Artificial intelligence—which simultaneously possesses the greatest potential for evolutionary change as well as the overwhelming possibility for world destruction—is a technology that is already be upon us. Defined as machines that are able to learn, plan, and problem solve—or, more basically, technology with the ability to work and react like a human would—AI is a daunting field of computer science that has been making waves in recent years. In popular culture, movies and the media often portray AI in a dark and dangerous light. However, experts believe that AI will actually positively augment the human race, though how exactly is still unknown. The question still remains: do the benefits of AI outweigh the dangers? And at this point in time, is AI completely inevitable? While Hollywood has produced countless tales of AI-induced woe, the vast majority of these movies have proven to be poor predictors of how AI could potentially work, in strictly theoretical terms. In the 2014 film Transcendence, for example, main character Will’s consciousness is uploaded to a quantum computer in order to “save him” from death—an action which leads to “Will’s consciousness” gaining near full control of the digital world and ultimately wreaking havoc on the physical world due to his inherently amoral AI nature (similar films such as the South African flick Chappie also predict a comparable consciousness-uploading scenario). AI experts, however, argue that while uploading one’s consciousness is an interesting idea, it is purely speculative and has no basis in fact, and therefore such dreary prospects are unlikely. Similarly—and perhaps most importantly—AI experts point out that a single lone programmer cannot accomplish the development of artificial intelligence in a short timespan all by herself, as so many films like Ex Machina and Chappie suggest. The path to artificial intelligence is and will continue to be a slow and incremental one, a fact that bodes well for a potential partnership between humans and AI. While Google’s DeepMind technology—which is programmed to understand how to find structure in large data sets in order to essentially recognize patterns and “learn”—is probably the closest to true artificial intelligence available in today’s world, there are a plethora of pseudo-AI technologies, such as digital assistant technologies like Siri and Alexa as well as predictive technology in websites such as Amazon and Netflix that use AI to observe behavior patterns and predict consumer behavior, that are widely used in today’s world. The fact that these pseudo-AI technologies were integrated fairly seamlessly into society ultimately shows that with small, incremental steps, we can learn to use and adapt to artificial intelligence somewhat effortlessly. In fact, many artificial intelligence researchers are largely optimistic about the future of human and AI relationships. While the exact mechanism behind the creation of AI is still mysterious, some researchers believe that AI will dramatically improve the lives of humans in the near future, as this technology will be able to do everything from taking over menial tasks to protecting humans from dangerous conditions and disasters, all the way to solving the world’s biggest social and environmental issues such as climate change or even world hunger. By using artificial intelligence as an application and tool it will be easier to prevent a robot uprising and maintain control over these technologies. Elon Musk is a well-known proponent for the regulation of artificial intelligence, and often warns against its dangers on social media. Rather than simply advocating for the abolition of AI, though, he admits that adding a digital AI layer to humans may be the best way to prevent artificial intelligence from subjugating and/or harming the human race. Many other researchers agree that the best use of artificial intelligence would be the encouragement of a symbiotic relationship between artificial intelligence and human intelligence in addition to the use of AI to augment physical capabilities. For example, AI could be used to operate prosthetic limbs or even exoskeletons smartly and efficiently, and enhance natural abilities such as eyesight and hearing. Similarly, AI could be used to perform difficult and advanced maneuvers, such as surgery or other complex health-related tasks. In terms of our brains, artificial intelligence would most likely be used to enhance intelligence, increase speed and access to data pools, and even download life skills. IBM—creator of the supercomputer Watson—suggests that the acronym AI should stand for “augmented intelligence” rather than “artificial intelligence,” as true AI will be used to augment human brainpower, rather than surpass it. By optimizing knowledge necessary in all areas—such as assisting doctors in understanding medical data, or helping students understand how to learn more effectively—AI will essentially be a smarter, extremely efficient search engine capable of providing unique information needed to every individual. In the end, artificial intelligence possesses a plethora of opportunities that are more likely to spur humans into a future of unimaginable advancement, rather than the one-dimensional doom and gloom scenario that so much of pop culture appear to warn against. While there are real dangers associated with artificial intelligence—such as AI developing destructive methods for achieving a programmed goal, or AI being coded for destructive purposes—the nature of artificial intelligence in and of itself does not guarantee a dystopian future. With incremental steps, a symbiotic relationship between humans and artificial intelligence is entirely possible, and a new future of never-before-seen levels of superintelligence and insight can be brought into fruition. About the author:  Ana C. Rold is Founder and CEO of Diplomatic Courier, a Global Affairs Media Network.  She teaches political science courses at Northeastern University and is the Host of The World in 2050–A Forum About Our Future. To engage with her on this article follow her on Twitter @ACRold.  

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
Ana C. Rold
Ana C. Rold is the Founder and Publisher of Diplomatic Courier. Rold teaches political science courses at Northeastern University and is the Host of The World in 2050–A Forum About Our Future. To engage with her on this article follow her on Twitter @ACRold.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.