How has the term fake news affected politics? Is fake news a useful term to describe the recent phenomenon? Is fake news a threat to democracy? In a fiery discussion at the recent Davos meetings of the World Economic Forum, a panel of journalists ranging from the New York Times, BBC, RT and Wikipedia, explained the difference between truly fake news and news used as a propaganda tool, and explored possible solutions to what seems to be a global problem. There is a distinction between truly fake news and fake news used as a propaganda tool. The phenomenon of creating malicious information for political or financial purposes is an ongoing and serious threat; however, the term fake news does not differentiate between political fake news and truly fake news produced for profit by individuals. The term fake news muddles the debate about the factuality of information. Misinformation is a longstanding aspect of information warfare; however, the term fake news acts as a catchall term used to describe unpleasant news or silence critique. In these cases, the term fake news becomes toxic and is in and of itself a threat. The widespread use of the term fake news makes it difficult to judge the veracity of any allegations of journalistic wrongdoing. For example, the Russian news source, RT, faces widespread allegations of spreading misinformation, including allegations from President Macron of France. RT, represented in the panel by deputy Editor-in-Chief, Anna Belkina, voraciously denies that there is any evidence of wrongdoing and points the finger at other news sources; however, other panel speakers disagreed. The phenomenon of widespread misinformation is a threat to democracy.  The prevalence of alternative, disreputable news sources reflects the deeper issues of dissatisfied consumers and a hyper partisan political environment. Western consumers feel underserved by mainstream media outlets, leading them to seek out alternative media sources. Moreover, as Anna Belkina argues, these alternative sources, like RT, should not be demonized simply for being outside the mainstream. Joseph Kahn, managing editor of the New York Times, argues however, that it is not the role of mainstream outlets to provide information that confirms consumers’ partisan beliefs or biases. Hyper partisanship is not a symptom of fake news, it is the cause. Western politics have become increasingly polarized over the last few decades. Rather than accept unbiased, nonpartisan news, consumers seem to search for information that supports their existing biases or partisan affiliations, often from disreputable sources. The solution does not lie in governmental regulation. Although a solution is needed to slow the spread of misinformation, direct regulation of news sources by governmental agencies threatens both the freedom of speech and the freedom of press. However, there are a number of possible solutions such as grassroots movements, educational programs, better quality news, and the redesign of the media business model. For vulnerable democracies, like Pakistan, direct government regulation of press represents an existential threat to democracy. As Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, testifies, free press has protected Pakistan’s democratic government from multiple military coups. A better solution lies in grassroots solutions. For example, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, explained a proposal for Wiki tribune, which would pair citizen and professional journalists in order to bring the watchdog community of Wikipedia to mainstream journalism. Education plays a role in halting the spread of fake news. Teaching journalism in primary and secondary schools would both increase the ability of citizens to do their own research and to differentiate between reputable and disreputable media sources. Professional journalistic outlets must also do their part. There needs to be more quality news, greater attention paid to quality news, and more traction on the internet for quality news. The business model of mainstream news must change. Each of the journalistic players must compete for ad dollars by getting more clicks on their news. This system places the wrong incentives in front of journalists. Advertising cannot be the main source of capital for media outlets.  

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.