Maidsafe Evangelist Profile - Niall Douglas of The Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation


Niall (ned14) is very modest isn’t he :slight_smile: …co author of the book ‘Economists and the Powerful:…’ and currently contributing C++ development with Maidsafe

His co author Norbert Häring gives a very revealing presentation on elite power and hidden power here

Niall can be followed on G+ and hopefully soon on SAFEnetwork

The topics covered at The Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation look very interesting and worthy of further exploration.

Please correct this info if inaccurate in any way, if this is the standard of folk Maidsafe are on-boarding, were looking good :wink:


very cool, thanks for pointing him out.


Rather surprised to see this … I spent six hours today wading, very slowly, through the submodularisation of the Boost C++ Libraries … I might even get the next Boost release being tested tomorrow … maybe.

Anyway, I really don’t deserve any particular recognition. I’m just a guy who isn’t particularly good at an usually large number of things, and I’m also here mainly through some weird twists of fate rather than successfully executing any plan at all. The book with Norbert came out of my association with the World Economics Association where I’m their social networking lead, and that came out of retraining into Economics at the University of St. Andrews after the tech bubble collapse made me unemployable in 2001. I graduated from St. Andrews just in time to see finance collapse, and so suddenly I was back into tech again despite the terrible Irish economy, so I tried emigrating in 2012 to North America where BlackBerry took me onto a task force they had which was going to take the company into a new direction had BB10 been a success, and hence I got involved with the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation as BlackBerry HQ used to be on the UW campus (I knew Thomas Homer-Dixon at WICI from a student society I used to run at St. Andrews, you can see some of events the we ran at Unfortunately BlackBerry had to chop 40% of its workforce, so after ten months there I and my entire team were out and I had to return to Ireland due to lack of work visas as Canada had just clamped down on immigration. And Irish tech employers are not keen on people like me, so I was still unemployable.

MaidSafe then came to my rescue, and I am hugely indebted to them. They are keeping me and my family alive with a stable income, and I’ve been able to return to blue sky software development (about seven hours a week) after a long hiatus forced by the instability and a touch of RSI. I’ve hopefully returned the favour to them by getting Bjorn Reese onboard - he’s a really great engineer, his code is in lots of bits of the internet - and I’m going to try getting one of the legendary British software engineers of the 1990s onboard in two weeks time as I’ll be visiting him personally to see if I can nag him into it. If that comes about, we may do an intro here, without this guy mobile phones and tablets simply wouldn’t be the way they are today.

Anyway I also presented at this year’s C++ Now which is the world’s elite conference for C++ (, hopefully I’ll be selected for 2015 too. I’m on the core Boost C++ libraries dev team, and I’m friendly with a lot of the top engineers in the main multinationals. I really can’t hold a candle to them on a skills or knowledge level, but I seem to amuse them, I have a very good picture of Chandler Carruth’s finger (long story) which was a fun night indeed.

I can’t really think of anything else to say, but I’ve been on the internet since the early 1990s, and you’ll find me all over the place, lots of writing messages like these. Anyway thank you very much for thinking me of some standard, hopefully there will be no more limelight now! :smile:



Good on you Niall, having connections like these to on-board is awesome.

It was what you said (pasted below) that blew me away. I have followed blogs like ZeroHedge (Austrian biased) for years and these words had no right to surprise me. Once my eyes could see, I found myself walking round my city in amazement at all the symbology that is embedded in architecture, business logos and my State Parliament…covered in Sun hieroglyphics as was some churches… whoa there!

I need to change my view on the world constantly, when new information comes to light. I cant imagine what will come to light post SAFE…some of those Vatican documents and books would be good

Could you recommend any sources that would help reinforce the information you provided here? Maybe some Martin Armstrong/ Michael Ruppert in there?


This is a common viewpoint. It’s more interesting than simple displacement of people by automation though. If you look at what economists call “the participation rate” which is the total percentage of the population involved in money earning activities, it’s been trending down in all western nations for some years now as more baby boomer retire and more young people wisely delay buying into the very bad economic deal on the table for them, which is why there is such high and rising youth unemployment.

Where things get much more interesting is that the exact same thing happened as the Roman Empire went into decline - fewer and fewer people earned their keep over time, and instead were sustained by those in power for various political and power reasons.

Similarly, why Egypt and many of the Middle Eastern countries recently collapsed is also due to the consequences of repeatedly buying sections of population off instead of creating use for them.

Basically, it’s always easier to kick the can down the road and buy off trouble. So that’s what those in charge do. Increment that over time and before you know it a third of the population aren’t doing anything useful, and the merry go round stops turning.

