Before the World Economic Forum, Davos’ first claim to fame was as a haven for wealthy tuberculosis sufferers in the 1800s and 1900s: the rarefied air of the Magic Mountain, as Thomas Mann dubbed it, offered a “certain” cure. The Davos visitors of those days, like Mann’s Hans Castorp, were a small minority of TB sufferers. Today, as then, TB is a disease linked to poverty. As we mark World TB day, we are reluctantly forced to acknowledge that TB is still ravaging the lives of predominantly poor people. With an estimated 10.4 million new cases and 1.7 million fatalities every year, it is the main cause of human death due to an infectious disease in the world. The long search for effective treatments and cures required substantial funding in those days and it still does. Despite the best efforts of scientists, charities, governments and concerned individuals, it was not until the 1940s that researchers found a cure for tuberculosis. Today, tuberculosis is curable, but its long treatment regimen is demanding, often unfortunately proving challenging for patients to complete their full course. This accounts in part to today’s continued death toll, as does lack of diagnosis, weak health systems and lack of access to medicines. It also accounts for the rise of multidrug-resistant or extensively drug-resistant TB (MDR-TB and XDR-TB). What’s more, TB microbes are very inventive. So, continuous innovation is crucial to the fight against the disease. It requires incentives and political will to encourage innovation. There are now over 60 R&D projects for TB medicines and vaccines in the pipeline, including seven products in phase III clinical trials. These new products are reaching the final stages of the 10-15-year R&D process—one in which many other possible treatments or vaccines have fallen by the wayside. The biopharmaceutical industry recognises collaboration in R&D can be instrumental in addressing the most pressing of global health challenges. Companies are therefore partnering with over 30 collaborators (universities, research institutes, product development partnerships (PDPs), etc.) to develop innovative medicines and vaccines for TB and MDR-TB. After a gap of 50 years, major breakthroughs by Johnson & Johnson and Otsuka have seen the light of the day: two new medicines (bedaquiline and delamanid) have been approved for the treatment of MDR-TB under programmatic conditions in numerous countries, with both added to the World Health Organization’s Essential Medicines List. A priority is getting these new treatments to patients by broadening sustainable and responsible access. Both Johnson & Johnson and Otsuka collaborate with a variety of local, national and global partners to expand access to treatment, diagnostics and care. They introduced responsible, innovative and clearly structured approaches to expand dissemination of their new treatments while ensuring safe and appropriate use. This is an integral aspect of the introduction of new TB regimens to ensure that they remain effective for patients today as well as tomorrow. This is why their programs also include providing healthcare professionals training and appropriate pharmacovigilance and surveillance activities to monitor resistance. Pharmaceutical companies are involved in over 30 partnerships to increase access to TB treatment, diagnosis and care. These programs include donations, but also manufacturing partnerships to increase local capacity. Companies are working with the Global Drug Facility, a unique TB-specific mechanism for pooling the procurement of medicines and diagnostics. Some initiatives also focus on reaching isolated groups with TB diagnostics through door-to-door screenings and training of health workers. Companies work with health providers to prevent medicine stock-outs in rural health centres and ensure the quality of tuberculosis medicines in pharmacies across the world with mobile labs. Today, politicians, NGOs, health experts, patients and business all agree that we need renewed commitment to make TB history. That’s why they are gearing up toward the first ever UN High-Level Meeting on TB to take place on September 26. The biopharmaceutical industry, working to bring effective therapies and access solutions to the table, is fully committed to that goal. Our aim is that the great and the good at Davos will soon be able to celebrate how governments, the World Health Organization, the global health community, and the biopharmaceutical industry, all worked together to relegate the reality of 1.8 million dying each year of TB to the history books. About the author: Thomas Cueni is an economist, journalist and former Swiss diplomat. Currently he is head of the IFPMA, representing the innovative pharma industry and accredited organization in official relations with the United Nations.  

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.