Of Gold Standards, Blockchain, and The New Learning Economy

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Written by Chris Purifoy

Cryptocurrency is ripe for mass adoption, but the complex blockchain story—the technology under the hood that no one needs to know—has hidden this revolutionary movement from the masses. Most people don’t understand any of it, but that doesn’t stop the endless curiosity.

Language is at the root of all this. It always has been. Language is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. It was the first global currency and mass common agreement. It gave us enough value to form nations and universities and relationships.

Then, around the turn of the millennia, language gave us code, followed by the many digital mysteries that keep all of us up at night (I assume since you’re reading this).

Cue the train of progress.

Then in 2008, when the mysterious and anonymous Nakamoto published their masterpiece white paper, it gave us a new language of decentralized mathematics and calculations. It represented what could be a polar shift in market economies, immersed in an ethos that values great ideas, privacy, and common good.

Enter the blockchain and cryptocurrency.

Bitcoin was the first; the pioneer. It shifted the paradigm of money by showing that common agreement is the central mechanism that creates value for a currency and the economy it supports. It proved that ordinary people could take back control of the market economy.

This was all that was needed to compel the world’s developers and academics into a global movement. But for the rest of the world who don’t speak in computer code and economic models, it is still a foreign language.

What was missing in those early days was simple language to synthesize this revolution for the rest of the world. When the masses understand all this, it will be a tectonic shift toward a global commonwealth. The key to this complex language challenge is to understand something curious about gold.

Gold has value because we collectively believe in its worth.

Even national currencies once backed by assets like gold still follow a similar function. Why is gold valuable enough to guarantee a national economy? Why not trees, or pearls, or cats? Yes, gold is a rare precious metal, but what about rare animals? Or rare plants? You could say it’s for its energy properties, but we didn’t know about those until thousands of years after kings lorded gold over their subjects and everyone drooled for it.

So, why does gold have value? It’s an emotional choice more so than anything. Gold is shiny and pretty, it blings. Gold has value because we all agree it has value.

The same is true with Bitcoin.

It took Bitcoin several years to earn enough support to create a semi-stable market, and while it can still be volatile at times and only backed by common agreement, the Bitcoin market has leveled out to support an economy of more than $100 billion.

But maybe Bitcoin was only Satoshi Nakamoto’s seed?

After a spike that began in late 2017 then eventually capped at more than $300 billion, with each Bitcoin priced at nearly $20k each, the market settled and plateaued around $6.5k per coin. This market spike gave the world a shiny new meme that communicated in living color across the global buzz waves what mass agreement is capable of producing.

Overnight, people made millions and billions off of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. Even though it was short lived, this mass event showed us what a mature crypto-economy could become if everyone sustainably agreed to buy and trade one specific coin.

But why agree to buy one coin over the other?

We’ve now reached the value crescendo, the point in the story where Ethereum enters the mythology of blockchain lore.

Vitalik Buterin published Ethereum’s white paper a few years after Nakamoto’s, and we learned about the codex-like language of smart contracts and decentralized apps that run on the blockchain. We learned that this privacy and people-centered movement was about more than just currency, that there was a second side to the cryptocoin—its utility.

We learned that great cryptomarkets need value.

And so now we are getting somewhere; we are starting to learn the mechanism that can create lasting market stability. Value.

Ethereum’s coin and its platform support a market of blockchain apps, tools and developers, meaning its value is more than just supply and demand like Bitcoin. It pays for something meaningful and contributes to society. This innovative philosophy—that cryptomarkets should be backed by a utility value—was a major catalyst for the great cryptocurrency surge around the first of 2018. Ethereum’s economy peaked at more than $100 billion then settled at around $40 billion. It paved the way for a second wave of utility backed cryptocurrency economies like litecoin, NEO, Stratis, etc.

Much of this market success was due to trusted exchanges like Coinbase arriving and paving the road for scale, by distributing cryptocoins in a simple, user-friendly way the masses could embrace, regardless of their ability to understand the complex inner workings of the blockchain. Because of this accessibility, the world started buying and selling cryptocoins. They joined the movement.

What has followed is a new gold rush. There is a slew of new crypto common agreements—CryptoKitties, Fomo3D, Augur—which are proving the technology works but have only minimal utility value compared to what is possible. This creates a tricky, yet exciting situation.

We are all sifting through digital pans for gold in the blockchain river of the new world.

Which brings us to today and our position. Common agreement can create shared value, as demonstrated by our impressive ability to create communities of interest around digital cats, internet memes, and prediction markets. But, mass agreement—the kind of force which changes the direction of history—emerges from deep, transcendental values we all share. Values which dollar signs and gold can’t capture. It’s time for a revolution in how we represent, exchange, and understand value.