Those in charge of the US are well aware of this phenomenon of course, and that’s why there has been such a concerted push since the 1970s to keep the US looking more like a developing country with huge wealth inequalities with very weak social supports.

The idea is to maintain US preeminence by always remaining a developing country. And maybe that might work if there wasn’t such an enormous disguised and renamed welfare state in the US, though if that were also removed I would doubt anyone would want much to live or work there any more than Westerners would wish to emigrate to Nigeria for its economic opportunities (which are legion BTW, and many in Africa do emigrate there due to how much money one can make, but equally there is almost zero state support for you if you are unlucky in life and most Westerners would prefer few opportunities and security instead).

There is also the effect of private pension funding which has stopped working and has had huge consequences on how the workplace hires. Basically Bretton Woods set up a formula where a portion of wages was forcibly reinvested into the same companies via pension funds which was a way of renaming profits to avoid tax.

That works and inflates your stockmarket bubble so long as more is paid in than removed. Once more people retire than pay in, you get Japan where their stagflation began at around the same time people began to retire in number.

Much of the recent necessity to print money to inflate stockmarkets via quantitative easing is really about reducing the size of private pension funds i.e. transferring value away from old people to elsewhere in society. Sucks for those who “saved” all that money though because it’s being intentionally inflated away - that is what quantitative easing means.

Equally, the money never really existed anyway, it was a chimera. The only real old age provision comes either out of work or out of taxes as welfare as it always has done, and the long term picture on that - ignoring fossil fuels running out - truly is appalling.

The fixes to all this are all easy in the technical sense, but politically impossible without severe social dislocation. Fossil fuels running out would have been a good excuse for imposing autocracy, but those in power tend to greatly dislike having to get their hands dirty, despite what movies and books would have you believe. The vast majority like to tell themselves they do good for humanity, and that is hard to do when you’re squashing dissent. Makes it hard to sleep well at night you know


That sounds similar to my story. I was not looking for MaidSafe at all. My association with @dirvine started while I was on the Ethereum community forum trying to resolve the scalability of blockchain technology. I was experimenting with several solutions and saw one of David’s posts. I looked into his ideas and found his blog.

That really caught my attention and I started corresponding with him about other ideas. He invited me to check out MaidSafe and the rest just happened naturally. I’m very happy he invited me.

It is a “weird twist of fate” as if we are like orphan ants randomly floating down the river, and just happen to “link” to one another, forming a raft that is now attracting other ants to become an unstoppable moving force. It may be a little poetic, but I think it really describes the events we have been witnessing recently.

Just wait, they haven’t seen anything yet!


Thanks for the sharing about you Niall - quite a journey you’ve had - maybe cut and paste to the Intros topic :slight_smile:

I’m musing about contacting more of my old software buddies as I was lucky enough to rub shoulders with many bright sparks along the way. I reckon we’re attracting good people and its very exciting to learn about each and everyone who turns up here, whatever the reasons, background, skills, and so on.

As for RSI, I hope that is managable now but if you have any need for help get in touch as I have been there, done a lot of research and been through a long recovery (from being literally unable to hold my hands over a keyboard in 2002).


Just quickly on sources as I must get back to configuring this new ARM CI test slave:

Figures on the British emprire trade flows come from A.H. Imlah (1958), Economic Elements in the Pax Britannica, you can see how the Imperial leadership repeately bought off vested interests who agitated, this continued right up until Britain became broken in the 1970s and had to be bailed out. The name of the paper which studied similar trade flows in the Roman Empire escapes me, but I would say ignore the misleading crap about Roman coin debasage which is US right wing nonsense, it’s irrelevant compared to the history of Roman commodity price volatility which is what really worried the leadership at the time - it’s a huge reason they conquered Egypt, because of its stable harvests which were then increasing used as dole as the Empire lands aged, and because they had desertified the land around an expanding circle around Rome, so yields kept falling (indeed, the land around Rome became so fallow, bankrupting the old Roman nobility, they had to relocate the Imperial capital to Milan).

Regarding pension flow effects on stockmarket inflation, there is plenty of orthodox Economics research on this. Start at and keep reading, you’ll get the picture quickly.


Thanks for your time Niall, great to get some info with no agenda attached.


Oh I wouldn’t say I have no agenda attached. I would suppose myself of the same global ruling elite who attend Owl burning ceremonies (look up “Cremation of Care” if you’re interested), it’s just they are currently richer than I by a few million fold. We all went to the same schools, have the same social networks, come from the same established monied families and think similarly, if not holding similar opinions.



In that case, I’d ask for some references/authors on where these elite opinions originate…because I am fairly well read on these things but I don’t have access to the Lucis Trust library in London. Plato, Existentialism, Bacon, etc?


