In 2017, more than half of new cars sold in Norway were electric or hybrid, making it the first country globally to reach this landmark. In total, 52.1% of the new car sales in the country met these requirements, up from 40.2% a year earlier. While a historic moment for the fight against fossil fuels, don’t hold your breath for more countries to follow anytime soon. Oslo used careful market manipulation to achieve this goal. While Norway is one of the most expensive places in the world to purchase a new car, incentives and large tax breaks for Electric Vehicles (EVs)—such as not paying import tax and VAT and parking for free—have made them a no brainer for many consumers. Norway is also uniquely positioned to promote electric vehicles in terms of its natural resources. The country has a sizeable hydropower reservoir capacity of 85 terawatt (TWh), and 98% of its energy already comes from renewable sources. While Norway is undoubtedly ahead of its peers when it comes to the adoption of EVs, other countries are planning to follow in its footsteps and promote electric cars—even if the road will be long. The UK, for example, has indicated that it will seek to ban the sale of diesel and gas fueled cars by the end of 2040. China, the world’s largest auto market, has announced as well its intent to end “production and sales of traditional energy vehicles.” It’s clear that demand for EVs will only increase in the coming years, marking a fundamental shift in the global market. What’s more, this market shift towards eco-friendly vehicles won’t just be about cars, but also what they are made of, meaning that greater emphasis on the sustainability of carmakers’ supply chains is inevitable. In December 2017, for example, 10 of the world’s largest car manufacturers, including BMW and Volkswagen, met in Brussels and pledged to address the myriad ethical and environmental issues around their use of raw materials. This means that commodity producers, from the aluminum industry to copper producers will be placed under increased scrutiny. For some companies, this is not unwelcomed. Norwegian aluminum producer Norsk Hydro is already offering two new aluminum alloys marketed as “certified low carbon”, one of which is made from at least 75% recycled aluminum. Likewise, Russian aluminum producer Rusal uses Siberian hydropower plants to power its smelters. The result is a CO2 footprint of just 4 tons per ton of aluminum produced, a figure three times lower than the industry average of 12t. By 2020, Rusal plans to power all its smelting plants by hydroelectricity, up from 90% currently. But globally, not all countries and producers are recognizing the likely seismic impact this industry trend will have and how crucial low-carbon aluminum will be to the EV story. Just look no further than the United States. It’s true that U.S. car manufacturers are slowly coming around to the idea that electric vehicles are here to stay. General Motors plans to introduce two more EV models over the next 18 months, and 20 within six years. Ford has formed a dedicated division to help direct investments towards EVs. But Washington, however, is showing a remarkably shortsighted approach to making sure that its producers stay competitive on the increasingly crowded EV market. To begin with, the Trump administration’s fixation with fossil fuels, and coal in particular, will only harm the shift to EVs. While burning less fuel to power cars, the U.S. will end up burning more coal to power the recharging stations, thereby offsetting CO2 emissions from tailpipe to smokestack. Vehicles are already America’s biggest carbon dioxide source, as their emissions have increased by 2% year on year. Next, Trump and the Environment Protection Agency are not just keen on tearing up vehicle emissions standards, but are also putting carmakers access to aluminum—a material key for reducing the weight and fuel consumption of cars—at risk. America’s aluminum industry is in dire straits due to Chinese oversupply, which has depressed global aluminum prices. In retaliation, Trump has proposed tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum imports and has started Section 232 investigations on the effects of imports on national security. But even if it was meant to protect American aluminum producers, not even the industry was entirely happy. In fact, the industry itself urged Washington that any remedy should be “designed to specifically address Chinese overcapacity and its effects, while avoiding unintended consequences for U.S. production and jobs.” This is an important point, as Section 232 investigations can place a global moratorium on the imports of aluminum, leaving many U.S. aluminum producers that have moved abroad or depend on imports of raw material out in the cold. First, tariffs would interrupt the free-trade flows required to fulfill American aluminum demand fueled by car producers and other sectors. Second, given U.S. dependence on aluminum imports for its industries, the tariffs will impact other global aluminum producers as well. Put simply, in punishing China, the U.S. is punishing many of its global suppliers. Examples range from Rusal and Norsk Hydro to Rio Tinto, Canada’s largest aluminum producer. Canada accounts for more than half of U.S. aluminum imports, and Rio Tinto possesses a deeply integrated supply chain across North America. The company sends 75% of its smelter output across the border, but, fearing business losses and negative effects on the North American manufacturing base, pressed for a negotiated solution to the impasse with Beijing at a Congressional hearing in June 2017. However, whether Trump will heed these lessons remains to be seen. Making the wrong moves will greatly impede the U.S.’ ability to react to a changing automobile market increasingly conscious of environmental effects—and building coal power plants and slapping tariffs are definitely not the road to Norway.

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
Caroline Holmund
Caroline Holmund is a management consultant and freelance writer in European affairs, transatlantic relations, and governance issues.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.