[gallery ids="https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/COVER-IMAGE_Mongolia-7.7.15-045.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mongolia-7.3.15-011.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mongolia-7.5.15-005.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mongolia-7.7.15-Nikon-1-077.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mongolia-7.10.15-187.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mongolia-Trek-7.2.15-118.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mongolia-Trek-7.2.15-165.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mongolia-Trek-7.6.15-18.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mongolia-Trek-7.6.15-24.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mongolia-Trek-7.6.15-218.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mongolia-Trek-7.6.15-454.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mongolia-Trek-7.6.15-696.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mongolia-Trek-7.6.15-822.jpg|,https://www.diplomaticourier.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/Mongolia-Trek-7.6.15-860.jpg|"]   An overnight train, with the constant click of wheels upon rails lulling you to sleep.  The romance of venturing to the dining car with white coated waiters providing excellent service and five star meals.  Watching the countryside flash by, little children waving at stops along the way, with beautiful landscapes as far as the eye can see. This was the vision I had for the Trans-Mongolian railroad from Ulaanbaatar to Beijing.  If we  squinted our eyes a bit, and took a generous view of life, perhaps that is what we experienced. Instead, we found desolation.  Trains and train stations are generally relegated to the less attractive parts of town, and this was the case along our journey.  As we left UB, the landscape quickly transitioned from slightly green to a dull sand beige.  Horses grazed on scrubby tufts of grass for a few miles before we entered the Gobi desert. Hoping for great dunes and wonderful light, we instead found gravelly sand as far as the eye could see.  Periodically, we’d come upon a herd of camels, who seemed resigned to the misery.  They usually were huddled in a group, their long legs folded under their bellies, waiting for something, anything to break the monotony. The UB train station is in a sad part of town, with weeds growing through the sidewalks and trash along the roadway.  There is nothing pretty about this section of UB.  The inside of the train station is soviet utilitarianism at its best — linoleum floors topped by plastic chairs in large rooms painted a faint green. At each stop, we jumped off the train, hoping to see something that was photo-worthy.  The towns with their dirt roads did not rise to the level of photogenic and the highlight of the stop was finding that one lady with a shopping cart full of drinks who was clever enough to freeze the water bottles before she peddled them to passengers.  The highlight of our sightseeing was a statue of the only Mongolian cosmonaut, appropriately encased in silver and reaching for the sky. The most astounding feature of the railroad was the room attendants.  As the train pulls into each stop, these white gloved ladies with stern visages polish each handrail and wipe each window.  They stand at attention while we all exit the train in search of something unique to our journey.  They police the cabins for the slightest item out of place. We should have known that the ease of finding a seat in the dining car was an indicator of the meal to come.  The plastic menu showed photos of food that didn’t appear on anyone else’s plate.  After much pointing and intervention by an off-duty train employee, we safely dined on khorkhol—fried meat pockets that had been the best of the bland Mongolian food we had found during our earlier trek. Early evening, our train reached the China-Mongolian border.  Efficient officials swept through the train, taking our passports and returning within an hour.  During that hour, the train sped forward and backwards—different tempos, different end points, but constantly moving.  We crossed into China and the process repeated—passports disappeared, and the train moved with great purpose, but no progress.  Late in the evening, the train was moved into a large dark warehouse, where, impossible to see, but described in our guidebooks, the underpinnings of the train were removed and replaced with fixtures that worked with Chinese tracks.  By this time, we were tucked into our crisp white sheets and dubious blankets, our heads resting on pellet filled pillows. Unexpectedly, we awoke to a bright green, agrarian landscape. Corn fields stretched to jagged misty mountains, reservoirs provide a lovely setting for family boat trips as they wound throughout the hills.  China’s large scale infrastructure projects were apparent, as we passed behemoth dams and massive highway overpasses. We left a country that had stopped in time and entered a country that is blasting towards the future, heedless of the cost or impact of their relentless growth.  The haze thickened as we pulled into the shiny modern train station to start our Beijing adventure.

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
Michelle Guillermin
Michelle Guillermin is a photographer, writer, and senior Diplomatic Courier correspondent.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.