In the fast-developing world of cryptocurrencies, blockchain and other types of Distributed Ledger Technologies (DLT’s) offer a digital way to record transactions made in the virtual world. This new concept of a blockchain is a permanent and decentralized system used to verify transactions without relying on a third-party value or authority. Instead of a centralized bank system that uses electronic money, blockchain functions as a public financial transaction database for digital currencies such as bitcoin. Without the need for a central database or administrator, there is a considerable demand from many businesses for this kind of tech tool. Through cutting out intermediaries, blockchain is meant to streamline business processes and enable them to take advantage of cryptocurrencies. Many investors were eager to explore this new technology and had high hopes for how cryptocurrencies and blockchain could revolutionize virtual transactions. The excitement created a considerable amount of hype surrounding blockchain and led to many companies investing millions in cryptocurrencies. However, not everyone believes the hype. The fear of losing investments coupled with concerns about security, still left doubts about whether blockchain and cryptocurrency technology is truly beneficial to all businesses. A lack of in depth understanding of the new technology also created confusion in potential adopters of blockchain. Without addressing these concerns, the hype surrounding DLT’s and cryptocurrencies could be misleading to businesses looking to invest. In order to cut through the hype and address concerns about adopting blockchain, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has introduced a tool that helps businesses discern whether or not blockchain and other DLT’s are viable solutions to pursue. Their decision model provides a series of eleven guided questions that offer a rationale based on a business’s unique resources and needs. WEF aims to prevent over investments or bad decisions by ensuring the tool is unbiased and provides a “balanced perspective” for evaluating blockchains. The decision model functions as a framework that also articulates to businesses which type, if any, blockchain is appropriate to use. There are three main types of DLT’s: permissionless, public systems; permissionless, private systems; or hybrid systems. Each type is useful for different kinds objectives and have different sets of requirements for use. In the full report, WEF outlines uses for private versus public ledgers and provides a table that organizes each type in relation to their level of decentralization and transaction speed. This toolkit was workshopped at the WEF Annual Meeting this year and was developed with input from a diverse variety of businesses that showed high interest in adopting blockchain. With their high level of interest in participating in this new technology, WEF decided to go beyond providing business with a reference tool for blockchains and provide a method for problem analysis to decide “whether blockchain might be useful for a particular problem,” without needing prior knowledge of blockchain technology. This approach helps clear up confusion on exactly how blockchain works and how it could meet their specific needs. Characteristics of businesses that demonstrate high potential use include a shared repository, multiple writers that record transactions, minimal trust, presence of intermediaries, and transaction dependencies. Businesses that have demonstrated interest in using blockchain include medical insurance, banks, and energy companies, but only few demonstrate a practical use for DLT’s. Medical insurance, for example, fails to meet the requirements that prove blockchains are appropriate for their business. Blockchain was proposed to allow medical insurance companies to keep track of patient medical claims, reduce costs, increase transparency and reduce trade. However, after going through the decision model, it is revealed that the medical industry’s heavy regulation and need for close oversight is not suited for blockchain’s lack of a third-party authority. On the other hand, a leading software company that uses graphics processing units (GPU’s) for customer projects would benefit from adopting blockchain.  Using blockchain and a token-based system would provide an adequate solution for “the chronic GPU shortage and lack of economies of scale” and reduce overall costs for the company. By implementing a new decision model, WEF hopes to “mitigate the hype” surrounding blockchain technologies. This new framework will allow potential business investors to take a practical approach and reduce their overall risk when experimenting with new DLT’s and investing in blockchain.

But it’s difficult to think about value when we have no buoy for understanding it outside our traditional lenses: for example, our time, our job, and what others tell us they are worth in cash. This, largely, is the world’s paradigm for value so far. But understanding what value really means changes everything—and will be at the center of the decentralized revolution in global coordination that will unfold over the next decade. So, where do we begin?

Let’s start with gold.

Gold is an inherent value. When backing a market, gold allows us to grow a balanced economy well into the trillions. But why does it allow for massive stable markets to form around it? It is gold's permanence that creates stability. We understand that gold will always have value, because it is inherent in all of us, not just in one part of the world, but everywhere, not just today, but tomorrow and for the long haul.

In the 1930s when the gold standard was removed, we learned that the U.S. dollar didn’t need gold to back its economy to flourish. We learned that it was just a symbol for U.S. citizens to decentralize their coordination around the United States economy.

It turns out, common agreement is a philosophy for building shared economy.

And so it seems inherent value is a marker for us to begin exploring what the future could look like—a future beyond gold and the existing realm of credit. And so what else has inherent value? Is education as valuable as gold? What about healthcare? What about a vote that can’t be tampered with? What about an ID that can’t be stolen or erased? What about access to nutrition or clean water? You will find value everywhere you look.

