“Seek peace and pursue it.” –Psalm 34:14 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. …Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you….” -Matthew 5:9, 44 “And if they incline to peace, then incline to it….” -Surah 8:61 Russia’s introduction of its S-300 anti-aircraft missile system onto the Syrian battlefield in October, intended to deter future Israeli attacks on Iranian and Hezbollah military targets, reveals Russia’s intent to support Iran’s aggressive moves against Israel.  Although the Israeli Air Force has the capabilities to mitigate this threat, this development should spur the Trump administration to strive for a compromise solution to a regional conflict that is in serious danger of coalescing into something much worse for all parties involved. Russia’s goals up to this point appear to have been limited to preserving its Syrian client state and the geopolitical advantages it derives from it.  The Islamic Republic of Iran maintains the more ambitious goal of annihilating the state of Israel, employing Syria and Lebanon as sources of military recruits, materiel, and territorial fronts in its escalating conflict with it.  Liberation of the Palestinians from Israeli occupation and the return of Jerusalem to Muslim control remain Iran’s ultimate objectives, as its two Supreme Leaders have declared virtually since the founding of the Islamic Republic. The resentment the Trump administration has generated within the international community makes it less likely that sanctions on Iran will achieve their desired effect than when its more diplomatically savvy predecessor was in power.  The current U.S. administration at the very least needs to make a compelling effort at constructive diplomacy with Iran in order to secure sustained international support for an effective sanctions regime. War with Iran would be a highly costly affair, especially without Russia’s acquiescence, which does not appear to be forthcoming despite the efforts of senior Trump officials to obtain it.  Russia clearly has other priorities: namely, destabilizing its primary adversary, the U.S. As Trump’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn wrote in his book The Field of Fight, “Although I believe America and Russia could find mutual ground fighting Radical Islamists, there is no reason to believe Putin would welcome cooperation with us; quite the contrary, in fact.” Flynn interpreted Russian military actions as “indications that Putin fully intends to do the same thing as, and in tandem with, the Iranians: pursue the war against us.” Considering the potentially disastrous consequences of a US war with Iran and the dubious effectiveness of sanctions and other coercive efforts at behavioral or regime change (in the absence of complementary constructive diplomatic efforts), how might the Trump administration pursue a peaceful resolution of this highly complex and precarious problem? The first step is to acknowledge the importance of Jerusalem, not only to Iran but to the Muslim world broadly. International conflict resolution expert Daniel Shapiro, Founder and Director of the Harvard International Negotiation Program, advises in his book Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts, “Negotiating the sacred [requires] gaug[ing] [the other side’s identity] well enough to frame your message with words that will emotionally resonate within them.  …If the other side is in a fundamentalist sphere of identity…discuss sacred issues from within their context of doctrines and absolutes.” It is counterintuitive to shift dialogue from the transactional, where Trump himself is most familiar, to the religious realm, where he is out of his element and where opportunities to make offense would abound.  A well-credentialed envoy appointed directly by him, however, would have greater appreciation for the potential of religious dialogue along with sufficient empathy and diplomatic sensitivity to attempt such a venture. Shapiro continues, “A pragmatic way to reconcile sacred differences is to come to an agreement that each side can interpret in accordance within its own sphere of identity.  Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger called this constructive ambiguity. “ Another possibility is to explore “alternative interpretations of the sacred”, which is “located not within a piece of land...but in the mind.” Several passages from the Quran would be subject to varying interpretations within this context but are worth delving into:

Surah 4:94: “O you who have believed!  When you go forth [to fight] in the cause of Allah, investigate, and do not say to any one who gives you [a greeting of] peace, ‘You are not a believer.’….  You [yourselves] were like that before, then Allah conferred his favor upon you….”

Surah 5:8: ….do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just.  Be just; that is nearer to righteousness….”

Surah 8:61: “And if they incline to peace, then incline to it….”

Surah 42:40: “…but whoever pardons and makes reconciliation—his reward is [due] from Allah.”

Surah 60:7-8: “Perhaps Allah will put, between you and those to whom you have been enemies among them, affection. ….and Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.  Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes—from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them.  Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly.”

Certainly one could find seemingly contradictory and even repulsive passages in the Quran (e.g. Surah 5:338:12) as in the Bible (e.g. Leviticus 25:44-46Deuteronomy 21:10-13Deuteronomy 22:20-2128-29Joshua 8:24-27).  Which verses are emphasized and how they are interpreted depends at least in part on the disposition of the parties in conflict.  These are variables subject to the influence of diplomacy. Certainly, diplomacy has not been easy for either side to sustain, nor will it get any easier.  It can succeed, however, if all parties decide that defending the right of all to worship in freedom and security is more important than one side attempting to impose its religious narrative on others through force of arms, which will only end in tragedy, as it always has. About the author: Thomas Buonomo is the Humanist Studies Coordinator with the American Humanist Association and a former Evangelical Christian. His writing on Middle East affairs has been published by the Atlantic Council, Middle East Policy Council, Washington Institute for Near East Policy's Fikra Forum, Securing America’s Future Energy, and other publications. His views do not represent an official position of the American Humanist Association.

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.