The sharing economy, which brought about the spectacular rise of services such as Uber, TaskRabbit, and Grubhub has brought about the rise of nontraditional, part-time, and temporary jobs. Additionally, the economic changes brought on by the Great Recession of the late 2000s have increased the need for nontraditional jobs—also known as gigs. Gigs are everything from freelance work, online-based work, on-call jobs, temporary jobs, and more. The gig economy is now a bona-fide part of the global work landscape and it’s critical that we understand how to accommodate the workers, how this type of work affects the global economy at large, and the benefits and setbacks gig jobs bring. A Gallup report titled “The Gig Economy and Alternative Work Arrangements” sets to do just that: understand the changing landscape of our workforce. Gallup estimated that as much as 36% of our workforce is engaged in gig work in some capacity. This number is much higher than what other studies, including those conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, have previously predicted. The reason for this disparity? According to Gallup, the nature of gig work is temporary and transient, making it difficult to fully grasp. There are also discrepancies in the terminology used to describe gig work, causing it to be underestimated in many studies. Gallup’s surprising findings show that the gig economy is growing, and is shaping the future of the workforce. Another surprising outcome of this report is that baby boomers are more involved in gig work than Gen Xers or millenials, and they are more likely to be involved in gig work out of preference, compared to the other generations who are involved in nontraditional work out of necessity. Of course, technological and economic changes will continue to cause more people to engage in nontraditional work out of necessity. Not all gigs are the same. Gallup’s report makes an important distinction between independent and contingent gig workers, as these workers experience gig work differently and have different needs. Independent gig workers may include freelance workers and online-based workers (i.e. a graphic designer or delivery driver), while contingent workers may include on-call or temporary workers (i.e. a substitute teacher or temporary data-entry specialist). Both types of gig workers are likely to work less than full-time, are less likely to be doing their preferred work, and are less likely to view their job as a lifelong career than their traditional working counterparts. To conduct this research, Gallup used an index of 12 aspects to measure the employee experience, including work-life balance, meaningful feedback, flexibility, pay, and autonomy. Within these distinctions, independent and contingent gig workers have different work experiences. Independent gig workers are more likely to feel they have autonomy, receive meaningful feedback, and have more flexibility. While contingent workers are more likely to be paid accurately and in a timely manner, they reported having less autonomy, less creativity, and less meaningful feedback. Contingent workers tend to feel like regular employees without the freedom or benefits. There are other challenges that accompany nontraditional workers in the workplace. Since gig workers are typically temporary or a part of a contractual agreement, there can be a disconnect with the employee, the management, and with the rest of the team. To combat this, Gallup suggests that it may be helpful for management to have extra training to accommodate the needs of gig workers. It is important that management ensures the gig worker understands the mission and goals of the company and feels that they are a valued member of the team, even if they are there temporarily. Despite some of these drawbacks, there are benefits to nontraditional workers. Some of these benefits include the ability to hire someone with expertise for a specific project, eliminating the risk of a costly bad hire, and being able to expand or decrease the workforce according to client or market demand. As our workforce evolves and shifts, it is important for managers, business owners, policy makers, and gig workers themselves to understand the role of nontraditional work in our economy, the diverse needs of different workers in the workplace, and ways to combat challenges that nontraditional work may bring.

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
Hannah Bergstrom
Hannah Bergstrom is a Diplomatic Courier Correspondent and Brand Ambassador for the Learning Economy.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.