A library wouldn’t help you. because this is something which is born through ordeal into you, and I doubt can be understood from books. The most common way the children of the ruling elite learn “to do power” is to attend those institutions designed to inculcate how to exercise power properly in those strong enough to endure, with just the right amount of ruthlessness to ensure you can swim with the sharks and not get eaten but not too much you’ll attract the wrong sort of attention (especially of the legal/press kind). Such institutions include private schools and elite universities, that way the newly wealthy can buy their children in without chafing too hard with dissatisfaction. Later institutions include private members clubs, secret societies, serving on boards of directorships, high end escort agencies, and so on.

Now, from where do these elite opinions originate? I have to admit, you’ve given me pause … as it’s past midnight and I’ve had twelve hours of sleep in two days, I’m going to warble a bit in the hope I am useful, but I apologise in advance if I am not. I would say that Indo-European elite opinions have changed remarkably little since at least the Roman Empire considering how things like Christianity or Marxism have swept over, they are evolutionarily stable and therefore their energetic system must be highly conserved by the population as vitally important. I do remember reading “Confessions of an English Opium Eater” and recognising instantly that mindset of the ruling elite. Some absolutely socially required watching for St. Andrews undergraduates were the BBC documentaries by Adam Curtis, most specifically the The Mayfair Set, The Century of the Self, and The Trap - Whatever Happened to our Dream of Freedom. These are on Youtube, and everyone should watch them. What is key to understand with these is the difference between what normal people see when they watch them and what ruling elites see - the former learn stuff not normally talked about because it’s fairly taboo, the latter find astonishment that someone has the gall to talk about topics typically taken as given in elite power circles in such a public setting, and then more amazement that society actually doesn’t really care (and of course Curtis is “one of us” himself). A huge difference, but perhaps useful in explaining where elite opinions originate. A recent fairly realistic example of how the ruling elite thinks is the trilogy of TV movies from the BBC starting with “Page Eight” (, also by one of us, but also quite close to how I am told things are done, and fairly accurately reflecting the opinion of Tony Blair by the ruling elite (they really, really do not like being lied to - you will note how the Queen invites everyone except Tony Blair to all royal anything, he was stupid to spin the same lies to her as everyone else, and he embarrassed her). You will notice how the ending is especially typical of how the ruling elite sorts itself out internally, quietly, behind closed doors but with a presentable and credible public face (I’m not saying that is actually what happened, it is fiction). A useful example of how one might go about gaining elite opinions, and therefore taken as credible by the ruling elite, might be in how the Sinn Fein/IRA leadership systematically went about duplicating how Michael Collins had won the Irish revolution by establishing credibility in the British ruling elite that they could do business reliably. Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness came from uneducated backgrounds, but as with Collins they set about getting themselves degrees whilst locked in internment camps and forming established lines of communication with power brokers in the British establishment, and then went about blowing up the right sort of thing (the means of money) instead of the wrong sort of thing (people). Gerry Adams wrote a very good book about this actually, as he said there they were shooting and blowing people and stuff up and got nowhere for decades, but when (it is implied) Gerry and Martin successfully pushed for a change of tactics in blowing up instead the centres of trade like the London Docklands, well just two of those bombs and suddenly they were at the peace table - as he ruefully notes, had they realised this twenty years earlier a lot of lives would have been spared. But that’s my point - as Bourdieu would put it, before the IRA signalled it “didn’t get it” by blowing people up and it was therefore dismissed as unimportant. When they signalled they now did get it by educating its leadership to doctoral level, learning to walk the walk and talk the talk of the ruling elite, and signalling that they would expense the ruling class half a billion dollars per bomb from now on, the ruling elite welcomed them onboard (and it has been a very warm and cosy relationship since, much to the loss of all other actors in the shark tank, indeed Sinn Fein are pummelling the traditional Irish political parties since peace gave them lots of free time, but they have kept their wartime organisation and especially discipline and have made excellent use of the international power elite networks they formed during peace negotiations).

Anyway, it’s past 1am now, and I have more RUDP to soak test tomorrow, so I’m afraid that’s my best for now. Apologies.



Awesome Niall,

I’ve watched all the Adam Curtis several times…time for a refresh.

Going to watch that BBC Trilogy now…thanks.


The other thing which occurs to me after sleep is to regularly read the same information sources as the ruling elite, and compare what they read with what mass media and their pundits push. The Economist is certainly one of the better known sources, most multinational CEOs who aren’t incompetent read it, how the news is reported there regularly has different factual content than mass media and it generally has a much higher truth content because the ruling elite do really need to know the truth in order to rule successfully. Since they added a dedicated section on Chinese news, I am told it has become required reading for the Chinese leadership as they learn a great deal they would otherwise have difficulty in learning (note the Chinese section is usually ripped out in normal distros for the Chinese population, but you can get uncensored copies in Hong Kong). They also have a dispassionate view of US politics which most Americans could do with reading.



