The Power of Stories to Build Networks

Over the last year, we’ve watched with interest as the tech industry press published various articles inspired by HBO’s hugely popular ‘Silicon Valley’ TV show. Although the show is one of those rare beasts – one that’s both funny and accurate about the industry it’s parodying – it was the story of an attempt by a wacky startup to pivot and build a decentralised internet that really captured their attention.

As the articles point out, the startup’s idea is not quite as crazy as it first sounds, with each one explaining that this type of work is actually taking place in the real world. For the most part, these articles then focused on a few specific companies who’ve recently been working in a similar area. But there was little, if any, mention of MaidSafe or the SAFE Network (something that was pointed out in various places by our community on the Safenet Forum amongst other places).

So for those who watched the series premiere of Season 5 of ‘Silicon Valley’ earlier this week, the eagle-eyed amongst you might have noticed a few familiar names at the end of the show…

Silicon Valley Credits

Credits from Season 5 of ‘Silicon Valley’

Yes, that’s right – David, Nick and Viv have had a number of conversations behind the scenes with the team behind Silicon Valley. We were delighted to provide advice to the production team of Silicon Valley (including a face to face meeting at the studios in Hollywood). Mind you, we’re not holding out for that trip in kilts to the Emmys quite yet….  

You might ask why, with so many other things going on, we got involved. The answer’s quite straightforward really. As one of the most established ‘groups’ in this area, we’ve been working away at building a new decentralised internet since 2006. We understand both the crucial importance and the complexity of pulling off such an audacious goal – and we’ll continue to do all that we can to support the awareness of what a decentralised web means for the world.

Significant changes in society are the culmination of many different factors. And it’s important to remember that every great societal change is preceded by the stories that first get created, shared and adopted by individuals. Stories bring people together, creating natural networks of individuals. They create the foundations that allow networks to grow and ultimately enable us to pursue goals collectively that are far greater than any one person can achieve alone. The pattern has been repeated time and again throughout history. And it’s a sign of the times that we live in that the focus of our obsession with the SAFE Network has now become the subject of a top-ranked TV show.

It’s hard to imagine the same thing happening even a couple of years ago. But today every one of us can now see different flavours of the same basic stories around data security becoming increasingly popular as conversation themes across many different groups. And as these stories spread, so do the numbers of concerned people who engage publicly with issues that we all must ultimately resolve around topics such as Facebook and Cambridge Analytica (amongst so many others). 

Admittedly, we’re sensitive to the fact that these stories are building – because we are utterly committed to the goals of the decentralised web. Today’s internet is broken. It’s not just affecting the privacy of individual consumers. It is now leading to censorship, fake news and attempts (often successful as we now discover) to interfere in the democratic process. We passionately believe that we have to take a stand to defend what we believe to be the fundamental values of the internet: openness, privacy and freedom of expression.

It’s great to see such a high profile award-winning show take on these all-too-prescient topics. But it’s about far more than that. For us, it’s fantastic to watch as these goals become shared by ever greater numbers of people and collectively we can sense the pent-up demand for action before it’s too late. So please now, more than ever, help us to spread the word that a change is needed. The decentralised internet is coming. We can’t guarantee the SAFE Network will be live by the end of Season 5…..but we can guarantee that we won’t stop until we’ve delivered it.