With digital technologies continuously disrupting business, government, academia and society both on a national and massively global scale, the advent of Globalization 4.0—a term coined by this year’s World Economic Forum to signal the coming shift in globalized structures—may be upon us. Characterized by the major global changes brought on by technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics and the Internet of Things combined with a rapidly fluctuating global economy, social inequality and political tensions both at the international level and between political leaders and citizens, Globalization 4.0 gives a lot of promise to the idea of a newly transformed world free of inequality and poverty—but first, several major obstacles, often fueled by the same hectic energy that drives the progress of these digital technologies, must be overcome; not only in order to begin working towards a more positive future, but more importantly to prevent the destabilization of the world as we know it.

First, the Fourth Industrial Revolution and its digital technologies have not only transformed virtually every industry across the board, but has done so on a global scale the likes of which has never before been seen. In fact, it is the massive scope, system-wide impact and increasing velocity of the Fourth Industrial Revolution that makes it so impactful—and potentially catastrophic. While technologies such as artificial intelligence and robotics have brought unprecedented advancements in nearly every industry, this same technology is also threatening to displace billions of workers in the very near future, and the question remains as to what kind of legislation—if any at all—should be put into place to prepare for this displacement of people and wealth that would undoubtedly upheave our current global social and economic structure.

At the same time, as we are attempting to grab a hold of the increasingly disruptive nature of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, rising rates in inequality also threaten the progress we’ve made in terms of equal distribution of wealth in the past few decades. With reports showing one percent of the world’s richest bringing in eighty-two percent of all wealth last year, this inequality in distribution of wealth will undoubtedly increase to socially catastrophic levels if no solutions are found soon. The problem isn’t only that the wealthy are becoming wealthier—studies show that extreme poverty, such as in sub-Saharan Africa, has also been increasing, and with other areas demonstrating similar trends, the Sustainable Development Goal of ending poverty before 2030 appears to be farther away than ever. It is absolutely imperative that governments begin working more closely together to rewrite our current global structures of finance, trade, wages and taxation on an international level.

However, with nations recently beginning to turn a resentful eye towards the global structures that have fueled many of today’s problems, several countries have begun adopting a reactionary approach to globalization by taking a more protectionist approach in international matters and electing nationalist leaders. This is, of course, extremely concerning for a number of reasons, most of which have to do with the fact that future projections reveal the world will continue to trend towards more globalized structures as technologies such as the internet and artificial intelligence continue to permeate every industry. It is crucial that cooperation both across nations and between national leaders and their citizens be increased rather than ignored in these times of global uncertainty, and that political good will is kept a priority moving forward.

Indeed, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report reveals that the three biggest global risks likely to happen in 2019—extreme weather events, failure of climate-change mitigation and adaptation, and major natural disasters—are not risks brought on by globalization at all, but rather matters that will require international effort to ensure the safety of everyone affected. Similarly, in terms of business, the Allianz 2019 Risk Barometer indicates that the biggest threat to businesses is interruptions caused by issues such as tariffs and trade disputes, as well as recent changes in legislation and regulation such as Great Britain’s exit from the European Union. With a looming global recession projected to occur in 2020 or even as early as late 2019, it is imperative that world leaders continue to work towards cooperation in times of international crises, and that the international business landscape continue to work towards globalization—not against it.

However, while trade may be shifting towards a more closed model, the goods and services that are being traded are seeing a radical change. In fact, a recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute indicates that while it is true that trade is becoming concentrated within regions and that a smaller share of goods is being traded across borders, that which is being traded is changing drastically, with the services trade growing sixty percent faster than the goods trade in the last year. With services such as telecom, IT, business services and intellectual property charges as the most popular services being traded in recent years, this technology-oriented shift in services demonstrates that while physical trade borders may be closable, the more intangible services—many of which do not require the user to be in the same physical location as the service itself—cannot be contained to a single location, and must therefore be regulated from a more globalized perspective.

Ultimately, we are in a time of unprecedented change, which is not going to slow down. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution coinciding with increasing political tensions, a changing economic landscape and social unrest, many of today’s problems may appear to be caused by our rapidly globalizing world. However, it can also be said that most of today’s greatest achievements—be it in technology, medicine, political movements, social change or increased environmental awareness—are also due to the cooperation between nations and institutions that only globalization could bring about. As we enter the world of Globalization 4.0 it is important to understand how cooperation and solidarity—not isolationism—will be essential to the future success of mankind, and that in order to accomplish this, we will need to tear down traditional structures and redesign nearly all processes and institutions from the ground up. If done successfully, we may very well enter a new era of peace and prosperity.

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
Winona Roylance
Winona Roylance serves as a contributing editor and Diplomatic Courier's senior correspondent in Asia.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.