Andrés Monroy-Hernández sees an opportunity to build something better this time.
Waves of companies such as Twitter, Uber, DoorDash, and Airbnb disrupted entrenched industries with the promise of letting billions broadcast their own content, set their own hours, and run their own businesses. Like many observers, Monroy-Hernández, a member of the DeCenter steering committee and an assistant professor of computer science, saw the downsides, as powerful centralized companies grew up and started calling the shots and reaping the profits.
Now, he and his collaborators are working to build new systems that are equally useful but give much more control to local users. “What will a driver-owned Uber look like or what will a DoorDash look like if owned by local restaurants instead of by these trans-national corporations?”
Monroy-Hernández, named one of MIT Technology Review’s “35 Under 35” for his innovations in community-focused software, is working with locally-owned organizations doing food delivery to build such a system. The goal is to serve local needs while building protocols that are understood and trusted globally. In some cases, blockchain could help one part of a network confirm the identity of another part, but may not be needed to record each purchase of pork fried rice.
“Decentralization doesn’t have to mean only blockchains,” Monroy-Hernández said. “There are many forms of decentralization, and finding the right approach for the specific scenario is important.”