Announcing “Around the Block”: a Documentary Series about the Minds Behind the Blockchains

Anyone who has tried conveying the narrative of blockchains to layman has experienced the occasional yawn before even getting past the “mining” part. Pouring out recent dramatic events is rarely helpful to hook a friend either: the DAO’s unfoldings, Bitcoin’s future shifting from hands to hands and tales of the ICO craze sometimes get one no further than the usual uninterested nod, and, at most, requests for investment advice. Shouldn’t it be easier to engage anyone with this whole story?


Who are we ?

We’re Felipe Sant’Ana and Paulo Perez, two Brazilians with a background in advertising and business. We met in a film production company some time ago and began working on Paratii - a decentralized video distribution system that puts 100% of earnings under the control of content producers.

Working with Ethereum since earlier days of its blockchain, in Brazil, presented us with the strenuous task of having to introduce the underlying technology and its implications to all kinds of stakeholders. While the decentralized nature of development work allowed us to quickly advance on the technical side, “business as usual” was not evolving at the same pace. There was always an overwhelming amount of talk to be had before any serious deal could take place.

Due to the issues that we incurred in, we pondered - what if there was some public material we could just point to; and tell any developer, internet person or business guy to go watch and get himself in the blockchain mood?

We listed some of the quirkiest but also most profound questions we’ve been getting asked, and reached out to people we always dreamed of meeting in this space. Over the past months, we’ve been interviewing them.

We set out to hear computer scientists and developers; architects and designers; from Berlin to São Paulo to New York; seeking for the brightest heads and unheard ideas.

A common source of discomfort for people is the lack of familiar faces behind cryptocurrencies. It certainly doesn’t help that the biggest blockchain so far was invented by an oriental pseudonym, and the second one by a 19-year old Russian boy.

However, it’s precisely the diversity of people — conflicting or collaborating- that make this whole story so exciting to be a part of (and, of course, it’s precisely the needlessness of familiarity among agents that make DLTs so powerful).

With the current pace of growth, it’s impossible to follow everything that comes out in the blockchain space. Our answer: learning can be more future proof if we focus on understanding the minds behind some of the smartest blockchains out there, instead of focusing on the technicalities of each project.

If narratives are defined as “events that occur in the search for a solution to a problem”, the birth & rise of blockchains is a hell of a story to be told. That’s what any form of science is, in the end — the posing of problems then the search for their solutions. A feedback loop, where good science generates good stories, who push good science forward, and so on… After all, technology without a narrative is just plain code.

Houston, we have a narrative.

We’d happily take credit for the quote above, but it actually comes from a book by Randy Olson, whose main argument is that science is “narratively deficient”. That’s a muddy term, but we’re sure anyone who’ve been following the bitcoin scaling debate understands what it means.

It’s not about the scarcity of stories. Nor about the lack of different voices. “Narratively deficient” means that maybe there’s not enough people within a community dedicated to make sense of what’s happening at the same time that it’s happening.

That occurs to tight-knit scientific groups, or any aggregation of people sharply focused on more or less aligned objectives — the case of the crypto-communities.

As the source of “narrative-building power” has been gradually spreading outwards of the inner circles of core developers, giving voice to issues brought up by economists, journalists and community members of all sorts, we’re starting to see a fuller picture of this crazy experiment that’s taking place. The notion of a narrative (as in a culture) is emerging slowly, after the the notion of a story (as in a roadmap).

Science communicator Luke Robert Mason recently threw at an audience the idea of an ethos that might emerge from the Ethereum ecosystem — the etherpunk. This thought is applicable to cryptocurrencies in general (more specifically, the communities around them). Popular culture is starting to be more receptive. The effect Al Gore’s “Inconvenient Truth” had on climate science, and the one Morgan Spurlock’s “Super Size Me” had on nutrition studies might have another variation with blockchains and decentralised systems. This time, probably not pushed by a single legacy piece of work, but by a distributed pool of many. There has been, notably, some good content on the subject (Blockchain and Us, Techcrunch’s Trust Disrupt Series and StatusEthereum Interview Series are some). We aim to strengthen this movement.

A first glimpse of “Around the Block”

Around the Block’s episodes are centered on people, but each feature multiple interviewees.

Our first teaser shows one of them: Sergio Demian Lerner, co-founder of RSK Labs, author of the Lumino Transaction Compression Protocol and a man that has been the subject of many stories himself, regarding the New York Agreement on Segwit2x scaling for Bitcoin. Sergio is part of the vibrant Argentinian crypto community.

We had the chance to meet him at the Central Park, a day after the world found out a network worth more than U$30 billion would be put on his code’s shoulders.

The video along this article is just a teaser. We’ll post some more, before deploying 6 episodes that constitute the series, along their full stories. The roll-out begins this autumn. Further interviewees include Gavin Wood (Parity); Simon de la Rouviere (ConsenSys); Viktor Trón (ethereum); Charlie Shrem and Anthony Di Iorio (Jaxx); Alexey Akhunov, Aron Fischer (Colony) and Alex Van de Sande (ethereum) and more.

Worth noting: Around the Block will avoid taking political stances. As previously mentioned, this content is not focused on companies, brands and businesses exploring decentralized networks. It is, indeed, on the people who are building these networks. All we want to convey is a well crafted, cohesive and humane account of the most fascinating social experiment ever played on the internet.

Stay tuned and make yourself heard - is there anyone in special you’d like to see interviewed? Join the Around the Block channel on gitter, follow Paratii on Twitter and subscribe to our video channel. Suggest names, get access to some extra footage and feel free to throw ideas at us. Finally, signup for the newsletter below if you fancy updates in your inbox :)


Paratii is an embeddable video player that aims to close the gap between browsers and the Ethereum blockchain, allowing for any internet user to participate on a conscious, decentralized and fair video distribution network. “Around the Block” is its original content debut.