons in 2023, it started actually shipping products (Passport, Allo, Grants Stack, PGN) in a serious way.

IMO the DAO is protopian insofar as the broad trend is that each season is better than the last. Some seasons are 1 step forward and 2 steps back, but the broader trend is towards accelerating forward progress.

Note: Through all of this time the DAO was spending $1m/month (+/- 20%). So the progress is not a matter of changes in spend.

For me a major question is “Does Gitcoin go splat before it reaches sustainability/starts thriving? Or does it reach sustainability/starts thriving first?”

As its runway is mostly tokens, this is as much a question of “when does the market recover?” as a question of fundamentals and execution. But IMO as someone who ushered Gitcoin through the 2018-2022 bear, there are things you can do to maximize chances of success: mainly increase runway or increase velocity.

IMO aiming for effective governance for the stage Gitcoin is at is more of a priority than aiming for 100% decentralization immediately. Decentralization (especially at human social layer) means making tradeoffs:

From Vitaliks post on DAOs and decentralization, we know that where Decentralization has value is:

  • Decentralization for making better decisions in concave environments, where pluralism and even naive forms of compromise are on average likely to outperform the kinds of coherency and focus that come from centralization.
  • Decentralization for censorship resistance: applications that need to continue functioning while resisting attacks from powerful external actors.
  • Decentralization as credible fairness: applications where DAOs are taking on nation-state-like functions like basic infrastructure provision, and so traits like predictability, robustness and neutrality are valued above efficiency.

So my resulting take is: if areas of Gitcoin are in a concave environment OR need censorship resistance or credible fairness, then governance should be decentralized.

If not, then it is fine for it to remain delegated to some centralized actor (but subject to governance). But eventually it will trend towards decentralization.

As far as I can tell from poking around in CSDO/notion/youtube, the path ahead for Gitcoin is roughly:

  1. Scale product adoption.
  2. Figure out financial sustainability.
  3. Repeat until success.
  4. Ossify.

I suppose its worth asking which of the things in this path ahead would benefit from decentralized governance along the way.

The one that I feel that benefits the MOST from decentralization is “4. Ossify”.

Another way to visualize this is tradeoff space is:

Do we disagree?

Idk if we are saying the same thing or not. But it feels like we maybe agree more than your OP gives credit for? Or maybe the disagreements are more nuanced?

How can I support you?

As a larger token holder, I’m actually very happy about planning a move in this direction eventually.

A move to quadratic voting was in the original vision for the DAO (which you can see here) (I wrote the below copy)

It has taken longer than I thought though, due to a lack of infrastructure to do it and also a lack of solid enough sybil resistance to get there. (which hopefully will change as Passport will enable enough sybil resistance to make it happen as it scales)


Dang - the literary power of Owocki is legendary. It could be a full time job engaging you on the forum - but I need to get to the weekend chores - so I am definitely not going to do your response justice, please forgive me.

Yes a CEO could, and if that vision were counter to the ethos of the organization (the employees, consumers, suppliers), it would either fail miserably, or require a massive effort to overhaul the org. Done well, it creates excitement, strips away discord, reduces waste, and aligns resources.

I love this idea - and we might get there, but I suggest DAOs without vision wastes a ton of capital figuring out which way is north. Problem is, leaning in to build the basic structural frameworks for any org is hard work (vision, mission, values), takes a ton of time to get right, and requires the orgs best and brightest to engage and believe in. Web3 places a priority on “shipping” and subsequently dismisses “organizational navel gazing” efforts. Yeah, DAOs ship a lot, but shipping alone does not equate to value.

I like your cake - I tend to focus mostly on the Governance and product layers.

Product has made huge strides, I think the migration to a protocol mindset has been transformative. The ability for anyone to use the platform at any time is a crowing achievement.

I do not detract from the creation of the DAO - for without that step, discussions of decentralization would be mostly academic. I do view the “13 people in charge” as technically accurate, but the practicalities are different.

This vote illustrates that 4 people made up >50% of this particular vote. Meaning if there were any discord, with this concentration of voting power, these four people were in charge. Not 13.

Yes, this is a simplistic illustration. One could argue that if it were a contentious vote that one of those four voters might be against the proposal and that would bring the next two voters into play. If two of of the top four voters were against the vote, it would bring the next N voters into play and so on. I could do a Gini power coefficient to illustrate the distribution of “power” and I am sure most readers would promptly check out.

