Russia is back in the headlines—again—as it hosts the World Cup, but for the first time in nearly a decade news about the country is overwhelmingly positive. Given Russia’s involvement in Syria and Ukraine, and the alleged use of a chemical agent in an assassination attempt in the United Kingdom, Moscow was in dire need of a public relations boost, and the World Cup will likely provide a temporary bump to Russia’s international reputation as it has for many former host countries. Nevertheless, the critical questions are: can hosting produce the same positive public diplomatic results as it has for other authoritarian countries, and could the World Cup mark the end of Russia’s diplomatic isolation? Throughout modern history, authoritarian states—such as Russia under President Putin—have hosted international sporting competitions to re-cast the world’s image of their rule in a favorable light. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing is an excellent example of this propaganda phenomenon. The Chinese Communist Party used the Olympics as an opportunity to display China’s growing wealth and infrastructure development; while, glossing over systematic issues such as pollution and human rights abuses. Conversely, hosting these sorts of events have become less popular in democratic countries, because the residents of potential hosts cities and countries have come to realize the immense financial burden building sports infrastructure places on their governments. Authoritarian countries have, through a combination of bribery and the aforementioned reluctance of democracies, secured the hosting rights for a series of these events. Qatar is slated to host the 2022 World Cup, Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, and Russia recently hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and, although those games were replete with corruption, they did succeed in marginally boosting Russia’s image abroad. However, any goodwill generated by the 2014 Sochi Olympics was soon lost after Russia’s annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the Russian military’s connection to the downing of the Malaysian civilian airliner in eastern Ukraine later that year. In a similar sense, the Russian World Cup has been a vehicle for corrupt schemes, but there is little doubt Russia is more isolated from the international community now than it was in 2014. This time, instead of engaging in further destabilizing foreign policy behavior, Moscow will attempt to use the World Cup to demonstrate that Russia can be a responsible stakeholder in the international community. To this end, Russia has suppressed local violent hooliganism, embraced foreign fans, and honored shared historical memories with international soccer delegations. Russia has also removed many travel restrictions for foreign fans to visit Russia for the tournament. Looking towards the future, Tom Wright a scholar at the Brookings Institution has speculated Putin will use the positive momentum of the World Cup to invite U.S. President Donald Trump the World Cup’s final game. Putin could be seeking to capitalize on recent comments made by Trump who stated Russia should be re-admitted to the G7 group of nations after its expulsion from the organization for annexing Crimea. Although, it is improbable Russia will be re-admitted to the G7 anytime soon, hosting the World Cup has, thus far, provided Russia with a vital and timely public diplomatic windfall. For instance, in a recent meeting between U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton and President Putin, Bolton congratulated Putin on Russia’s performance as a host by saying he looked forward to “hearing about how you [Putin] handled the World Cup so successfully.” This is a rare recent case of a senior US official praising Russia for its behavior. Moreover, during this meeting, both sides agreed on organizing the first official summit between Putin and Trump in Helsinki. Although, it remains unlikely Trump will visit Russia during the World Cup, because of the domestic political backlash he would face from his political rivals. To be sure, hosting this tournament will not solve any of the significant issues which isolated Russia in the first place. The Russian military remains involved in intractable conflicts in Ukraine and Syria, and the United States and much of Europe remain at odds with Russia over its political and cyber intrusions into their respective elections. Nevertheless, Russia leveraging the spectacle of the World Cup to re-establish a modicum of respect within the international community. About the author: William McHenry is an Eastern Europe & Eurasia Fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP). He is the Program Associate for The Program on New Approaches to Research and Security in Eurasia (PONARS Eurasia). Photo source.

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.