On a clear spring late afternoon, a stop by the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad car, which is now on the edge of a bike path near Station Avenue in downtown Herndon, is really enjoyable. It provides a window into the past. As I watched the bricks on these old streets, images from the past magically appeared as real. I could imagine the trains pulling up at the old station few yards away with fine gentlemen and gorgeous ladies disembarking with exquisite etiquettes. Then from one corner horses came trotting with riders in finely tailored southern haberdashery. On the other end of the street, Union soldiers with muskets on their shoulders were emerging on the horizon. In between came a modern Tesla and not to be outsmarted a Maserati swooshed by. Magically the 19th century was meeting the 21st century almost bypassing the 20th century – perhaps because of the internet age that has put Herndon – once written off as a faraway suburb of Washington – at the center of the information age. Heading towards the Europa restaurant on Station Avenue in Herndon, a British Airways airplane caught my eye. On a clear spring day, one could visualize its flight path – momentarily passing over Chantilly and Manassas before landing on a runway on Dulles Airport nearby. From the window seat in this restaurant, one could see diners in the “Russia House” and “Zeffirelli” restaurants across the street. The sight of the fellow customers enjoying the ambiance made one feel like being in Europe again. While waiting for my better half, I flipped through the stored images of a recent travel on British Airways, which stirred a burning desire to hop on a flight. Pleasant memories of being greeted warmly by the British Airways cabin crew are a strong pull for beginning a journey – even it’s in just in my imagination. Twitter is often the companion of lonely fellows or maybe itchy fingers wanted to keep busy. Scrolling through the tweets helped whet the appetite not only for some European food but also diplomatic dialogue along with some travel stories to share. The waiter at Europa was just as smartly dressed as the British Airways crew and the mouthwatering dishes were soon going to put me in the window seat on cloud 9. As the Atlantic cod arrived on the table, it felt like the meal tray being placed on the British Airways A-380 plane, which seemed to have crossed the Atlantic Ocean. The coastlines of the British Isles were clearly visible through the windows. Soon afterwards from the aerial map, one could locate places like Brentwood, Slough and the cricket fields in Sussex. Zooming out a bit, Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, and Paris didn’t look that far – all the travel hotspots that British Airways planes have taken me in past travels. With each savoring bite of the meal in front of me came memories of the places visited on flights on British Airways. From my mind’s eye, I saw Ford cars coming off the assembly line and driven down the rolling roads in Brentwood.  In another instance, I was at the Paddington Railway Station onto the tracks of the Great Western Railway and chasing the history’s beaten paths only to realize that, like Herndon in the Virginia’s High Technology Corridor, Slough has become a hub for high technology entrepreneurship. Just then my magic carpet took me to my favorite spot at the Victoria Station and by a side entrance into the Grosvenor Hotel on Buckingham Palace Road. A glance across the street gave the feeling of being in the Business Lounge at London Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and seeing the sky scrapers of the beautiful city of London in the far horizon. That reminded me of the joyful ride to Frankfurt. After a whirlwind tour, meeting family and friends in the birthplace of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, I was back on the plane rushing to meet my better half back again at the Grosvenor Hotel in London for the 37th Anniversary. With a cup of coffee in my hand, I was seeing Dover out in the distance on the coastline while crossing the Channel and humming “There'll be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover, Tomorrow, just you wait and see.” And when the Vera Lynn song was over in my mind, I found my better half was partially amused at my day dreaming i.e. travelling through the windows.

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
C. Naseer Ahmad
C. Naseer Ahmad is a contributor to Diplomatic Courier.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.