In a highly anticipated—but not surprising—announcement, President Donald J. Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.  His reasoning: the action is necessary to save jobs in the U.S. and the agreement imposes “no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters.” By making this decision, the United States, the second largest polluter behind China and key architect of the agreement under the Obama administration, left the 194 other nations who signed the agreement, to join a small club of nations who refused to be part of the agreement—Syria and Nicaragua.  The role of the 194 remaining nations, as well as non-federal actors within the U.S., will be critical in stemming the effects of the U.S. withdrawal. But what is actually in this agreement? According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) website, the central aim of the Paris Agreement is to limit the global temperature increase of this century to under two degrees Celsius (striving for a limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius, if possible) through lowering CO2 emissions.  While the agreement is non-binding, it requires all members to regularly report their emissions and steps taken towards implementation, prepare and maintain “nationally determined contributions” (NDCs), and participate in a global stocktake every five years to evaluate the collective progress made. After the U.S. withdrawal was officially announced, world leaders, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, powerful U.S. corporations, such as the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Tesla, and even local and state government officials, such as Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, voiced opposition. Quickly, non-federal sectors and regions within the U.S. joined together in support of the deal. Almost immediately succeeding the announcement of the U.S. withdrawal, New York Governor Cuomo, along with state governors Edmund G. Brown of California and Jay Inslee of Washington State, formed the U.S. Climate Alliance, a group of states committed to supporting the accord despite the federal government’s stance. As of June 5, 10 additional states have joined. In addition to state government opposition, the response of the private sector and industry is perhaps even more stark and interesting. Highly influential business leaders in the U.S. have spoken out against the withdrawal. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to donate up to $15 million to help pay for the formerly committed U.S. share of the Paris Agreement, and stated, “Americans will honor and fulfill the Paris Agreement by leading from the bottom up—and there isn't anything Washington can do to stop us.”  Hundreds of companies, such as Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, reiterated their support for the agreement, launching a “We Are Still In” campaign to combat the “absence of leadership from Washington” on the issue. For environmental advocates, as well as anyone who disapproves of the Trump administration’s stance on climate change, this widespread opposition could entail a silver lining. Not only because some sort of commitment on behalf of the U.S. to uphold the Paris Agreement is better than none, but because the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement and the reaction it sparked could in fact lead to more U.S. climate initiatives than otherwise would have occurred if the Trump administration had formally upheld the agreement. How? The agreement is non-binding, and the Trump administration had clearly indicated that climate change and the limitation of CO2 emissions was not a goal of the administration, even before the U.S. withdrew. Climate change references were removed from the White House website in January, and months later, the Environmental Protection Agency did the same on their website to “reflect the views of the leadership.” Even if the U.S. had remained formally committed to the Paris Agreement under President Trump, it is doubtful that the U.S. would have done much more than attend the meetings—if that. If President Trump had stayed officially supportive (but not behind closed doors), there would have been less of a reason for groups and individuals within the U.S. to rally behind the agreement to the extent that they have now. The main problem with the U.S. withdrawing is symbolism and the precedent it may set for other members to withdraw. Regardless of what countries decide, the reality of the situation is clear. The rock has been thrown into the pool. It is now up to non-federal coalitions within the U.S. to determine the size of the rock, and other nations to decide how big the ripples will be.    

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.