For the first time in many years, photographs hang on the walls of the Muscarelle Museum of Art at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Organized in partnership with Diplomatic Courier, “21st Century Diplomacy: Ballet, Ballots, and Bullets” opened on May 29, 2014 to challenge contemporary perceptions of statecraft. Buzzing with over 100 dignitaries and guests, the exhibition opening allowed members a sneak peak at moments of daily life in unstable regions, where moments of profound horror are contrasted with the persistence of joy sustained by the human spirit. The Diplomacy of Photography Guests who visit the exhibition will be able to reflect upon how camera photography, as an art, has been celebrated and criticized for almost 200 years. Though photography derives inspiration from the portraits and still life paintings, the printed image captures a split second in a person’s history. And in this nanosecond, does the person stop to pose? Is the photographer, during composition, altering the narrative by choosing a particular frame? And can, or should, photography dare compete for attention alongside Michelangelo? After all, the very word means 'light' and 'drawing'. Photography is a natural conspirator for diplomacy. With the lens, photography communicates, represents, and focuses attention on an issue. Like diplomacy, photography is power. This exhibit and the education it brings is power. Ballet, Ballots, and Bullets The subsections in this exhibition are defined by three universal concepts that impact ways of life within the modern landscape, and further organized according to region. Broadly speaking, “Ballet” is used to represent culture and cultural diplomacy. This category includes images that portray performing arts, adaptation, and subsistence. Dancers are ambassadors, sharing national images with the world, challenging stereotypes, and bridging divides. From the World Championship of Pole Dancing to the scantily clad San Martin Ballet Company and the classical Eifman Ballet Company of St. Petersburg Russia, these dancers share their bodies and art form. Elsewhere wars rage and refugees abound, dancing slips are hung up in favor of rented wedding dresses in the UNHCR Za’atri refugee camp in Jordan. Instead of teaching their daughters to plié, women in Senegal and Togo visit family planning centers. Though anecdotal, many viewers remarked that Katy Doyle’s image of a Senegalese woman smiling at her baby while waiting to be seen at one of these clinics was their favorite. In all these photographs, culture allows a nation and its people to share, develop, and foster mutual understanding of the human condition. "Ballots" refer to politics, bureaucracy, and soft diplomacy. Negotiations and the art of diplomacy are tools to stave off war and reach political understandings. Whether behind closed doors or on the floor of the United Nations General Assembly, diplomacy is communication. In this exhibit, ballots are a symbol for both peaceful and contrived elections around the world, in addition to political satire. Ballots encompass how people see their human rights and the freedom they may or may not have to demand an attentive government. As part of "Ballots", a protester taunts Mexican police officers while they guard the Juárez hotel where Mexican President Felipe Calderon is discussing his social projects in 2010. In another image, the ballot boxes in Kazakhstan are protected for the 2004 legislative election. The art of satire comes through in a series of Carnival photographs aimed at former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Ballots, the ability to critique, can change diplomacy with the push of a button or swoop of the pen. Perhaps the most fundamental form of hard diplomacy is the bullet, or war. Though many images depict refugees and victims of international conflicts, “Bullets” also includes the themes of ecology and self-preservation such as climate change and vaccines. In one image, a child greets U.S. Marines as they advance into Baghdad in 2003. Five years later, a different Iraqi is a prisoner of war and hooded. A group of Code Pink activists hold a candlelight vigil for Syria outside the Capitol and protesters march in a Bahraini funeral procession. A Mexican federal police officer stand guard over a crime scene following a violent shootout that took place between cartel members and police in Juárez. Bullets are also the effects from military force. Numerous images depict life in a refugee camp, and the horror displaced people know. A malnourished child in a hospital in Herat, Afghanistan is cradled in the palm of your hand. Another Afghan child is fed at a UNICEF center. Amid disease concerns, children and adults alike are vaccinated in a Jordanian refugee camp. Bullets can be major events that have the potential to cause massive upheaval, like global warming in Tibet or safe water in Cambodia. Reflecting on Diplomacy In a world of instant text messages and everyone is a blogger, the tools of diplomacy are becoming increasingly diverse and complicated. Rather than rely on the Renaissance tactics of Machiavelli, this century requires a new playbook to navigate culture, elections, and war. This exhibition invites you to open your mind, like the aperture of the camera. *** Ballet Photographer: Akanksha Mehta. Pushkar, Rajasthan (2010). Pushtar Lake is a destination for pilgrims. This group of women travelled more than eight hours to cleanse their sins in the holy waters. This image symbolizes culture and religion on a basic level—people traveling and facing hardship on the basis of faith and belief. As a cultural and religious site, Pushtar Lake has suffered ecologically from unsustainable tourism. Ballet, Ballots, and Bullets: 21st Century Diplomacy Photographer: Ben Barber. Pakistani family shows their rebuilding kit supplied by U.S. aid teams after an earthquake in 2005 killed 75,000 people. Kit included metal roofing panels, digging and carpentry tools, rolls of carpeting, insulation and plastic for flooring, metal wood stoves with smoke piping, and wire to reinforce foundation walls in future earthquakes. Ballet, Ballots, and Bullets: 21st Century Diplomacy Photographer: Ben Barber (2009). Nepali health worker teaches an expectant mother how to prepare for healthy delivery. The U.S. project hires and trains local women to teach others on nutrition, alcohol avoidance, sanitation, saving money for transport to the hospital, use of emergency delivery kits, and how to protect newborns after delivery. This exhibition was curated by Visiting Instructor Kathryn H. Floyd in the Department of Government at the College of William & Mary. Join the conversation about this exhibition on social media, @diplocourier #fotodiplomacy. This article was originally published in the Diplomatic Courier's July/August 2014 print edition.

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.