Healthcare has long been regarded as a double-edged sword. On one hand, advances in healthcare throughout the centuries—especially in the past decade—outpace nearly all other forms of human advancement and are continuing to accelerate as research progresses in areas such as oncology, genetics, and molecular biology. On the other hand, increases in individual health and wellbeing continue to drag far behind rising healthcare costs, and issues with under- and over-diagnoses, improper treatment, and lack of access to proper healthcare continue to plague a large portion of the population. With a healthcare system geared towards broad treatment of the average patient, it is easy to see that a shift away from the traditional one-size-fits-all approach towards one that treats patients on an individual basis in a cost-effective manner is necessary in order to tame burgeoning health costs and increase wellbeing for each individual. Luckily, the shift towards Precision Medicine—also commonly referred to as Personalized Medicine—is occurring not only within the United States but also around the world. With Precision Medicine, rather than focusing on treatments that target a generalized demographic, researchers and medical professionals instead take into account factors such as the environment, genetic makeup and lifestyle habits of an individual that contribute to the success or failure of individualized treatment plans. Indeed, with former president Barack Obama’s launch of the Precision Medicine Initiative in 2015—whose mission statement is to enable a new era of medicine through research, technology, and policies that empower patients, researchers and providers to work together toward the development of individualized care—the federal government has already begun to provide support for Precision Medicine through programs such as the All of Us Research Program, which is intended to collect a broad range of health data from over one million U.S. volunteers, and the FDA’s precision program, which is a cloud-based platform where users can test, develop, and validate genomic sequencing technologies. With support from the healthcare industry, the technology sector and the federal government, substantial progress in Personalized Medicine is projected to majorly disrupt the future of health, with several key trends shaping this transformation. First, advances in genomic science and technology are leading towards lowered costs and impressive breakthroughs throughout the healthcare industry, with many oncology-based studies beginning to reach clinical trials and promising new and more cost-effective solutions. Similarly, the shift towards value-based reimbursement models and healthcare digitization is creating more stratified and outcome-based targeted therapies where patients are treated based on successful outcomes rather than a trial-and-error approach. Likewise, increasing transparency around drug pricing is pushing the pharmaceutical industry to more heavily invest in Precision Medicine, with reports revealing that pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies alike have doubled their investment in Personalized Medicine in the past five years—and are projected to increase investments by another one-third over the next five years. Second, while the Precision Medicine industry continues to see immense progress in terms of oncology, increasing knowledge around genomics and disease progression is leading to more advanced research in non-oncology therapeutic areas as well, such as research into cardiovascular, inflammatory, and infectious diseases. In fact, studies show that an estimated 93% of current phase 3 pipelines are diagnostic dependent, with around two-thirds of these pipelines focused on non-oncology areas. With increased focus in both oncology and non-oncology research, then, continuous research into different cancers, chronic conditions, Diabetes, and a host of other persistent and life-threatening diseases can reveal answers into both the causes and potential solutions to some of the biggest health concerns the world faces today. Third, Precision Medicine’s ability to use big healthcare data has begun to shift focus towards preventative care and recovery and away from traditional after-the-fact treatments. While chronic diseases have become more manageable in recent years due to breakthroughs in treatment and therapy, the longer lifespan of people afflicted with poor health conditions has dramatically increased healthcare costs for both individuals and the healthcare industry as a whole. With Precision Medicine, however, focusing on individual patients holistically across many factors such as environment, genetics and lifestyle has the ability to not only increase wellbeing for patients but also simultaneously decrease costs significantly for individuals and healthcare providers alike. With data on a variety of factors such as family history, weight, food habits, smoking, alcohol intake, and physical activity levels, researchers and healthcare providers can begin assisting individuals on gaining and maintaining health while preventing chronic conditions from occurring in the first place. While trends in Precision Medicine continue to bode well for a future of effective healthcare, there are certain challenges that must first be addressed in order to accelerate this healthcare paradigm. For example, though research in Precision Medicine continues to advance at unprecedented rates, transforming these findings into practical clinical applications remains a challenge. Similarly, too much focus on the research and technology aspects of Personalized Medicine has led to a decreased focus on the basic determinants of population health, such as socioeconomic and geographic disparities as well as other environmental factors. While it is crucial to continue focusing on research, it is equally important to remain consistent in applying this data to real-world use in both clinical treatment and transforming individual lifestyles. Ultimately, the healthcare paradigm shift towards Precision Medicine is not only a positive sign that the industry will continue to become increasingly more effective and less costly, but also that individuals around the world will be able to experience more engagement and empowerment when it comes to taking control of their own health and wellbeing. With the help of breakthrough technologies and increased research efforts, then, Precision Medicine is well on its way to transforming the world of healthcare. 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.