@ned14 still reading your posts with great interest I’m interested in your agenda with regard to MaidSafe. Long term you seem, like me, to foresee pretty unpalatable outcomes on a large scale, though perhaps more for our children or grandchildren than ourselves. Right now, MaidSafe helps you support yourself and your family, but I read that it is more than that too. But what?

Is it the technology and how this might affect general outcomes, the potential to lift yourself (and family) into a lifeboat of increased wealth, or… ?

For me I have my eye on both, but I’m not clear how or what, mainly inspired at the potential and encouraged by the ethos here, and particularly from David Irvine.


Firstly I think anyone who does a technical-technology startup for wealth has already failed as they’ll be looking at the wrong things. There are technology startups which aren’t technical of course, the classic alternative is the “me too” technology startup which closely replicates an existing startup but somewhat improves on it and then relies on better management, marketing and ruthlessness to subdue all competition. Don’t underestimate those, Facebook was a “me too” clone originally, as was Google, as was Microsoft, and those types of replicant-technology startup can make you extremely rich. However MaidSafe is not a replicant-technology startup, here it’s about the engineering of novelty, and none of us are earning but a fraction of what we would if we were elsewhere. I also don’t personally expect to become wealthy from working on this project - it would be nice, but I don’t expect it nor does that at all motivate me.

So what’s my personal agenda here then? Well, for me personally it’s probably these:

  1. Working with MaidSafe is pleasant. The code is well written, the team are competent, your output is open source and therefore won’t get thrown away arbitrarily because some manager cocked up nor do you have to deal with Legal for every single commit you try to release, people aren’t out to stab you and your group in the back as is normal in corporate employment, and you get very significant decision making autonomy here, whereas in corporate nothing happens for days until the decision making chain completes during which you spend your days pointlessly reducing the defect count, and then they’ll reject even the most common sense work items so you end up having to disguise needed work items as something management thinks is important rather than just trusting the initial pitch. Those MaidSafe employees formerly from corporate all tell a very similar story here, working in corporate sucks and it’s actually worth 10k a year to be away from all that.

  2. The tech pendulum has swung away from Europe back to the US, and we’ve lost a huge amount of indigenous blue sky software R&D capacity here over the past few decades to the extent that if you want to do anything interesting in software, you probably have to physically relocate to the US. It doesn’t help that European culture is particularly bad at launching successful software platforms, in fact our only sustainable successes not bought up by the Americans are our open source software platforms where we are probably emerging as the world leader. I’d like to see us advance that lead and become dominant, as I think it could be a renaissance for our tech industry here (the European welfare model makes it much safer to work in open source than in the US, plus tax for incorporated individuals is very low, unlike the US, so we can work for cheaper). MaidSafe has a strong chance of contributing significantly to that.

  3. MaidSafe have encouraged me to improve the state of the art in testing, algorithms and so on. I put in about five to seven hours a week on pure blue sky work for which I bill them at half rate as this stuff could be very useful to MaidSafe later if it pans out. Whilst at BlackBerry, and remembering my role there was almost entirely blue sky R&D, let’s just say it was not a supportive environment outside my division.

  4. We’ve just had a baby, and as the cost of childcare in Ireland exceeds what my wife would earn working in Ireland (Ireland is unusual amongst European countries in not subsidising childcare until they are three years old), she has had to give up her career and her life. As she has two Masters degrees as I do, she has found the transition difficult, so being able to work from home and give her a break from the screaming for even just ten minutes is worth a great deal to me. As I bill MaidSafe hourly, I can also take the baby for an hour to give her a nap and so on as it’s easier to cope with the loss of your life and freedom when you’re not exhausted.

You’ll note that none of the above is enthusiasm about the platform, or cryptocurrencies, or any of the stuff that most people here are enthusiastic about. This isn’t to say the platform isn’t the most likely next-gen Bitcoin as it is in my opinion, but for me that’s a reflection of the quality of the team David has built (good team will always build good engineering), and much of why I’m here is because working with quality people is worth a surprising amount of income to me. I don’t wish this to mean that my colleagues in my former employments were in any way mediocre as they were not - I’ve been blessed with working repeatedly with top talent in my local group. But like most engineers I get sick of dealing with large org politics and crappy code written by mediocre engineers. I just want to get on with things instead of dealing with banana skins being deliberately thrown at me or my team or bailing out some team who should be sacked, and yet never are for political reasons.



