With the not-so-recent controversy surrounding Facebook’s privacy policies being violated by Cambridge Analytica (and others), the issue of consumer data and privacy has become a hot topic for countries around the world. The Cambridge Analytica scandal was able to reveal just how vulnerable user data is even on secured platforms such as Facebook. In order to begin combatting longstanding and future user data leaks, governments and businesses alike have begun creating applications, policies and regulations that can protect data. But with individuals across the world continuously losing trust in companies’ ability to protect their data, these regulations will do little to sway consumers from demanding more from companies for the right to their personal data. The creation of the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR for short, put into effect by the European Union in May of this year, signaled a new era in data protection. GDPR aims to create a more defined regulatory environment under which businesses and organizations are expected to not only be more transparent with their customers with exactly what kind of data is being collected and how it is being used, but also protect this data from being leaked and inform consumers in the event of a breach. In this way, the European Union hopes to give EU citizens more control over their user data not only online, but also the data they provide to entities such as banks, retailers, and the government. However, the creation of the GDPR has been met with issues from the get-go. For starters, the sudden dramatic increase in emails asking customers to opt-in to new privacy and consent policies has left many with opt-in fatigue, and the potential for new email scams to take advantage of this fatigue and begin phishing for user data is already on the rise. Similarly, while it is required for any companies that have operations within the EU to abide by the GDPR—including international companies—many foreign company websites, social media platforms and even phone applications have been made unavailable to EU residents due to their delayed ability to set up all necessary data protections and regulations as required by the GDPR. Along with fears that the GDPR will hurt small businesses and hinder the free market, these regulations have yet to instill confidence in consumers and businesses alike that user data can be protected in an effective way. While it may be a while until regulatory structures like GDPR are able to effectively protect consumer data while allowing free markets to thrive, private companies such as Freckle IoT are beginning to develop strategies that could provide consumers with more control over their data sooner. With the creation of their app Killi, for example, Freckle IoT aims to make explicit the actual value of consumer data by paying consumers to share their data, location and insights about ads directly to companies like McDonald’s, GM and Staples. In this way consumers not only choose what pieces of personal data they are sharing with which specific companies, but are also incentivized to share this data as they are directly paid for this data by whichever participating companies they choose to share it with. It is in this way that consumers may be able to begin understanding the true value of their data while gaining control over it in a more personal way. However, while digitally advanced regions such as the United States and the European Union continue to struggle with balancing consumer privacy rights with the needs of companies to be able to leverage consumer data, many digitally advancing nations in the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and parts of Asia are facing an entirely different set of problems in regards to user data and privacy. First, while privacy concerns are rising in both digitally advanced and advancing areas, the less digitally advanced countries tend to be more trusting towards digital media and how their personal data is handled online. Because of this trust, a recent Asia-focused survey found that people in digitally developing countries were often more willing to give out personal data in exchange for using online services. In fact, the study found that 94 percent of Chinese consumers would agree to let businesses reuse and share their personal data—whereas only 60% of those surveyed in New Zealand, for example, said the same. Conversely, while digitally developing countries tend to trust online companies with their user data more, these countries also tend to have less trustworthy digital environments due to underdeveloped infrastructure and rougher security protections. Perhaps most concerning of all, while users in both digitally developed and developing countries cite social media as a platform from which they consume news, consumers from digitally developing countries tendency to trust the Internet at face value has made them particularly susceptible to the spread of fake news, with a recent lynching in India due to rumors spread on popular messaging application WhatsApp pointing to the potentially devastating real world implications of putting too much trust in the Internet. With higher trust in online companies’ ability to protect consumer data, lower protections against phishing and leaks and a relative naivete in regards to what constitutes real and fake news, big data has led to inequality between digitally developed and developing nations. Until digitally developing nations enact policies and protections similar to how the digitally developed world is currently tackling privacy concerns, this inequality gap will continue to widen. While the Internet has revolutionized nearly every facet of life for nations around the world, the issue of consumer data and privacy will continue to push the private sector and governments to create solutions that benefit both consumers and companies in years to come—and as the digitally developing world catches up to the more digitally developed nations, this issue will not only continue to hinder individual countries, but the world as a whole. 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.