We can now see both sides of the cryptocoin.

The Learning Economy builds on this evolution of value by awarding LEARN coins to people imbibing in the vast ecosystem of learning, knowledge, and wisdom available on the internet and in classrooms. The LEARN coin will pay people who educate themselves. Education is a foundational and globally agreed upon human value—now and forever. A blockchain economy backed by this new gold standard could support a massive long lasting cryptomarket.

The Learning Economy began in Switzerland at the start of 2018, skiing at LAAX with a group of leaders and speakers before the World Web Forum and Davos. At the height of the bitcoin bubble, blockchain was on the tip of everyone’s tongue. We were asking ourselves: how can we create a robust, purpose-driven economy with blockchain to do something truly magnificent for the world? One indisputable fact simmered within our minds—if we could mobilize a new commonwealth around a universal human enterprise, we could spark a global movement toward a mature and sustainable market dedicated to upholding that value. Value, it seemed, was at the root of it.

Later at Diplomatic Courier’s Global Talent Summit in Zurich, we discussed how to use blockchain to create value for people denied access to work, education, and social life because of their gender or class. We all left Switzerland with these ideas spinning around in our heads as we thought about how refugees and populations like them could benefit from a new cryptocurrency designed to serve their needs.

Back in the United States, we began having regular meetings to bring our new commonwealth coin to fruition. We quickly realized there was a huge hole in our plan to build a cryptocurrency economy to empower underprivileged women and refugees. How can impoverished people use and earn money off our new coin if they don’t have any money to buy them in the first place? We had figured out who we wanted to give value to, but not how to actually capture and distribute that value.

Later in Los Angeles, when we attended this year’s Women of Courage celebration, the crypto conversation still buzzed between us. One of the women from Africa gave a powerful speech about her journey, about how no one from her town was given an opportunity for education, and how her serendipitous education allowed her to rise into her own agency and then become a global reformer in politics. She revolutionized social reform in her country with a tiny bit of education. What stuck with us was this—no one in her town even had an opportunity to learn, and yet it was education that was needed to empower social and economic change. Something felt incredibly broken.

Over the next few days a lightbulb went off. What if similar to how a market pays coins to blockchain miners, we could pay people to learn? What if we exchanged coins for completing courses?

And so, we modeled the Learning Economy’s logic to push us further along the evolution of value by creating a learning reserve in the coins market that pays LEARN coins in exchange for completing educational courses. It’s a simple idea with a powerful implication. An economy that supports education is investing in the future of its people. As we conversed and mapped out how to build the learning ecosystem, the process rose toward maturity, reminding us once again there is always a second side to every coin.

We coupled LEARN coins with smart contracts we call micro-diplomas, empowering people to certify and quantify their education for their employers on resumes and earn LEARN coins while they self-educate. Imagine if instead of moonlighting for Uber when you need some cash, you just took a course to earn a few extra bucks. What if education could not only give you the skills needed to be successful, but also the money to take the time to learn and invest in yourself?

The LEARN coin empowers our generation with the opportunity to come into an unprecedented and invaluable agreement to be a part of an economy which pays the world to learn together. That pays the jobless to learn new skills and get certified. That pays our elderly without retirement to re-educate for the new world, or earn sustainable income to live the rest of their life as they learn new languages. That pays the talented and motivated to quantify their skills for future employers and train themselves. That pays the underprivileged to learn critical information that helps them rise back into their own agency even within refugee camps struggling for educational resources or patriarchal societies denying women access to vital curriculum and jobs. The LEARN coin pays and empowers those disadvantaged with a new, sustainable economy through education—which can enable its people, in their own contexts and at their own pace, to learn how to rebuild their broken cities.

A lifestyle of people who buy and trade LEARN coins invests in our world’s future by paying people to learn. There is no greater investment you can make than education. Not only can this quantify value to employers, it builds an ecosystem of teachers constantly innovating to deliver the most enriching, impactful, and effective curriculum for learners all around the world. What if we as a people could make the investment in each other and ourselves? And the kicker is, the more learning coins we buy and trade, the more people learn and the bigger the learning economy grows.

Gold is an agreement. The learning economy is our agreement to rebuild the most antiquated, broken, but important institution in human history.

Wisdom is the real gold.

If we all join in agreement that education is the new gold standard, together we can create a mature and long lasting global cryptomarket that awards people to learn and trade on a new learning economy.

About the author: Chris Purifoy is the Chief Architect of the Learning Economy. A serial entrepreneur, he is also a writer, technology architect, and futurist. He speaks in global forums about the slippery slope of progress and the importance of art with purpose.