2.2. Explaining the Emergence of P2P technology

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2.2. Explaining the Emergence of P2P technology

Why this emergence? The short answer is: P2P is a consequence of abundance (in fact it is both cause and consequence). With the advent of the ‘Information Age’ that started with mass media and unintegrated private networks for multinationals, but especially with the advent of the internet and the web itself, which allow for digital copying and distribution of any digital creation at marginal cost, information abundance is created. For business processes, the keyword becomes ‘flow’, and the integration of these endless flows. Production of material goods is predicated on the management of immaterial flows. In such a context, centralized systems almost inevitably create bottlenecks holding up the flow. In a P2P system, any node can contact any other node, without passing through such bottlenecks. Hierarchy only works with scarcity, and in a situation where the control of scarce resources determines the end result of the zero-sum power games being conducted. In a situation of abundance, centralized nodes cannot possible cope . From the engineering standpoint therefore, P2P is an appropriate solution to distribute workloads among a large number of loads, a solution which is effective in many case, but not always. Information, I probably do not need to remind the reader of this, is different from material goods, in that its sharing does not diminish its value, but on the contrary augments it. Conclusion: P2P is 'deblocking'.

Second, P2P systems are predicated on redundancy, several resources are always available to conduct any process. This makes them a lot less vulnerable than centralized systems to any kind of disruption, P2P systems are extraordinarily robust. One cannot, in terms of resources, compare any centralized system, to the extraordinary combination of millions of peripheral systems with the billions and trillions of unused memory, computing cycles, etc…. These are only unlocked in a P2P system.

Abundance is again both a cause and a consequence of complexity. In a situation of a multiplication of flows, flows that no longer follow predetermined routes, it cannot possible be predicted, where the ‘solution’ for any problem lies. Expertise comes out of a precise combination of experience, which is unpredictable in advance. Thus, systems are needed that allow expertise to unexpectedly announce itself, when it learns that it is needed. This is precisely what P2P systems allow to an unprecendented degree. Conclusion: P2P is 'enabling'.

There is also a 'democratic rationale' to the above enabling of resources. Since it is a bottom-up rather than a top-down process. P2P is 'empowering'. It reflects the cultural evolution towards an ethos of sharing abundant resources that gain value through their distribution.