The design and structure of today’s cities affect people and society in every possible way. City planners now need to make more decisions focused on people. In the future, urban wellbeing and urban resilience will be people-centered.

Although urban wellbeing and urban resilience are mentioned frequently in the news, their meanings might remain elusive to most people. Urban wellbeing refers to the health of the urban environment. And 100 Resilient Cities defines urban resilience as “the capability of individuals, communities, institutions, and systems in a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.” Also, cities’ ability to achieve the two goals addressed in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Achieving urban wellbeing is important because cities are at the center of people’s health and wellness. With 90% of the time spent indoors, the chemicals used in building materials will accumulate in people’s bodies. However, exposure to natural light can lead better sleep quality. And cities’ use of green space contributes to well-being. According to David Owen, author of “Green Metropolis”, trees can not only improve air quality but also cheer up the city dwellers to walk more by their presence along the sidewalk, which is extremely important for freeing them from their sedentary work.

Resilient cities can better protect people from climate change. After the city of San Francisco designated the world’s first climate resilience officer in 2014, at least 84 other global cities followed. A report published by Climate Ready DC outlines the measures cities can take to prepare for rising seas, more frequent storms, and flooding. For example, it suggests that the buildings in Washington, DC should install green infrastructure to manage storm water and green roofs to save energy and help keep buildings cool when the temperature rises.

What’s more, achieving better urban wellbeing and urban resilience is good for cities’ economic development. A recent World Economic Forum study shows that places with reduced air and water pollution have increasing FDI inflows. Either the big companies prefer greener cities’ commitment to protecting their employers’ health, or they want to bolster their reputation of being environmental-friendly. In addition, the infrastructure work which fights for the environment can boost people’s confidence in the economy. Historically, the expansive investment has saved the nation out of severe economic downturns several times.

Experts agree that future urban planning should be people-oriented to achieve better urban well-being and urban resilience. One important idea is forcing people to walk more and drive less, which helps both with health and reducing air pollution. In an interview, Jan Gehl, author of “Cities for People” conducted an experiment in Copenhagen, in which researchers compared the cost for society of a person bicycling for one kilometer and that cost of one guy driving for the same distance. They found that “every time there was a bicyclist doing a kilometer, society picked up a quarter and every time the same distance was driven in a car, society lost 16 cents.”

City planners have developed some strategies to get people out of their cars. First, the city hub has to be dense enough to make transit by walk or bicycle conceivable. According to Neil Angus, a Boston environmental planner, the city should be built “on a pedestrian scale, with narrower streets, and pushing buildings closer to the street and to each other.”

Second, traffic-impeding “street furniture” could be strategically used to make driving less attractive. According to Owen, implementing plantings, bicycle racks, and speed bumps can blur the boundaries between driving and walking areas. For example, European cities that increase the ambiguity of urban road spaces can make drivers lower their speed, reduce accident rates, and improve people’s lives.

As more people will move in cities for longer in the future—almost 70 percent of the world’s population will move to cities by year 2050—it is important for urban planners to keep a “people scale” rather than “car scale” in mind. To be fully people-oriented, future cities should be designed around people’s health and be resilient to potential climate change. And trying to get people out of cars is a good start.

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
Rong Qin
Rong Qin is a Washington, DC based correspondent for Diplomatic Courier.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.