Centralization. A concept that has been with the human race nearly as long as we have been using tools and fire. While inherently individualist, the human animal is also, paradoxically social, wanting our own space and control over our own affairs but also craving the company of others.

A fact which is currently at the basis of a theory as to why the majority of romantic relationships fail. In addition to the more traditional, romantic meaning, another important relationship humans have, at least since we first thought it a good idea to surrender our basic need for freedom to the notion of social organization, is that between the governors at the governed.

While many would date this phenomenon back to ancient Egypt and the control of the Pharaoh, it goes back much further, to the first time our cave dwelling ancestors decided it might be smarter to arrange themselves into tribes, the more spears the better when it comes to an attack by saber-toothed tigers.

This safety in numbers theory explaining much of the formation of and submission even, to a lesser extent, modern parliamentary democracies if the power is sufficiently centralized, a majority government being essentially dictators for four years at a time.

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The Social Democratic Party in Sweden enjoyed a nearly uninterrupted term in power running from about 1924 to 2014. The Irish Fianna Fail have been in power for 61 of the nations 79 years as a separate entity from Britain, the longest continuous period being from 1932 to 1948.

The upside of dictatorship

As scary as the notion of a centralized point in government can be, this is how most empires were run after all, the notion of centralization can have its advantages when applied correctly. Centralized heat, for example, has lead to an increasing number of rental apartments having heat included in the rental price.

Granted, the building manager or some other authority has complete control over it but it has been years since anyone has actually frozen to death in the winter. Another example of the glorious and useful application of centralization is cellular telephones, many devices serviced in an area from a single signal tower, there by making the technology more widely available and less wasteful of both power and land than traditional landlines, requiring networks of literal telephone lines.

Then there is Internet

Then of course there is the Internet. Think about it, when was the last time you saw where the Internet came from? You have not and really could not. Originally done through  fiber-optic wire and later wireless communications, the logical end point and intellectual descendant of the original wireless telegraph, ‘the Internet’ has become more of an abstraction than an actual place or even a physical thing.

There are broadcast points and pick-up units, these days in the form of routers but that is the extent of it. Another ancient invention that is due for a centralization upgrade is that of power in the energy sense.

Energy and centralized power

Strange as it may seem given the current state of things, there is, indeed not only the possibility but the likelihood of power, you know electricity, becoming a widely available, centralized utility with little to no environmental damage or even involvement for that matter, aside from the sun, with a major decrease in cost. Are you excited yet?

If there is still some lingering skepticism, like a really nasty wine hangover, from the mid-1990s when solar power was first a big deal despite being extremely expensive and not working nearly as well as it does now, this is understandable but grant me some suspension of disbelief just for a bit.

Following a similar path as the Internet, changing its paradigm from being dominated by major corporations (AOL, Bell etc) before the rise of tenacious little start ups (Linux, Firefox) the means for harnessing solar energy has moved from establishment producers to the realm of the small business and entrepreneur.

The two leading players saving us all from the oppressive oligarchy of fossil fuels and water generated electricity(there is a reason why it is called ‘hydro’) at this point are SolarCity and Sunrun.

Using what among to energy farms, basically several square miles of interconnected solar panels absorbing those warm rays and collection into massive centralized power bank, not unlike traditional electrical power plants. Of course Elon Musk is getting in on it, one of his many talents being jumping right up onto any bandwagon that happens to be passing by.

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Trevor McNeil spent much of his childhood playing video-games on early-form personal computers back when the disks were literally floppy. He attended the University of Victoria, completing a degree in Social Science with a concentration in Technology In Society, while also writing for the campus newspaper. He has written articles for such diverse publications as Humanity Death Watch, PopMatters and Perfect Sound Forever. He is a veteran of numerous “watershed moments” in the history of technological development and firmly believes that Han shot first.

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