From the flying cars in movies such as Back to the Future series, to the increasingly realistic possibility of self-driving vehicles like those found in Demolition Man and Knight Rider, Hollywood certainly tried to imagine the future of transportation long before the industry caught up.  If you’ve been paying attention to the first two quarters of 2017, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the future of transportation may very well bring the science fiction-like capabilities of autonomous and flying cars into reality. And while more grand forms of transportation—such as commercial space flight—are a bit more far off in the future, it is only a matter of time before the entire transportation industry looks like something out of a movie. Flying Cars While I was certainly among those who were disappointed when Back to the Future’s prediction of flying cars by 2015 did not become a reality, the timeline is actually not too far off. As recently as 2016, companies such as German manufacturer Lilium Aviation are already in the development stages of flight-enabled vehicles, with flight tests set to begin this year followed closely by possible commercial development. While these flying vehicles appear to resemble miniature planes more than cars with flying capabilities, the accessibility of these vehicles could potentially reduce congestion in cities and lower housing prices in commuter hotspots, providing an affordable and short-distance alternative to commercial air flights. In fact, Lilium Aviation estimates that at their peak, these vehicles will have the ability to travel about 300 kilometers at a speed of 300 kilometers per hour, thereby increasing an individual’s radius for work, home, and leisure three-fold, all while reducing the increasingly concerning problem of city congestion. A somewhat less-speculated but perhaps more applicable form of flying transportation is the “maglev” system—which stands for magnetic levitation—a form of transportation in which transportation relies on electromagnetic systems in both vehicles and tracks. In fact, contrary to popular understanding, costly maglev systems have been in place for years, with Shanghai’s maglev train beginning operation in 2004 at an estimated total cost of $1.2 billion to build. Despite the numerous benefits these systems offer—such as lowering emissions—the sheer cost often creates a barrier to making these systems more widely available. The question is not how to create maglev systems, but how to create them inexpensively. Startup company Arx Pax—creator of the world’s first “hoverboard”—is currently developing a maglev system which uses an internalized electromagnetic system without a need for electromagnetic tracks, with the only requirement being a conductive surface such as copper—a surface that could be laid quickly and cheaply, with the ability to accommodate both maglev and conventional vehicles if used in conjunction with asphalt. And while Arx Pax’s system currently faces barriers such as the need for extremely powerful batteries, it is only a matter of time before revolutionary strides in the battery industry meet the hovering power of maglev vehicles, making flying cars an enticing alternative to traditional vehicles. Self-Driving Cars When it comes to the self-driving aspect of vehicles, which so many movies have envisioned, it appears that autonomous vehicles may be the first Hollywood transportation prediction to come true. In the past few months alone, Elon Musk’s Tesla series of cars have made revolutionary strides in autopilot systems, with this technology initially created as a driver assist system but quickly evolving into much more. With new Tesla models now consisting of, for example, eight cameras for 360-degree visibility, a new onboard computer system, and enhanced radar sensor and ultrasonic sensor technologies, the hardware itself appears to be preparing for more autonomous-centered driving—and with the brand new Enhanced Autopilot software being rolled out into newer models of Tesla cars, we may very well be already living in a society of automated driving. Currently, Tesla’s new software system includes active cruise control, forward collision warning, and Autosteer software capable of self-driving up to 55 miles per hour. By the end of 2017, it is estimated that the software will be advanced enough for the ability to self-park, match speeds with traffic conditions, autonomously change lanes, and merge onto and off of highways, with the full self-driving system predicted to be advanced enough to create optimal routes to any destination, navigate more rural streets, and manage intersections with stop signs, traffic lights, and even roundabouts. With the future of autonomous cars literally months away, a revolution in the car industry is upon us. Space Travel Perhaps the most exciting form of future transportation we can look forward to is commercial space flight. With companies such as SpaceX—who are focused on the delivery of private commercial goods into space—making strides and others such as Virgin Galactic focusing on space tourism, the world of commercial space flight that movies such as 2001: A Space Odyssey envisioned may not be too far from reality. With Virgin Galactic in particular, safety testing is ongoing for their SpaceShipTwo, a prototypical rocket ship with the potential for frequent suborbital space flights. While development has not yet been finalized and tickets for space tourism costing a probable $250,000 once commercialized, the potential for these flights to go orbital and pave the way for more inexpensive and frequent space flights is astronomical, and long-term space tourism and even exploration may one day be a staple mode of transportation. The popularization of alternate methods of transportation in ground-breaking movies such as the Back to the Future trilogy and 2001: A Space Odyssey demonstrate that with creativity and determination the future of transportation envisioned in science fiction is about to enter the realm of reality. In fact, with flying cars, autonomous driving, and space flight now being developed for actual commercial use, we are mere months away from seeing technologies such as automated driving and flying cars, and only a few years away from accessible space tourism—something we will most likely see during our lifetime.  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.