What we know from power imbalances like this is that it squashes dissenting opinion, encourages group think, and reduces voter engagement. Yuk.

For this example, I chose GCP-13 to illustrate the point not because it was contentious in anyway (it passed with 99% approval) but because it had about the highest recent participatory rate. If we look at votes with lower turn out (which most are), this illustration gets worse, not better.

No question Gitcoin is building, making progress, moving forward and learning. But.

In my first week at Gitcoin I was told “when you introduce yourself at Gitcoin, you should not mention you were a degen trader”. Well, I am a trader AND a finance guy, and the GTC price history tells a different story.

In short, Gitcoin brand equity is not winning - or even maintaining in the market. In the past year the OP token has increased by ~+190%, Ethereum has increased by ~+50% (ETH being a kind of baseline) and GTC has fallen by -60%. I know some look at token price action as some kind of evil voodoo that we should not care/talk about, but it gets real when it comes to runway and laying off contributors. In short, price (relative to the overall market) tells an org what the market thinks of their results and of their potential upside. Something has to change.

100% agree here - Given market realities, IMO sustainability now needs to be a top 3 priority. That would provide focus and clarity of mission. And as a bonus: illustrating a plan to breakeven combined with demonstrated progress will likely do more for token price (read: stop the slide) than any token utility efforts.

That phrase - “when does the market recover?” - makes me cringe. In a past business life - we used the mantra “hope for the best, plan for the worst”. DAO-land seems to be “make it to the bull”. Yes, I know your point is broader, but I would love to kill the hopium mindset. Ok, maybe not kill it, but temper it.

Yeah, and discussion around “100% decentralization” is a false dilemma, so I think you are right, we agree on progressive decentralization.

love that you asked : ) How about this:

  1. Join me in advocating for financial health: A) Ask for “sustainability” to be declared as a top 1, 2, or 3 DAO priority. I would be looking for realistic building blocks with individual owners, targets and timelines, to get to breakeven over the next 18 months. Hopium be damned. B) Ask professionally produced P&L reports (and an summary of what it means for non-finance types) for both the DAO and the Foundation be published monthly. I know this is more operational than governance, but damn this is such an obvious gap. Most Pizza joints have better financial visibility than Gitcoin.

  2. Encourage large delegators to reduce delegation to less than 2.5% of a normal snapshot vote - and lead by example. In my calculation, that is a cap at about 250,000 delegated tokens. Need more delegates? We just elected 8 kick ass people to the steward council. Give them some influence. Not sure you know or agree with them all yet? Well, yeah that is kinda how deliberate diversity works.

  3. QV in Gitcoin. I bet you more than a couple meetings with Gitcoin insiders this week. If you asked “wen QV” it would move mountains. I know passport may not be able to protect the treasury just yet, but 1) when will it and 2) why not QV for all decisions under $100K, $75k, $50K, $25K - pick a number.

Look - the GTC slide is real. If we don’t insist on some kind of change now, at what point should we? When GTC hits $0.50?, $0.25?


Interesting anecdote. FWIW, I’ve done some technical analysis and trading. Even some digital vegetable farming in DeFi Summer. Idk if that is degen or not. IMO dealing with financial reality should not be something that is culturally weeded out.

Thats fair.

Right now the DAO has declared its "most important thing"s to be:

  1. Allo Launch & Success
  2. Grants Program
  3. Passport

Do you think it should be

  1. Financial health?
  2. — then the existing most important things — ?

Directionally, I like this idea. I’m going to take an action item to delegate to some of the steward council.

If I could move mountains, Gitcoin would have launched protocols and retired cGrants in 2021 :). From there, iterating to more market adoption on those protocols. So I think you slightly overestimate that ability.

I’m supportive of doing small QV experiments (but also mindful its not on the list above of most important things).

I don’t disagree that there is value in the DAO articulating a credible path forward through these challenges. Maybe after the dust has settled on GG18 (which seems to be going well analytically) there will be more headspace for that.


At the risk of being reductionist but in the interest of expediency, I am attempting what it might look like to undertake some experiments in the next 100 days to nudge our journey rightwards on the dotted path up. This is complimentary to any long-term efforts still needed to bring diversity in delegation and adopting QV.

