Saudi Arabia is not the first country that comes to mind when thinking about women’s equality—though there has been some progress on this front. Women were recently given permission to drive cars and enter sports stadiums. But these are two very small drops of water in the larger Saudi society that systematically discriminates against women. This remains true despite what Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said about women’s equality in his first interview to an American television station earlier this week. In the 60 Minutes interview, Norah O’Donnell asks bin Salman if he believes women are equal to men and he responds, “Absolutely. We are all human beings and there is no difference.” O’Donnell and bin Salman go on to have a short conversation about how prior to 1979 women in Saudi Arabia enjoyed many rights; that it wasn’t until Ayatollah Khamenei forced Saudi Arabia to follow his cultural revolution that women were forced into their inferior position in Saudi society. Though this is true to a certain extent, bin Salman’s leadership in women’s equality is tenuous at best. Since the new ruler has come into power, Saudi Arabia has made a few steps, mentioned above, in an attempt to live into his words of equality. What bin Salman has not been able to do is create real, impactful or meaningful change in Saudi society. The women of Saudi Arabia are the ones making that change. Despite the stringent limitations placed on women there, grassroots activism and movements are calling for a change. There are the famous women activists such as Manal al-Sharif who are taking their fight to a global stage, but there also billions on social media platforms using hashtag activism to call for an end to male guardianship. #TogetherToEndMaleGuardianship is just one of many hashtags used by women all over the world, including Saudi Arabia, who are calling for change. And then there are the women that do not have access to the internet, who do not have the opportunity to drive and take their stage fight to a global platform. There are countless women every day who have strength in the face of the patriarchy and who are changing social norms in their families and communities. Prince Mohammed bin Salman can casually drop women’s equality into interviews with American journalists if he wants but that does not mean that equality for women in Saudi Arabia is just around the corner. Until deeply seated patriarchal norms like male guardianship, over censorship of women’s physical appearance, and a religious dogma that has repressed women for generations are changed or eliminated, it is going to take a lot more than giving women the right to drive. True social equality will take time but also a greater effort from bin Salman who himself has been accused of hiding the women in his life from the public eye. If bin Salman really believed in women’s equality, he would demonstrate that in his personal life first. How can his people be expected to embrace equality if he does not himself? The answer is they won’t. It must be recognized that bin Salman’s words were a political move. He is in America explicitly for the purpose of ‘pitching’ Saudi Arabia to the American people and the American people want to hear a crown prince praising women and demanding women’s equality. Bin Salman might be a different kind of leader than has come before him in a country that ranks 138 of 144 on the Gender Gap Report, but that does not mean that women’s equality will become a reality under his rule. He will need to push for more radical cultural reform than entrance into a sports stadium. Equality for women will come from the women themselves. Until bin Salman recognizes that and supports these women who are already doing the work in his country, the sea of black abayas on the streets of Saudi Arabia will trump the image of equality.  

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
Coby Jones
Coby Jones is a Diplomatic Courier contributor focused on gender justice and equality.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.