Thanks for answering. On the tech / money front there are lots of ways to make money in start ups, original and otherwise. And it’s the start up aspect that makes them fun too, though hard for folk with family, though not always. Been there, done that, made a small but not lifeboat sized amount of money. It seems to me you had the misfortune to work for a company with a poor ethos, probably due to their size. My first job was with such a company, though not in software, this was 1981, but I was able to make the leap to a fabulous place after only a year of that, then to a software start up for the second decade of my career. Things have changed a lot, but the start up option is as available as ever in the UK. You certainly don’t have to go to the USA, even if you want to work for a US company like Google, Microsoft etc (which wouldn’t appeal to me - small was / is more my thing).

I’m surprised that with such an interest and expertise in the political, philosophical and economic fields, that this doesn’t figure in your interest in MaidSafe, and with the views you’ve expressed about the outlook on these areas, also that they are not mentioned in your personal agenda.

Thanks again. I appreciate you are busy, but hope you’ll keep sharing your ideas and knowledge beyond MaidSafe.


Ah, that’s because the economics, philosophy and politics behind MaidSafe are currently straightforward and relatively uncomplicated - basically the proposition is currently not hard enough nor certain enough to get me interested. I will become far more interested when the limits of the platform become obvious, and the effects of design choices ripple outwards. For example, as RUDP is presently designed it won’t scale to gigabit ethernet or even a 4G mobile connection, which may or may not be important to the wider use case. We could rewrite RUDP to scale to ethernet and beyond, but the question then becomes can we see any valid business case for doing so?



Watched some of this during refactor of encrypt, eye opening is not the word. This is a game for many of these folks and they are programmed to not even notice. Great info Niall, cheers for the heads up.


Just watched this in it’s entirety. IMHO The mistake the junk bond kings made was not kicking back enough to the bureaucrats in Washington and other governments. Today that mistake has been “corrected” to a large degree by companies and their lobbyists.

Let me throw out a naive question and vision and let me know just how naive I am. Would this have happened if the corporations would have been 100% or say 70% owned and managed by the employees who were working in them? Would they have been bought and crushed for the sake of profits? Is it possible that the good companies would have maybe downsized themselves to stay competitive with others?

As some of you know, builder owned cooperatives in the form of OVNs (Open Value Networks) running on the MaidSafe Network, earning safecoin as their bread and butter is a vision I have for the future. Entities that are builder owned and managed rather than those owned by both empathetic and profit focused shareholders and managed by corporate lapdog managers is my dream. This vision started when I heard about this man and saw what he did with his father’s small engineering firm. I think more and more people are seeing this vision as well.

So how naive am I?


Nearly. The mistake the junk bond kings made was defrauding the top end professional classes like surgeons - the movies “Boiler Room” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” do a good, if factually inaccurate, capture of the events. The trouble with defrauding them is they are either in or have access to the ruling elite, and they are in a position to have something done about their upset at being stolen from. Basically, it’s a case of deregulating so they can steal from everybody and return the profits to us, but do not steal from us.

What’s happened since is two fold. Firstly, the top end professional classes wised up and learned to not take cold calls from people hawking investments. Secondly, junk bonds lost their power to raise enormous leverage to high frequency trading, so now it’s derivatives traders who are the kings who defraud everybody. It’s just they do it in increments of 0.0005% at a time.

Employee and customer owned corporations are highly successful economic units and compete head to head with capital owned corporations, and have done so since their inception with the Rochdale Principles. They are at their zenith in Europe where they began followed by South America, but even the US has a surprising concentration - I vaguely remember reading that 60% of US agriculture is directly produced by cooperatives, and 80% mostly so.

That said, they are no panacea. They have their own pathologies. The UK’s Cooperative Group which are a sort of “customer owned conglomerate” and are an enormous retail presence in the UK are probably going to have to be bailed out soon by the UK taxpayer. That happens, on average, every 25 years or so. What is unfair is that despite competing directly agains the other three big food retailers, they are the only ones who get direct government support like that. This is because politicians get worried when 25 million owner-members simultaneously write to them about their savings getting wiped out etc (In addition to food, the Cooperative Group is also a bank, a funeral directorship, a travel agency, one of the UK’s largest farmers, and indeed one of the globally important central clearing banks heavily used by US banks as their European clearing house, so you even get US banks pestering the UK government for a bailout). They are a sort of super-monopoly, and have become so big they have ended up becoming an extension of government - indeed, they regularly have their top board members raised to the House of Lords who once there are very proactive campaigners, as unlike a former bank executive, lobbying openly for the Cooperative Group is not taboo.