The next leap in urban design may very well be greenhouses. These are not the quaint and cluttered backyard hothouses with which you are familiar. Rather, these are veritable green compounds—more reminiscent of Star Trek than anything your eccentric neighbor owns. Take for example, the University of Arizona’s $450,000 greenhouse at the South Pole. Suddenly, the most extreme environment on earth can be depended upon to provide year-round produce. Gene Giacomelli, a contributing researcher on the project, declares unhesitatingly that greenhouses “can grow any crop anywhere at any time.”   Traditionally, the appeal of greenhouses has been their ability to support non-native plant species. However, recent scientific developments have endowed greenhouses with a new benefit—efficiency bordering on the absurd. According to Theodore Caplow, executive director of the engineering firm New York Sun Works, well-designed greenhouses use as little as 10% of the water and 5% of the area required by farm fields. The revolutionizing technologies are hydroponics and aeroponics, systems that cultivate plants in nutrient liquids and nutrient spray, respectively, rather than in soil.   Caplow’s firm is taking this advanced agriculture to the city. It has long been speculated that if greenhouses were erected on the all rooftops in New York City, they could supply double the amount of produce the city consumes annually. While converting every last urban rooftop may seem outlandish, Caplow maintains that there is an easy way to have a similar impact—farming the facades of office buildings. Double-glass facades are already a popular method employed by architects to save energy; the design allows winter sun in while insulating against heat loss. Conversely, in the summer, most double facades have built-in shades to keep the interior at room temperature. Caplow asserts that hydroponic gardens could be the source of that shade while simultaneously growing produce. In his design, plants cycle within the light-abundant space on vertical conveyor belts. Eventually, the matured plants transition to the lower floors for harvesting. Caplow assures, “The systems we are designing are what we can actually do today.”   Perhaps even more innovative is Columbia Professor Dickson Despommier’s design for a vertical farm. His blueprints reveal a full Manhattan block converted into a 30-story crop powerhouse. The skyscraper is designed to cultivate food through the use of grow lights and conveyor belts all powered by renewable energy sources. Approximately 100 kinds of fruits and vegetables would be grown on upper floors while the lower floors utilize the resulting plant waste to raise fish and poultry. Each floor would additionally employ sophisticated monitoring systems, including sensors for each plant that track its nutrient absorption, DNA chip technologies to detect the presence of plant pathogens, and a gas chromatograph to determine the maturity of the plant’s flavenoids. This may all seem wishful thinking, but like Caplow, Despommier maintains, “These are all right-off-the-shelf technologies. The ability to construct a vertical farm exists now.”   The promise of the vertical farm is profound. It is estimated that the year-round hydroponic production would yield 4 to 30 times that of farmland, depending upon the crop. There would be no weather-induced crop failure; no need for herbicides, pesticides, or fertilizers; and no infectious disease acquired at the agricultural interface. What’s more, vertical farms would revitalize the environment by eliminating agricultural runoff by recycling black water, adding energy back to the grid via methane generation from composting non-edible parts of plants, dramatically reduce fossil fuel use, and return current farmland to nature. Indeed, the Food and Agricultural Organization emphasizes that the best way to sequester carbon is to allow for the regrowth of cleared forest.   Admittedly, urban farms are not without some drawbacks. Caplow suggests that cultivating wheat, corn, rice, or orchard fruit indoors is not nearly as efficient as most fruits and vegetables. And of course there is the matter of price. Initially, at least, urban produce will likely be more expensive than that grown at farms.   But as time passes urban greenhouses are becoming a more viable solution. As Giacomelli aptly asserts, “All our cheap food is based on cheap transportation.” Furthermore, the strain of a swelling urban population—it’s estimated that by 2050 we’ll reach 9 billion, with 85 percent living in cities—may make vertical farming a godsend.   Despommier’s skyscraper farm has aroused global interest. Some of the most promising clients are governments lacking sufficient arable land. Indeed, Jordan, India, and China have already begun pursuing greenhouse economics. Ultimately, figures for the vertical farm suggest it could produce enough food for 50,000 people. The professor notes that with merely 160 of these buildings, “You could feed all of New York.”   Perhaps even more impressively, the Dutch-based PlantLab’s new Plant Production Units (PPUs) could supply one person with all their produce with ten square feet of space. To feed 100,000 people would only require the equivalent of two adjacent soccer fields stacked 10 levels high. Aside from the traditional agriculture requiring vastly more resources than vertical farming, it also has a significantly larger amount of waste. Indeed, PlantLab reports that more than 40% of food is wasted in the traditional supply chain from standard farms, collections and processing, distribution, wholesale, and market. PlantLab’s projected supply chain directly transports the food from the plant production unit to the market, significantly cutting down the time from harvest to table and the amount of food waste destined for the dumpster. Additionally, PlantLab’s design is entirely scalable. Their grow houses could be placed in any locality with PPUs ranging in size from microwaves to skyscrapers.   Ultimately, as the global population grapples with the scarcity of resources like potable water and arable land, major concerns around food security are increasingly prevalent. These innovative agricultural systems can do more than ensure the growth of off-season plants and more effective water and land use. They could be the answer to ensuring the global population has access to healthy, locally-sourced food.

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.