It turns out, we’ve already done the legwork necessary to uncover the most elemental inherent values: The Sustainable Development Goals are commitments grown out of the drive to bring to life basic tenets of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the closest possible social contract we have to a global, common agreement.

We’ve already agreed, as a global community, to ensure inclusive and equitable access to quality education. We’ve already agreed to empower all women and girls, to ensure pure and clean water access for all, to promote health at all stages of life, and to end hunger.

We’ve already agreed.

Our agreements are grounded in deep value centers that are globally shared, but undervalued and unfulfilled. The reason for this is our inability to quantify intangible value. All of these rich, inherent values are still nebulous and fragmented in implementation—largely existing as ideals and blueprints for deep, globally shared common agreement. That is, we all agree education, health, and equality have value, but we lack common units for understanding who and who is not contributing value—leaving us to fumble in our own, uncoordinated siloes as we chase the phantoms of impact. In essence, we lack common currencies for our common agreements.

Now we find ourselves at the nexus of the real paradigm of Blockchain, allowing us to fuse economics with inherent value by proving the participation of some great human effort, then quantifying the impact of that effort in unforgeable and decentralized ledgers. It allows us to build economic models for tomorrow, that create wholly new markets and economies for and around each of the richest of human endeavors.

In late 2017 at the height of the Bitcoin bubble, without individual coordination, planning, or the help of institutions, almost $1 trillion was infused into blockchain markets. This is remarkable, and the revolution has only just begun. When you realize that Blockchain is in a similar stage of development as the internet pre-AOL, you will see a glimpse of the global transformation to come.

Only twice in the information age have we had such a paradigm shift in global infrastructure reform—the computer and the internet. While the computer taught us how to store and process data, the Internet built off that ability and furthered the conversation by teaching us how to transfer that information. Blockchain takes another massive step forward—it builds off the internet, adding to the story of information storage and transfer—but, it teaches us a new, priceless and not yet understood skill: how to transfer value.

This third wave kicked off with a rough start—as happens with the birth of new technologies and their corresponding liberties. Blockchain has, thus far, been totally unregulated. Many, doubtless, have taken advantage. A young child, stretching their arms for the first couple times might knock over a cookie jar or two. Eventually, however, they learn to use their faculties—for evil or for good. As such, while it’s wise to be skeptical at this phase in blockchain’s evolution, it’s important not to be blind to its remarkable implications in a post-regulated world, so that we may wield its faculties like a surgeon’s scalpel—not for evil or snake-oil sales, but for the creation of more good, for the flourishing of commonwealth.

But what of the volatility in blockchain markets? People agree Bitcoin has value, but they don’t understand why they are in agreement, and so cryptomarkets fluctuate violently.  Stable blockchain economies will require new symbolic gold standards that clearly articulate why someone would agree to support each market, to anchor common agreement with stability. The more globally shared these new value standards, the better.

Is education more valuable than gold? What about healthcare or nutrition or clean water?

We set out in 2018 to prove a hypothesis—we believe that if you back a cryptocurrency economy with a globally agreed upon inherent value like education, you can solve for volatility and stabilize a mature long lasting cryptomarket that awards everyone who adds value to that market in a decentralized way without the friction of individual partnerships.

What if education was a new gold standard?

And what if this new Learning Economy had protocols to award everyone who is helping to steward the growth of global education?

Education is a mountain. Everyone takes a different path to the top. Blockchain allows us to measure all of those unique learning pathways, online and in classrooms, into immutable blockchain Learning Ledgers.

By quantifying the true value of education, a whole economy can be built around it to pay students to learn, educators to create substantive courses, and stewards to help the Learning Economy grow. It was designed to provide a decentralized way for everyone adding value to global education to coordinate around the commonwealth without the friction of individual partnerships. Imagine the same for healthcare, nutrition, and our environment?

Imagine a world where we can pay refugees to learn languages as they find themselves in foreign lands, a world where we can pay those laid off by the tide of automation to retrain themselves for the new economy, a world where we can pay the next generation to prepare themselves for the unsolved problems of tomorrow.

Imagine new commonwealth economies that alleviate the global burdens of poverty, disease, hunger, inequality, ignorance, toxic water, and joblessness. Commonwealths that orbit inherent values, upheld by immutable blockchain protocols that reward anyone in the ecosystem stewarding the economy—whether that means feeding the hungry, providing aid for the global poor, delivering mosquito nets in malaria-ridden areas, or developing transformative technologies that can provide a Harvard-class education to anyone in the world willing to learn.

These worlds are not out of reach—we are only now opening our eyes to the horizons of blockchain, decentralized coordination, and new gold standards. Even though coordination is the last of the seventeen sustainable development goals, when solved, its tide will lift for the rest—a much-needed rocket fuel for global prosperity.

“Let us raise a standard to which the wise and the honest can repair.”  —George Washington
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.