In the 1990s the world entered into a relatively peaceful period due to the fall of the Soviet Union and the ensuing détente of Cold War tensions. Military spending, nuclear armament, and the global arms trade all entered into a decline that lasted until 2010. International institutions such as the UN simultaneously entered into a period of diplomatic productivity, which fostered more stable peace agreements and cooperation. But since 2010, pressures from climate change, competition for natural resources, shifting balance of power, have contributed to the end of the global peace dividend and the weakening of the international community. The upsurge of military spending and the global arms trade have given rise to a new form of hybrid warfare that combines interstate and intrastate warfare, both elongating and worsening armed conflicts. Here are the key takeaways from a panel at the World Economic Forum Davos meetings this past January, which discussed strategic geography and the global arms market. In the 1990s the world experienced a peace dividend. After the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Cold War precipitated a détente of global tension in which armed conflicts, nuclear warheads, and military spending all decreased. As the threat of nuclear war abated the United Nations was able to spend more time and resources on peace making.  Consequently, the international community learned how to sustain peace agreements, decreasing the 50% fail rate of peace agreements to 20%. In 1990 the world was armed and warring. World military spending, led by the United States, equaled 1.5 trillion dollars. There were 70,000 nuclear warheads worldwide. Fifty armed conflicts were ongoing, and the global arms trade was booming. By 1995 the world looked a lot brighter. Military spending fell to 1.1 trillion dollars. Peace talks led by the UN convinced the new states armed with soviet nuclear weapons to give up their missiles. The arms trade evened out. This untold good news story continued until 2010, by which time armed conflicts had fallen to 30. This peace dividend was precipitated by the détente of tension between the Soviet Union and the United States. As the threat of world war decreased military spending and the creation of nuclear warheads also decreased, allowing the UN to spend more resources on peace making. During this time diplomatic productivity increased sharply and the international community was able to more reliably sustain peace agreements long term. In 2010 the pressures of climate change and the changing balance of power worldwide ended the peace dividend. The rising pressures of climate change have fostered fundamental disagreements among world powers that are exacerbated by shifting balance of power. Climate change pressure exacerbates domestic and regional instability by highlighting rising economic inequality. As necessary resources become scarcer, the inability of poorer nations and individuals to obtain them will highlight economic inequality. Water scarcity in South Africa, for example, highlights how the rich can pay for water, while the poor cannot. Changing balance of power has damaged the international community. The international community is built upon global leaders, especially the United States, staunchly defending the validity of the international community. Some world leaders, however, have shown little respect for the institutions that are the cornerstone of the international community. The weakening of international institutions has led to a breakdown of the diplomatic productivity achieved during the peace dividend of the 1990s. Corruption is endemic in both domestic governments and international institutions. Although endemic corruption is not necessarily the cause of diplomatic breakdown, it could contribute to unrest in combination with rising inequality and the increased transparency caused by improving technology and connectivity. The face of conflict today is changing. The distinction between intrastate and interstate conflict is disintegrating, leading to the combination of illicit arms and the industrialization of war. Intrastate and interstate conflicts have begun to bleed together. The combination of illicit arms, which are endemic of intrastate conflicts, and the industrialization of warfare, which is endemic of interstate conflicts has forced actors to fracture into smaller groups.  The increase of actors makes peace talks much more complicated, elongating conflicts. At the same time the industrialization of these conflicts unleashes much more extensive damage throughout the conflict. The solution to the mixing of intrastate and interstate conflicts lies in preventing them in the first place. Once the mixing of intrastate and interstate violence has begun they are by nature almost impossible to end completely. Instead, third parties must take early action to prevent the conflicts. Also, the international community must work to decrease global inequality, which feeds the grievances that build the armies. The distinction between peace and war has disintegrated. As new forms of warfare such as cyber warfare and terrorism have become prevalent and are difficult to place in the context of existing norms. International institutions, such as NATO, however, were founded on these norms and were designed for a global system in which peace and conflict are distinct. As such, institutions such as NATO are in norm crisis and are in need of norm leaders.

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.