The ongoing rise in deaths in the aftermath of the deadly storm exposes the devastating consequences of inadequate planning for natural disasters and how miscommunication impedes relief efforts.  The long-awaited independent investigation into Hurricane Maria last week revealed a shocking revised death toll of Puerto Ricans to be now almost 50 times the previous estimate, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history. In September 2017, the most powerful storm to hit the region in 100 years was reported at the time to have killed 64 people. Six months following the disaster, a definitive study by George Washington University (GWU) established how deaths continued to rise to 2,975 people. Why weren’t the numbers accurate? Puerto Rico was an island already encumbered with broken infrastructure and bankruptcy of $120 billion before Hurricane Maria destroyed 80% of crops and afflicted an estimated $90 billion in damage. Hitting 3.4 million people, the storm caused the largest blackout in U.S. history with recurring power cuts ever since. The poorest and most vulnerable Puerto Ricans faced the highest rates of mortality, with 45% more likely to have been killed in the aftermath of the hurricane as a result of a lack of access to electricity, clean water and poor healthcare. The intermittent power cuts meant vital medical equipment could not be used, whilst diseases spread because sanitation systems went offline and suicide rates spiked five months later as people struggled to cope with the recovery. Inaccurate death counts were largely a result of doctors not using the appropriate Centres for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to accurately count the number of deaths. These would have allowed for classification of deaths attributable in the aftermath of the storm as well as direct fatalities. GWU’s findings also bring to light the shocking lack of emergency response and disaster-communications preparations in place. Through interviewing Puerto Rico government agencies, the report deduced their failure to write or implement crisis and emergency risk communication plans at the time of the hurricane. The report states there were, “ineffective communication contingency plans in place, resulting in limited public health and safety information reaching local communities post-hurricane and alternative communication channels.” Consequently, such miscommunication led to an ineffective response as it became difficult to know what the real needs of communities were. The Department of Health’s Office of Emergency Preparedness Response had an outdated plan, which led leaders to inadequately prepare communities for catastrophic disaster. This meant the island was prepared for category 1 hurricanes, with Maria being category 5. Multi-level government failings President Donald Trump responded so poorly to Hurricane Maria that Puerto Ricans have accused him of treating them as second-class citizens. The island was due the same emergency response as any other part of the United States, but the response from the federal government to people in need, was nothing short of lacklustre, with notable imbalances in support compared to other hurricane aid efforts in Texas and Florida. Slow federal response and insufficient aid America’s Federal Emergency Management agency, FEMA significantly underestimated the potential damage from Hurricane Maria and relied too heavily on local officials and private-sector bodies. Puerto Rico had no chance of managing the catastrophe on their own due to severely limited capacity, and yet Trump placed blame on San Juan’s leadership to evade his own government’s accountability. The American government sent just 10,000 relief workers to Puerto Rico in comparison to 30,000 sent to Houston after Hurricane Harvey, and deployed 73 helicopters to Texas within six days, as opposed to 70 to the island after three weeks. Considering it took President Trump a week to respond to Puerto Rico, these figures may be unsurprising. Recovery and reconstruction was grossly hindered by the Trump administration’s obstinacy in releasing enough financial support. The island was forced to engage in continuous fights with the federal government for sufficient disaster recovery loans; an uphill battle in the face of the Trump administration who said Puerto Rico was too rich for aid money and must pay back any it receives. In a letter, FEMA wrote: “Despite being unable to carry out many vital functions, Puerto Rico is deemed by these federal agencies as not poor enough to qualify for emergency loans.” Moving forward GWU’s report concludes with key recommendations including the fundamental need for preparedness with planning, transparency to strengthen informed decision-making and compassion towards the individual and community enduring crisis. Regardless of the American government’s failings, responding to GWU’s report, President Trump ignominiously defended his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, brazenly claiming “they did a fantastic job”. But what can you expect from a President who threw paper towels at the victims? Regardless of how unprecedented the scale of a disaster may be; adequate preparation can prevent a bad situation from worsening. But in all of this, when humanitarian aid and resources are not easily available from the top-down in the aftermath of a disaster, countering responses of negligence and trivialisation with compassion is imperative to stimulate recovery from the bottom-up. About the author: Anastasia Kyriacou works for AidEx, the world leading platform for international humanitarian aid and development. She explores current and controversial issues with the aim of instigating crucial dialogue among the community within the sector and beyond.  Photo credit.

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.