Washington, DC—Artificial intelligence (AI) is no longer an “emerging” technology: it has arrived and it intends to stay. As AI technology has percolated into various facets of modern day life, we wonder how society intends to fully reap its benefits. In an effort to address these uncertainties, panelists at a recent C_TEC and BSA AI Summit highlighted collaborative approaches that government, industry and academia must pursue as America’s technological environment burgeons. Prioritizing research and development (R&D) investment, cross-sector cooperation and STEM education, the speakers explored methods to strengthen American innovation and better equip the U.S. workforce “for the jobs of tomorrow.” The Federal Government and AI Michael Kratsios, Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer and Deputy Assistant to the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), explained that the federal government prioritizes policies that will drive AI innovation. The current administration’s three goals to deregulate the tech industry, grow the economy and jobs and strengthen national security, Kratsios argues, will make the United States more AI friendly. Recognizing that governmental regulations have caused companies such as Google and Amazon to travel outside of American borders to test new technologies like unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), Kratsios noted that tech “investments seem to have [a] flavor of risk association with the way the government interacts with [them].” However, Kratsios asserted that OSTP can help implement tech policies that will cultivate entrepreneurial behavior within America. “We believe the greatest drivers of economic growth are going to be emerging technologies and we need to create a regulatory environment that encourages and fosters that innovation,” Kratsios stated. Removing barriers to AI innovation, improving R&D leadership and analyzing AI’s impact on the workforce, Kratsios explained, will allow the United States to leverage artificial intelligence and its benefits. He keyed in on the administration’s role in signaling to agencies that they should prioritize AI and allocate funds towards specific research areas. To achieve this, cross-sector communication must occur with the government releasing federal data into the hands of companies and researchers. A “collaborative, creative, free and open dialogue” between governmental agencies, academia and private companies will counteract a top-down approach to problem solving and show that AI is not industry specific nor isolated to Silicon Valley. Researching the Future The “Researching the Future” panel embodied AI partnerships by assembling speakers from academia, government and the private sector. They discussed the need for policy makers and regulators to not impede AI progress—prioritizing collaborations and providing specific examples. David Cox, Director of the MIT-IBM Watson AI Lab, explained how IBM and MIT have teamed up in an industry-academic collaboration to provide fundamental artificial intelligence research. He commended IBM and private industry’s breakthrough role in today’s “innovation ecosystem” and outlined the importance of driving AI conversations across sectors to guarantee that its technology is as prevalent, responsible and transparent as possible, while catering to a large audience. “AI is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed,” Cox commented. “I see my job as distributing it everywhere.” OSTP’s Assistant Director for Artificial Intelligence, James Kurose, noted the uniqueness of technological collaboration in the United States. Citing the “Tire Tracks” diagram, Kurose asserted that historically, there has been a flow of ideas between different IT areas and between government, universities and companies. This has contributed to America’s “three legged” technological environment, which has been calibrated by cross-sector partnerships. However, Elsa Kania, an Adjunct Fellow with the Technology and National Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, noticed that while this three legged approach to AI development is historically unique to the United States, China has begun expanding AI partnerships, with Chinese companies like Baidu and Tencent serving as examples. These companies in concert with universities focus on talent development, research and joint laboratories, revealing that partnerships are the future of global tech advancement. The panelists warned against the privatization of AI and the “hollowing out of academia” as industry has employed leading professors and researchers, with Uber’s recruitment of Carnegie Mellon's robotic department serving as a case in point. Prioritizing a “stable hybrid” talent model between companies and universities, the speakers advised sectors to unite in order to capitalize on their individual strengths—namely academia’s long-time horizon, government’s funding and resources and industry’s capital and talent. Doing so will foster both synergistic growth and build American competitiveness. An Intelligent Workforce The second panel focused on how to prepare American workers for AI disruptions to the workplace. The speakers noticed that artificial intelligence has created a mismatch between workers and jobs, with the amount of AI jobs available far exceeding the number of workers qualified to fill them, caused by a “skills shortage.” To overcome this “skills shortage,” the speakers noted that K–12 education needs to prioritize STEM education as a vast number of schools do not have computer science programs. Cameron Wilson, COO and President of Code.org Advocacy Coalition, argued that computer science education needs improvement since AI is where jobs are and will continue to be. “[Computing jobs] are the number one source of all new wages in the United States,” Wilson stated. “You’re really going to need a foundation in computing and computer science to able to either take advantage of those jobs in the workplace or deal with workforce disruptions.” A large obstruction to schools implementing computer science (CS) education is a lack of qualified teachers as a “skills shortage” rears its ugly head again. However, Portia Wu, Director of Workforce Policy at Microsoft, outlined Microsoft’s  Technology Education and Literacy in School (TEALS) program, in which engineers from Microsoft and other companies volunteer for two years to provide CS training to local teachers—focusing on underserved communities to ensure that underrepresented groups receive equitable STEM education. Matt Etchison, Vice President of Ivy Tech’s IT for Workforce Alignment, discussed how Ivy Tech matches their curriculum to technology skill sets that companies desire. As the community college teams with big tech companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft, its goal is to implement a direct educational pathway between academia and industry, attached with an adaptive curriculum, so that a college degree has definitive CS and machine learning skills associated with it. By partnering with the private sector, the community college prepares its students for AI’s disruption to the workforce. The Future of Work To capture artificial intelligence’s benefits while protecting American workers, the United States must increase R&D investments, build cross-sector partnerships and prioritize STEM education. As AI continues to seep into the future of work, governments, academia and industry must collaborate to ensure that advanced technology does not flood the U.S. economy and its workplace, but rather nourishes it.

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.