David Irvine From MaidSafe on the Advancing Safe Network

🔥Crypto Fireside #41 — Interviews with crypto people.

A photo of David Irvine looking out across his property.
David Irvine founder of Safe Network and CEO Maidsafe.

This latest Crypto Fireside interview is with someone who I consider a legend in the Internet world. David first began his work on the Safe Network over 16 years ago, before Bitcoin was even on the radar and MaidSafe the company building out the Safe Network launched one of the world's first ICOs.

Tenacity is an understatement.

David is the founder and executive director of MaidSafe, the company building Safe Network. What is the Safe Network? In short, the Safe (Secure Access For Everyone) Network is an autonomous network of distributed computers that removes the need for central servers.

The idea is that whatever is possible on today's Internet is also achievable on the Safe Network with the addition of in-built privacy, security, and an in-built ecosystem with its own currency that acts as the lifeblood of the network.  

🔥Hello! Who are you, and what do you do?

DI: I am David Irvine and I enjoy innovation and nature.

I am part of the team building the Safe network which is a truly decentralised approach to modern-day computation and communication. We are building this for the world's people to enhance digital freedom and hopefully promote more innovation.

We have had superb support and many reasons to believe this is something the world needs.

🔥What's your backstory, and how did the Safe Network idea come about?

DI: I was previously a network designer and consultant. Then started a business in Scotland to install networks for small businesses. During this time it seemed the SME offering was purposely clobbered corporate systems. I then decided to create an all-in-one server offering called “eboxit”. This was a box you plug in and it autoconfigured to provide website, intranet, web-based office apps, email, intrusion detection and firewalling, etc. It was the most downloaded project on the internet for a short period of time (cannot remember the old site that you went to for software in the mid-90s, but eboxit was top for a few days/weeks).

Then it appeared to me the issue was not that servers were hard, it was that servers were wrong and that people's own computers could just replace these in a manner where they all connected via software to a global network. That network would dwarf any Google/Microsoft networks of the day and at the same time offer people an even and almost free platform to store data, make and run applications as well as communicate. It seemed a no-brainer and had to be done, by me or anyone out there, but it had to be done.

🔥Describe the process of launching or preparing to launch the Safe Network.

DI: Launch is touted as a moment in time, much like mankind launched when X was born, or Y died, etc. I don’t recognise launch in that manner. To me this is evolution and there are certain points of mention along the way. Design, building the initial team, getting the thing working, making it available to all in some way, upgrading it, having it used, and much more.

However, in terms of releasing the network to the world, our preparation is currently almost 100% technical, i.e. making it work. In parallel, we are ramping up the other bits, such as regulatory compliance, token distribution, funding app developments, and much more.

We were friend and family funded for the first few years and then we did a crowdsale in 2014 and a few unique and interesting raises over the last few years. Funding has been tough, but managing raised cash is critically and morally important to us. So we do sweat the detail in terms of cash.

🔥Take us through your daily process of what it is that you do.

DI: I spend every day on Safe and recently spend time in the garden wandering around thinking of Safe and what we are doing.

I work around the place in the tractor gator or digging up stuff, cutting trees for firewood, or tending the sheep, chickens, ducks, and dogs. I have also planted 6500 trees in the last 4 years. So I am pretty active around the place.

Mostly though it’s all Safe on my mind and will be for a long time yet as we evolve the whole project. I would say I am 10+ hours a day on the computer and the rest wandering and drawing out flows and ideas for different parts of the system.

I do harbour a desire for some robotics and brain simulation work as well as building physical things once more, one day I will get that time.

🔥What has worked to attract and retain users to the Safe Network?

DI: Not marketing, but honesty, openness, and showing integrity and weakness at the same time. I feel it’s all about people and how they behave, interact and debate for me. Life is complex, work is complex and good people can make anything work. Bad people can break the best of systems, so I believe in good people and no more.

🔥The Safe Network does not use Blockchain technology, explain why?

DI: Blockchain is a great tool much like a vector or array is. We use such tools where they are needed. I believe in the most appropriate tool for the job and for a decentralised data network, a centralised data structure like blockchain is the wrong tool.

I don’t see anywhere in nature where a species has a single source of data like that. I revert to nature a lot. It is why the cash-only aspect of life does not drive me much. Ants don’t have wallets ;-) I understand cash and respect what it is and why it’s important to humans, much like whatever your deity is. I respect and understand, but I am aware it’s a human construct, much like time.

At this point of human evolution, I believe money has to be always moving to grease the wheels of human existence and further its advances. To that end, I am a strong believer in exchanging goods and services via a secure and scalable system of digitally secure cash.

🔥What is Safe Network's solution for a consensus mechanism?

DI: Consensus in the blockchain and computer world is an answer to concurrent operations being blocked or made to be linear. It is the slowest of all decision-making processes and is limiting in terms of scale. Add a blockchain and the problem amplifies as you have linearised agreements over a single shared data structure. (this “problem” though is bitcoins' success, so an element of reality is required when discussing these matters)

For data changes, we don’t use consensus, but instead data types that handle concurrency.

Where we do need to fall back to consensus we then use many factors, such as reliable byzantine broadcasts and super majority over supermajority votes using BRB. It’s a fallback in many cases where we can do fork resolution. Where we cannot (such as with money as a fork is double-spend) we use a system of digital bearer certificates with ring signatures and bulletproofs. These combine with the sharded network elders (oldest nodes in a section) to provide a mint that is Sybil resistant and unaware of the owners or amounts being transferred.

This bag of tools is how we see decentralised networks working. None of these tools is more important than the other in so much as the network is concerned.

🔥How are you doing today, and what does the future look like?

DI: We are debugging the network at the moment and part of the company is involved in pre-launch activities.

🔥Through founding Maidsafe and working on Safe Network, what is something you have learned that surprised you?

DI: It has reaffirmed good people build things and you need good people to stay good, that’s not always possible. Also, it is important to stick to principles at all costs.

What surprised me was the tenacity of the supporters, it’s incredible and we owe them everything.

🔥Mistakes were made. What were they and what did you do?

DI: We have made so many mistakes that we now have something we can launch. I am glad of those mistakes and hope many can learn from them. I hope to make an ever-increasing amount of mistakes in the next phase of my dreams.

🔥What have been the most influential things in your life that affected your project? This can include books, podcasts, or people?

DI: Our early investors from 15 years ago have stood by us. Our recent investors understand us and that is the biggest influence. Of course, a tiny minority do get mad, but that’s life and to be expected.

I find interesting people, interesting, regardless of their name or gender, etc. There are folks like Richard Feynman who are matched by some comments on our forums for insight. I hope I am open enough to take them all in, but I remember information more than people. Data interests me.

🔥Do you have any advice for other creators, entrepreneurs, or developers who want to get started or are just beginning?

DI: The number of atoms in the world does not alter if you live or die. You will never know enough, you will never be better than anyone, and nature naturally fights fast change.

Responsible and reasonable are solid qualities and also a solid business strategy for everyone. Be responsible and reasonable where you can (hint, it’s everywhere).

Never take my advice either :-)

🔥Where do you see the blockchain, cryptocurrency, and decentralization space going in the next 5 to 10 years?

DI: The future is not a centralised one controlled by a corporation.

🔥Where can we go to learn more?

DI:

Website: Safe Network

Forum: Safe Net Forum

MaidSafe: MaidSafe

🔥Thank you, David!

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