Here be dragons

Is this a warning, or an invitation? It's all in the point of view…

Here Be Dragons.

As Marina pointed out, this is a phrase from mapping, a marker of the unknown, of the dangerous; a warning, and an admission of ignorance.

There’s another phrase, though, that springs to mind when talking about dragons:

Slaying the dragon.

Dragon-slayers are the heroes of myth and fable. They go forth and slay the dragons that terrorise us. They rescue those in thrall to the dragons, or bring bounty from the dragon’s hoard. They take away fear and uncertainty and make the world a better place.

This is an odd dichotomy. Fear and heroism. Danger and victory. We warn people away from the dragons, yet we idolise those who slay them.

Isn’t this a familiar feeling? Doesn’t this resonate with the online world?

We idolise and celebrate those who have reshaped the world around us. Digital pioneers from Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, through Tim Berners-Lee and Mark Zuckerberg are cultural icons, now, part of the narrative of our world.

And yet we worry, we fret. We fret about data, who is collecting it and why. We fret about privacy and security. We worry and fear disruption, which changes business models and renders old business to ashes. Some would have us walk away, steer clear of these risks. They’re dangerous, we don’t know what the consequences will be. Maintain the status quo, don’t change too much.

Here and now is safe. Over there, in the future? Well, there be dragons.

But change, development and progress aren’t safe, comfortable processes. There’s a reason the industrial revolution is know as a, well, revolution. A status quo was over-turned. People’s lives were changed. It was risky, dangerous and frightening. The luddites reacted against it. They knew that there were dragons, and they feared them.

But one by one, those dragons were slain, the map filled in, and our world grew. And, in the main, it grew better.

However much it grows, though, there remains terra incognito at the fringes of the map. There are dragons. And the world is divided between those who fear them, and those who would slay them.

Here Be Dragons was a warning – but only to the cautious, the unadventurous, the fearful. To the curious, the adventurous and the brave it’s an invitation. Come here, find the dragon, slay it and remake the map with what you put in its place.

For the entrepreneur, the innovator and the disruptor, Here Be Dragons is that invitation. It’s a siren call to sally forth, and change the world. The digital industry needs to know where the real dragons are, the big ones. The ones that change people’s lives. Slaying imaginary dragons helps no-one. The real dragons we’re seeking, the ones we will slay, are the one that are stopping us manifestly making life better. A dragon is an unsolved problem, an unexpected challenge, a barrier to an unforeseen opportunity to change life.

In Berlin, in April, we’ll show you where the dragons are. How will you slay them, and what will you put in their place?