Premise - Multiple means of decentralization

Governance comes from the Greek verb kubernaein: to steer. While it is absolutely essential to curate and ensure the hands-on-the-wheel are representative of the needs of the community, it is also true that a great number of decisions that directly impact the work product happen across the multiple decks stacked underneath.

In expanding the conversation beyond the centralization/decentralization dichotomy, the paper Decentralisation: a multidisciplinary perspective argues:

Just as the robustness of a distributed system comes from the multiplication of the means through which something takes place, so does the robustness of our complex social, economic organisation depend on having multiple different systems to achieve similar goals.

Beyond the scope of binary decisions on the voting proposals, are there near-term opportunities to open up concave choices within workstreams for sensemaking with the community? Can we cultivate bottoms-up ways of working where community members with appropriate context and skill find low-friction pathways for micro-contributions? Can a fly-wheel effect of this over time help us create future helmspeople and thought leaders for the DAO?

Culture as the ultimate “most important thing”

A possible pathway might look like this:

  • Interested contributors in the community are exposed to the context of work
  • More hands with skin-in-the-game but outside the core team start to shape outcomes
  • Better appreciation in the community for “mountains that need to move” for delivering results
  • Initial experiments pave the way for organic channels for ongoing dialogue with the community

Ultimately, actions evolve into habits where eligible problem spaces become open for community input at the relevant granularity of detail. This shapes the culture once it becomes second nature for the DAO, as Edgar Schein puts it in the book “Organization Culture and Leadership” in these terms:

Culture is a way of working together toward common goals that have been followed so frequently and so successfully that people don’t even think about trying to do things another way. If a culture has formed, people will autonomously do what they need to do to be successful.

The question to ask and its cost

How might we influence the work products in the DAO that helps us realize the most important things with context-rich contributions from the community with modes of engagement that are sensitive to the commitments needed from the core team of the DAO?

I have a few ideas at the operations level to enable this that I would cease from expanding here in the interest of validating if this even is the right question in the pursuit of decentralization (e.g. why not host a “governathon” with bounded scope to solicit inputs for this very exact problem). There are costs involved in enabling this, the most critical being focus and efficiency of the core team. I have watched this team from the sidelines launch 3 rounds in 8 months, where each iteration included a tremendous amount of feature lift to pivot from product to protocol while also helping the stakeholders and community move along the transition. My familiarity with web3 is limited, but I have spent two decades in different roles in systems development and I have not seen any team pull a transition of this scale and with this quality of outcome in such a short time. There is no doubt this feat has allowed the community to exit a local maxima and leapfrog to an alternative future with a greater plurality of possible outcomes.

So what’s next?

One hybrid approach that prioritizes the most important things for the DAO with inclusivity (especially in these times) might look like a framework below, where the work items that fall in the top-right quadrant might benefit from having a gateway to the community. This will take a few experiments that will have to vary by workstream to find a balance between efficiency and inclusivity, but more importantly, actualize decentralization beyond the votes on Snapshot. (Vitalik’s post about concave and convex worldviews is here)

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For organization that use “top priorities” well, ranking 1 2 and 3 are largely symbolic; given the theory is once you STOP working on priority 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10, you have plenty of resources for 1 2 & 3 and you don’t have to make resource calls between 1 2 and 3.

So, any raking of financial sustainability is a move in the right direction, but placing it at the top would definitely let GTC tokenholders know that the DAO acknowledges GTC underperformance compared to the market, and is taking serious steps to ensure the long term viability of the DAO, regardless of market cycles. This should also give contributors a measure of security - with a plan to get to breakeven, contributors can breath a bit more easy knowing that they are no longer $0.30 cents away from the next budget cut.

Nah, you know how many times I heard “I was on a call with Owocki and ______”. But yeah, this request is not all on you. And yes, QV is not the most important thing. What is important is progress towards progressive decentralization - if nothing else, to combat centralizing tendencies.

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Sorry I should have labeled the 2x2 matrix better. The X axis is designed such that leftward is more decentralized, not rightwards! & Up = more market success.

I’m supportive of experiments in decentralization that match the areas where decentralization has value! (but in the short term, i think they’re likely not a priority for me in areas where it does not)

From Vitaliks post, these are the areas where decentralization has value:

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